Skip to Main Content

Research Methods Core

This course guide provides resources to help you with various research methods such as qualitative and quantative research.

Step 5: Write the literature review.

Now it's time to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and actually write your literature review. You have done much of the work already if you've analyzed, synthesized and organized your literature (see Step 3).

What a Literature Review is Not

Before writing the literature review, let's look at what a literature review is NOT:

  • It is not an essay or research paper in and of itself, but it could be a part of one.
  • It's also not a list of articles with your descriptions of what each article is about--that's an annotated bibliography.
  • The literature review does not state or prove your main points.
  • Lastly, a literature review is not just a report of what you have read on a topic. You need to be saying something as well.

Organizing Your Literature Review

The Basics

Your literature review should have the same three basic parts as an academic paper or research article:

  1.  Introduction: Gives the reader an idea of the topic of your literature review.
  2.  Body (main section):  Discuss your sources, which could be organized thematically, chronologically, or methodologically, or a combination. (See below for more information about each.)
  3.  Conclusion:  Discuss what you've found from reviewing the literature. This section could also have recommendations about further discussion or research.

You should also create a bibliography of all the sources in your literature review. The Cornette Library has a library guide with helpful information on the APA citation style. You can also check out the How do I Cite in APA? FAQ for specific examples.

Organizing the Body of your Literature Review

If you've already analyzed and organized your literature, you probably have a good idea of how to organize the body of your literature review. Many research articles in the social sciences organize the literature review by topic and subtopic first (thematically), and then chronologically within each topic.

Thematic reviews of literature are organized around topics or issues. It can very helpful to discuss the literature of each theme in chronological order, since the earliest works published often influence later works.

Chronological reviews of literature are exactly what they sound like, discussions of the literature according to when they were published. Unless you have only one theme or topic, there won't be any continuity among the themes you're covering in your literature review.

Methodological reviews compare and contrast the results and conclusions that emerge from different research methods. For example, you could compare and contrast the results of quantitative versus qualitative research on a particular topic.

How to Write a Literature Review in 30 Minutes or Less

This video from David Taylor (Senior Advisor, The Effective Writing Center at University of Maryland Global Campus) breaks down writing a literature review into 5 steps:

  1. Separate your summary paragraphs from your citations.
  2. Arrange your summary paragraphs in a logical order.
  3. Combine your summary paragraphs, if needed.
  4. Add in topic sentences and logical transitions.
  5. Add introductory and concluding paragraphs, as well as topic headers.

A text version of the video is available at: