How to write Literature Review: Explained with Examples

There is hardly any topic left in this time and age that has not been researched, discussed, or written. Therefore, while computing any academic paper (such as term paper, dissertation, etc.), you will encounter multiple works along the same line. When you read these already published works and use them to further your research, that is when and where a literature review is needed. Writing a literature review is an essential part of academic writing. You cannot claim ideas to be your original ideas when they already exist out there. Therefore, to give due credit to those people and the work who inspired you and/or helped you complete your research is the aim of a literature review. Thus, a review of existing literature allows you to tell your audience the pretext and the context of your work and place it in the current dialogue.

Literature Review Examples

This article will talk about different types of literature reviews and how to write one. We will allocate necessary examples whenever it is necessary for better understanding.

Types of Literature Review

Narrative Literature Review

A narrative literature review is the most traditional literature review. Here the aim is to summarize and critique the body of literature you’re studying. A narrative review can also be used to establish conclusions and identify gaps in the border study. To perform a narrative review, you should have an exact research question or hypothesis to know exactly what you’re looking for.

Systematic Literature Review

Compared to other forms of literature, the systematic literature review is the more stringent one. It has a well-defined strategy that can be further divided into two types: Meta-analysis and meta-synthesis. 

Meta-analysis: In a meta-analysis review, you combine the results of multiple research on the same topic and then statistically analyze them. It identifies links and patterns and reaches a cohesive conclusion.

Meta-Synthesis: Opposing to meta-analysis, the meta-synthesis approach is based on procedures that are not statistical. This method combines analyses and interprets the results of several qualitative research projects. It is often used when conducting inductive research.

Argumentative Literature Review

As the name suggests, an argumentative review is done to either support or contradict an argument. It is done to reflect on an already existing assumption or a philosophical dilemma once again. However, there is a drawback of this approach in that it is mostly prejudiced in nature since the reviewer has already taken aside.

Integrative Literature Review

An integrative review examines and evaluates secondary sources. It aims to produce new frameworks and perspectives. The integrative literature review will be your only alternative if your research does not entail primary data collecting and analysis.

Theoretical Literature Review

Theoretical review is concerned with a body of knowledge accumulated in relation to a topic, concept, theory, or phenomenon. Theoretical literature reviews are useful for determining what ideas already exist, their relationships, and the extent to which existing theories have been studied and for generating new hypotheses to test.

Guide for writing the Literature Review

We cannot elaborate on all the various kinds of literature reviews in one article. Therefore we will focus on the narrative literature review and how to do it. Nonetheless, all the kinds of literature reviews are somewhat similar and follow the same outline.

Follow the steps listed below to write a splendid literature review:

  1. Start your Reading and Make Notes
  2. Plan your Review
  3. Write the Literature Review
  4. Recheck and Submit 

1.  Read and Make Notes

To be able to write a review, one needs to be well-read. Reading is the first step in the process of writing a literature review. You know what to read since you already know that topic and the themes you want to work on. Read around the various subtopics, examples, and contexts to build a holistic understanding of your topic. As you keep reading and researching, ensure that you maintain a record. A human brain can’t remember all that it reads. Therefore, it is imperative to make notes while reading for an extensive project like a literature review. We recommend that the best way to keep track of all the reading you have done is via maintaining an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is where you methodologically make notes. You keep a record of the author, publisher, year of publication, page numbers, main argument, examples or sub-arguments, conclusion, and keywords.

A few resources from where you can read and research:

  • Jstor
  • Zlibrary
  • SciHub
  • Libgen
  • Sage

Few sites where you can maintain an annotated bibliography:

  • Google Docs OR Word Document
  • Google Sheets OR Excel
  • Notion
  • Physically in a notebook or placards

2.  Planning

This is the step where you determine which type of review you want to take up for your academic work. You should make a rough outline in this stage, signifying what you wish to cover in your review and how. The review can be either a single body or divided thematically or topically that is absolutely up to you. The purpose of the literature review should be clear- informing the reader about the pre-existing work that has already been done and how it helps your study.

Let us take the example that you are writing a dissertation on “How capital influences the process of Food Experimentation”.

As said above, in this article we will take up the example of Narrative Literature Review, which means that the following things need to be highlighted when you write the review:

  • The summary or the main argument
  • How to help you in your study
  • Where are the research gaps

3.  Writing the Literature Review

      A Literature Review should have the following components:

  • A title (subtitle optional)
  • Keywords
  • The Main Body
  • Bibliography

Title and Subtitle

The literature review should have the same title as your main project. The title should reflect what your project is about in the least numbers possible. Use a subtitle if necessary to make your title more reflective.

Keywords

Keywords are essential while writing a review of the literature. Since it is a vast body of literature, citing the keywords initially gives the reader a sense of idea about what they are about to read. Keywords are those concepts, theories, and/or ideas recurring throughout your literature review and your research project. Restrict your keywords to 6 to 8 only so that you do not overwhelm the reader.

For example, the keywords for your literature review can be:

Food Experimentation, Social capital, Cultural capital, Economic capital

The Main Body

The main body is where you write the central portion of your review. You can either write a free-flowing body or divide it into themes and topics. Reiterating the main point once again, the aim is to produce a review that conveys how the existing piece of literature helps further your study. You can either explain each resource separately or try to club them together if they have the same argument. You have to elucidate the main argument of reading and its relevance to your study, no matter which method you choose. In the end, you should be able to find a research gap and use it to facilitate your academic work, such as term papers or dissertations.

If you plan to write a review where each paragraph talks about one essential reading that helped you, then you can write it in this manner:

Start your paragraph by writing a general or broad statement about food and its relationship with different capitals. Then cite the major work with proper reference. After that, state its main argument. You can even write multiple viewpoints if necessary. After this, explain how this reading has helped you formulate your argument.

You can extend upon these lines, taking them as your frame:

Talking about food cannot be done without talking about money. The economic condition of a person is one of the biggest factors in food consumption. The classical work of Pierre Bourdieu, Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction will be applied to study the impact of three types of Capital on food experimentation. Economic capital allocates the money, social capital allows the people to access various foods, and cultural capital informs a class of people more about emerging food practices than some other less unaware classes.

The last paragraph or the last few lines of your review should be reserved for elaborating on the research gap in the realm of your research topic. You also explain how you aim to fill this gap or contribute to the discipline in the long run through your project.

Make sure to cite and reference as you go properly. Literature review, in its essence, is secondary writing taken from other sources; therefore, not referencing your work will lead to large amounts of plagiarism.

4.  Last Checks

The last step is to leave your work for a while. Take a breather and refresh your mind. Revisit your review again after this break, and then look at it from three perspectives to get the perfect version to submit. For the first perspective, put yourself in the shoes of an editor. Search and cull out grammatical mistakes and/or spelling errors. For the second revision, be yourself again and see if you’ve missed something or misinterpreted something. Lastly, look at the review from the reader’s point of view and eliminate any unnecessary jargon that does not add to your review’s quality. Once you have looked at your literature review from every possible angle, submit it and take a breath of relief.

Learn: How to Write Coursework?

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Hello! My name is Eiti Tiwari and I am a budding sociologist. Reading, researching, and writing are some of the things I'm extremely passionate about. I survive on coffee, to-do lists, deadlines, and organization. My interest areas are food, gender, and academia.