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How to Write a Literature Review

Literature reviews are an essential part of academic research. It involves analyzing and evaluating existing literature on a particular topic to identify gaps and provide new insights. Writing a literature review can be challenging, especially for novice researchers. However, with the right approach, you can produce a well-structured and comprehensive literature review that makes a significant contribution to your field of study.

In this guide, we will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to write a literature review that stands out. We will also highlight common mistakes to avoid and provide answers to frequently asked questions.

1. Understand the Purpose of a Literature Review

Before writing a literature review, it is essential to understand its purpose. A literature review serves several functions:

– To provide a comprehensive overview of existing literature on a particular topic

– To identify gaps and areas for further research

– To evaluate the quality and reliability of existing literature

– To provide a theoretical framework for your research

– To show how your research contributes to the existing literature


2. Define Your Research Question

A well-defined research question is critical to writing a literature review. It helps you identify relevant literature and structure your review. Your research question should be specific, clear, and concise. You can use the PICO framework to formulate your research question:- P: Patient or population.

– I: Intervention or exposure

– C: Comparison

– O: Outcome

For example, if your research question is “What is the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy in reducing anxiety in cancer patients?” Your PICO elements would be:

– P: Cancer patients

– I: Cognitive-behavioral therapy

– C: No therapy or other therapies

– O: Reduction of anxiety


3. Conduct a Thorough Search of Relevant Literature

To write a comprehensive literature review, you need to conduct a thorough search of relevant literature. Start by identifying keywords that are relevant to your research question. Use databases such as PubMed, Google Scholar, and ScienceDirect to search for articles, books, and other relevant literature. Use Boolean operators such as “AND,” “OR,” and “NOT” to refine your search.


4. Evaluate the Quality and Reliability of the Literature

Not all literature is of equal quality or relevance to your research question. Evaluate the literature you have found for its quality and reliability. Consider factors such as the study design, sample size, methodology, and ethical considerations. Also, consider the author’s credentials and the credibility of the publication.


5. Organize and Synthesize the Literature

Once you have identified relevant literature, organize it into themes or categories. Synthesize the literature by identifying key findings, methodologies, and conclusions. Critically evaluate the literature by identifying gaps, inconsistencies, and areas for further research.


6. Write Your Literature Review

When writing your literature review, follow a clear and logical structure. Start with an introduction that provides an overview of your research question and the purpose of the literature review. Then, present your findings in a structured and organized manner. Use subheadings to break down your review into themes or categories.


7. Conclude Your Literature Review

In your conclusion, summarize your findings and their implications for your research question. Identify gaps and areas for further research. Also, highlight the strengths and limitations of your review.


8. FAQ

1. What is the difference between a literature review and a systematic review?

A literature review provides a comprehensive overview of existing literature on a particular topic, while a systematic review is a rigorous method of identifying, evaluating, and synthesizing all available literature on a particular research question.

2. How many sources should I include in my literature review?

The number of sources you include in your literature review depends on the scope and complexity of your research question. However, a good rule of thumb is to include at least15-20 sources.

3. Should I include only peer-reviewed articles in my literature review?

While peer-reviewed articles are generally considered more reliable, you should also consider including other types of literature, such as books, reports, and conference proceedings, if they are relevant to your research question.

4. How do I avoid plagiarism in my literature review?

To avoid plagiarism, ensure that you use your own words when summarizing and synthesizing the literature. Also, cite all sources properly using a citation style such as APA or MLA.

5. How do I know if my literature review is comprehensive?

A comprehensive literature review should cover all relevant literature on a particular topic. To ensure that your review is comprehensive, conduct a thorough search of relevant literature and critically evaluate all sources.