How To Write An Excellent Literature Review In A Nutshell?

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When you start college, your teachers and professors give you academic papers, a thesis, and research papers. These pieces of academic writing need to be in perfect shape. What you need to understand is that all these papers need to be supported by credible sources. 

Only then ideas can be formulated around these ideas and facts. However, not all of you know that there is another kind of academic writing called a literature review. In college, you need to submit a well-framed literature review.

What Is Literature Review?

Many college-going students have no idea what exactly is a literature review. Thesis, research, and essays are what they know they will be assigned. But, when it comes to literature review they have no clue. If we go by definition then a literature review is a body of work that delves into numerous publications within a particular subject area. 

In this kind of writing, you will need to deeply read and analyze every source with dedication. 

These sources must have a relation with the main subject and thereby present an original comprehension of the publications. Mainly a literature review should amalgamate a summary along with the synthesis of the document that has been put to use. 

A summary of a literature review outline is basically what is about to be expected in the publication. It is like a preview of what a reader can expect the writing to contain, so make it as brief and catchy as possible. 

Your literature review will be a part of the bigger part of the writing arena. This shall be in the form of a thesis or a dissertation. Sometimes this can be even given to you in the form of an assignment or a paper all by itself. 

Why Write A Literature Review? What Are The Point And Purpose?

When you write a literature review you summarize and present in a concise form, the ideas that were presented by authors who have penned them down. It is like an analysis that helps the reader to understand the core idea and concept of the piece of writing. 

The best point about writing a Literature review sample is that you can do it without the addition of any personal views or extra information. But that is not the sole objective of a literature review. The key purpose is to take notice of a central trend or principle within all of its studied publications. 

For instance, if we take the example of a research paper we can see that it works on the foundation of a thesis. Along the same lines, a literature review has something known as a Main Organizing principle (MOP). 

You must display the existence of MOP throughout all your documents. It helps you keep a clear picture of the central thread that binds your literature review. 

The principal idea of this kind of academic writing is to recognize the MOP and exhibit how it exists all throughout your supporting documents. 

Importance of a Literature Review? The value of this academic piece of writing is explained by the kind of goals it achieves:

  • Puts in the spotlight the gravity of the main topic within a particular subject area.
  • Displays as well as describes the background of the research for a specific subject matter.
  • Aids in hunting down the chief themes, principles, concepts, and researchers that are present within a topic. 
  • Assists in exposing relationships between current ideas or studies on a topic.
  • Divulges the critical points of controversy and gaps present within a topic.
  • Proposes questions to drive further search that is based on studies conducted earlier.

Mentioned below are some of the literature review examples that can help you understand better: 

  • Exploring racism in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”
  • Isolationism in “The Catcher in the Rye”, “Frankenstein”, and “1984”
  • Understanding Moral Dilemmas in “Crime and Punishment”, “The Scarlet Letter”, and “The Lifeboat”
  • Corruption of Power in “Macbeth”, “All the King’s Men”, and “Animal Farm”
  • Emotional and Physical survival in “Lord of the Flies”, “Hatchet”, and “Congo”

How Far Does A Literature Review stretch?

For college students, one of the key questions they face while writing a literature review is the length of the piece. In certain situations, the length of the paper of your body depends on the brief given to you by your instructor. Ensure that you thoroughly read the guidelines to know what is expected from you. 

If no guidelines have been provided to you, it is advisable that you keep your literature review approximately 15-30% of your entire paper. This means that if you are writing a 15-page paper it should cover around 2 to 3 pages. 

On the other hand, if you are preparing to write a standalone paper then the length of it should be mentioned in the instructions which are provided. 

Formatting Of A Literature Review: APA, MLA, And Chicago

The format of the essay you will follow will be the citation style provided to you as per the preference of your instructor. For this, ask your instructor clearly for various other components which will determine the ideal literature review

  • The number of sources you need to review and what kinds of sources are exactly. Pick from published materials, journal articles, or could also be websites.
  • Formatting style to be used while citing sources?
  • Length of the entire review?
  • Should the literature review comprise of summary, synthesis, or a personal critique?
  • Will the review also be inclusive of subheadings or any background information for the mentioned sources?

Want to follow the APA style? Make sure to stick by the following rules:

  • Make use of 1-inch page margins
  • If not instructed make use of double spacing throughout the text 
  • Ensure that while writing your font is readable. For this, it is best to implement the Times New Roman set to 12-point size.
  • Make sure you have put a header at the beginning of every page, that too in capital letters. This header of the page should be a shortened version of the title of your essay. Also, this header should not exceed 50 characters at the maximum. This will comprise both punctuation and spacing. 
  • In the upper right corner of each page put page numbers

For MLA style, you should obey the following rules:

  • Usage of 1-inch mage margins
  • In the entire paper make use of double spacing
  • One and a half indents for every page
  • The font size preferred for MLA is Times New Roman 12 -point size
  • The header should be present at the top part of the first page of your paper. Even the title page can have the same.
  • Also, have a running head at the top right corner of every page of your paper. Make sure to place it one inch from the right margin of the page, and half an inch from the margin on the top. 

In case you want to put down your Literature review in Chicago style. Here are the guidelines:

  • No less than a 1-page margin must be implemented
  • Double spacing in all of the text
  • No spaces between paragraphs
  • Your font should be clear and can be easily read. For the Chicago style, the suitable fonts are Times New Roman and Courier. This should be set to nothing less than 10 point size. 
  • Your cover title page should have details about your full name, date, and class information. For this, you can put the cover page in the center. After this, place it one-third below the top of the page.

How Do Add Structure To Literature Review?

Like in every kind of academic writing, a literature review also follows the same pattern. It starts with an intro, then the body, and at the end, the conclusion. This will have an overall of 5 paragraphs.


You should draw the attention of the reader to your MOP. Your information should commence from a broad view and then get to the point where it comes to your focal point. 

Body Of The Review

Everybody in the review will have a particular source of literature which is mentioned in the introduction of the essay. Your structure of the essay should be in the most consistently logical way.  Which would mean that the writing should have a chronological, theoretical, or thematic structure. 


Once you have presented your findings in the body, your purpose should be to complete 3 final objectives in the conclusion. The writer must put all the findings in a nutshell and answer the vital question “What have you learned?”

How To Frame A Perfect Literature Review?

Step 1: Exploring The Topic

If your literature review is related to another work, you will be required to identify the kind of literature in relation to the primary research questions and problems. If it is a standalone assignment, then select a relevant topic and key questions upon which you will prepare your review. 

Step 2: Doing Research 

Accumulate the keywords that are relevant to your key question. This will simplify your research question. This will help you search for relevant publications. You can take your sources from university libraries, journals, interviews, scientific databases, and more. Once you find the sources, ensure to make it clear whether or not they are truly relevant to your topic as well as research questions. 

Step 3: Evaluate And Include Sources 

Make sure when you have all the available information and sources, just access them once to know which is relevant. Because it is highly unlikely that you can fit everything that you read when you start writing. This is why it is suggested that you read all you have on the topic and only select the sources that are important to you. Prioritize them at your convenience. 

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Step 4: Recognizing Relationships, Chief goals, And Left Out Spaces

Before you even begin to write your literature review, ensure to determine the relationships between the studies that are already there. When you identify the relationships, it will help you organize the current knowledge, build a perfect outline for literature, as well as showcase your contribution to your own specific research area.

Step 5: Create An Outline

One of the most important steps of a literature review is to create an outline. This will make it easy to get your body organized. Also, it makes sure that you have not missed anything. In other words, it gives a brief overview of what is about to be expected in your paper. Something like a preview of what comprises the paper. 

Step 6: Get On To Writing 

Once you have all the sources, notes, and citations at your disposal, just begin to write it all down finally. Just follow the plan you have made in relation to the structure and the format you will use. This will be according to the instructions given by your teacher. 

Step 7: Last-Minute Touches 

Do not forget to edit and proofread your document before you submit it. These are important points to keep in mind and will have a great impact on your review. Take out enough time for editing and proofreading, and do not take it for granted. 

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