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How do I write a literature review?

Learn the steps for how to write a review of the literature.

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Writing a review of the literature

literature review (also known as review of the literature) is a type of academic document, an article that examines (reviews) current knowledge and research about a particular topic. Literature reviews report on the state of the art, that is, how much is known, and provide context for researchers to understand the current status of the topic and to potentially suggest further research. 

To write a review of the literature follow the steps below.

Step 1

  • Choose a topic. 
  • Can’t think of a topic to research? 
    • Examine issues going on in your life or in your environment right now
    • Scan your textbook's table of contents.
    • Peruse current magazines and newspapers.
    • Browse encyclopedias.
    • Look at topic lists in the databases linked below. 

Step 2

Step 3

  • Summarize or synthesize the literature.
  • Depending on the assignment, your literature review could be a simple summary of the secondary sources, or it could also be a synthesis of the material.
  • A summary is a recap of the sources.
  • A synthesis reorganizes the information to accomplish one or more of the following
    • reinterpretation of the material
    • examination of the intellectual progression of the information, including major debates
    • evaluation of the sources in terms of relevance to the topic

Step 4

  • Identify gaps in the current research on your topic
    • Is anything missing?
    • Have certain angles not been considered?
    • Is further research needed on any aspect of the topic?

Step 5

  • Ask for help.
    • Contact your instructor or a librarian if you need help with your literature review.


tipFor more information, use the following online resources.