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How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

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To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research ( scholarship ) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.

Where, when, and why would I write a lit review?

There are a number of different situations where you might write a literature review, each with slightly different expectations; different disciplines, too, have field-specific expectations for what a literature review is and does. For instance, in the humanities, authors might include more overt argumentation and interpretation of source material in their literature reviews, whereas in the sciences, authors are more likely to report study designs and results in their literature reviews; these differences reflect these disciplines’ purposes and conventions in scholarship. You should always look at examples from your own discipline and talk to professors or mentors in your field to be sure you understand your discipline’s conventions, for literature reviews as well as for any other genre.

A literature review can be a part of a research paper or scholarly article, usually falling after the introduction and before the research methods sections. In these cases, the lit review just needs to cover scholarship that is important to the issue you are writing about; sometimes it will also cover key sources that informed your research methodology.

Lit reviews can also be standalone pieces, either as assignments in a class or as publications. In a class, a lit review may be assigned to help students familiarize themselves with a topic and with scholarship in their field, get an idea of the other researchers working on the topic they’re interested in, find gaps in existing research in order to propose new projects, and/or develop a theoretical framework and methodology for later research. As a publication, a lit review usually is meant to help make other scholars’ lives easier by collecting and summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing research on a topic. This can be especially helpful for students or scholars getting into a new research area, or for directing an entire community of scholars toward questions that have not yet been answered.

What are the parts of a lit review?

Most lit reviews use a basic introduction-body-conclusion structure; if your lit review is part of a larger paper, the introduction and conclusion pieces may be just a few sentences while you focus most of your attention on the body. If your lit review is a standalone piece, the introduction and conclusion take up more space and give you a place to discuss your goals, research methods, and conclusions separately from where you discuss the literature itself.

Introduction:

  • An introductory paragraph that explains what your working topic and thesis is
  • A forecast of key topics or texts that will appear in the review
  • Potentially, a description of how you found sources and how you analyzed them for inclusion and discussion in the review (more often found in published, standalone literature reviews than in lit review sections in an article or research paper)
  • Summarize and synthesize: Give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: Don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically Evaluate: Mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: Use transition words and topic sentence to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts.

Conclusion:

  • Summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance
  • Connect it back to your primary research question

How should I organize my lit review?

Lit reviews can take many different organizational patterns depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the review. Here are some examples:

  • Chronological : The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time, which helps familiarize the audience with the topic (for instance if you are introducing something that is not commonly known in your field). If you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze the patterns, turning points, and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred (as mentioned previously, this may not be appropriate in your discipline — check with a teacher or mentor if you’re unsure).
  • Thematic : If you have found some recurring central themes that you will continue working with throughout your piece, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about women and religion, key themes can include the role of women in churches and the religious attitude towards women.
  • Qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the research by sociological, historical, or cultural sources
  • Theoretical : In many humanities articles, the literature review is the foundation for the theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You can argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach or combine various theorical concepts to create a framework for your research.

What are some strategies or tips I can use while writing my lit review?

Any lit review is only as good as the research it discusses; make sure your sources are well-chosen and your research is thorough. Don’t be afraid to do more research if you discover a new thread as you’re writing. More info on the research process is available in our "Conducting Research" resources .

As you’re doing your research, create an annotated bibliography ( see our page on the this type of document ). Much of the information used in an annotated bibliography can be used also in a literature review, so you’ll be not only partially drafting your lit review as you research, but also developing your sense of the larger conversation going on among scholars, professionals, and any other stakeholders in your topic.

Usually you will need to synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This means drawing connections between sources to create a picture of the scholarly conversation on a topic over time. Many student writers struggle to synthesize because they feel they don’t have anything to add to the scholars they are citing; here are some strategies to help you:

  • It often helps to remember that the point of these kinds of syntheses is to show your readers how you understand your research, to help them read the rest of your paper.
  • Writing teachers often say synthesis is like hosting a dinner party: imagine all your sources are together in a room, discussing your topic. What are they saying to each other?
  • Look at the in-text citations in each paragraph. Are you citing just one source for each paragraph? This usually indicates summary only. When you have multiple sources cited in a paragraph, you are more likely to be synthesizing them (not always, but often
  • Read more about synthesis here.

The most interesting literature reviews are often written as arguments (again, as mentioned at the beginning of the page, this is discipline-specific and doesn’t work for all situations). Often, the literature review is where you can establish your research as filling a particular gap or as relevant in a particular way. You have some chance to do this in your introduction in an article, but the literature review section gives a more extended opportunity to establish the conversation in the way you would like your readers to see it. You can choose the intellectual lineage you would like to be part of and whose definitions matter most to your thinking (mostly humanities-specific, but this goes for sciences as well). In addressing these points, you argue for your place in the conversation, which tends to make the lit review more compelling than a simple reporting of other sources.

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  • What is a Literature Review? | Guide, Template, & Examples

What is a Literature Review? | Guide, Template, & Examples

Published on 22 February 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 7 June 2022.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research.

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarise sources – it analyses, synthesises, and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

Table of contents

Why write a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1: search for relevant literature, step 2: evaluate and select sources, step 3: identify themes, debates and gaps, step 4: outline your literature review’s structure, step 5: write your literature review, frequently asked questions about literature reviews, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a dissertation or thesis, you will have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position yourself in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your dissertation addresses a gap or contributes to a debate

You might also have to write a literature review as a stand-alone assignment. In this case, the purpose is to evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of scholarly debates around a topic.

The content will look slightly different in each case, but the process of conducting a literature review follows the same steps. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research objectives and questions .

If you are writing a literature review as a stand-alone assignment, you will have to choose a focus and develop a central question to direct your search. Unlike a dissertation research question, this question has to be answerable without collecting original data. You should be able to answer it based only on a review of existing publications.

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research topic. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list if you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can use boolean operators to help narrow down your search:

Read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

To identify the most important publications on your topic, take note of recurring citations. If the same authors, books or articles keep appearing in your reading, make sure to seek them out.

You probably won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on the topic – you’ll have to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your questions.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models and methods? Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • How does the publication contribute to your understanding of the topic? What are its key insights and arguments?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible, and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can find out how many times an article has been cited on Google Scholar – a high citation count means the article has been influential in the field, and should certainly be included in your literature review.

The scope of your review will depend on your topic and discipline: in the sciences you usually only review recent literature, but in the humanities you might take a long historical perspective (for example, to trace how a concept has changed in meaning over time).

Remember that you can use our template to summarise and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using!

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It’s important to keep track of your sources with references to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography, where you compile full reference information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

You can use our free APA Reference Generator for quick, correct, consistent citations.

To begin organising your literature review’s argument and structure, you need to understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly-visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat – this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organising the body of a literature review. You should have a rough idea of your strategy before you start writing.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarising sources in order.

Try to analyse patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organise your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text, your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

If you are writing the literature review as part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate your central problem or research question and give a brief summary of the scholarly context. You can emphasise the timeliness of the topic (“many recent studies have focused on the problem of x”) or highlight a gap in the literature (“while there has been much research on x, few researchers have taken y into consideration”).

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, make sure to follow these tips:

  • Summarise and synthesise: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole.
  • Analyse and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole.
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources.
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transitions and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts.

In the conclusion, you should summarise the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasise their significance.

If the literature review is part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate how your research addresses gaps and contributes new knowledge, or discuss how you have drawn on existing theories and methods to build a framework for your research. This can lead directly into your methodology section.

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a dissertation , thesis, research paper , or proposal .

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarise yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your  dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

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McCombes, S. (2022, June 07). What is a Literature Review? | Guide, Template, & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 12 December 2023, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/thesis-dissertation/literature-review/

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Reviewing the Literature: Why do it?

  • Personal: To familiarize yourself with a new area of research, to get an overview of a topic, so you don't want to miss something important, etc.
  • Required writing for a journal article, thesis or dissertation, grant application, etc.

Literature reviews vary; there are many ways to write a literature review based on discipline, material type, and other factors.

Background:

  • Literature Reviews - UNC Writing Center
  • Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students  - What is a literature review? What purpose does it serve in research? What should you expect when writing one? - NCSU Video

Where to get help (there are lots of websites, blogs , articles,  and books on this topic) :

  • The Center for writing and Communicating Ideas (CWCI)
  • (these are non-STEM examples: dissertation guidance , journal guidelines )
  • How to prepare a scientific doctoral dissertation based on research articles (2012)
  • Writing a graduate thesis or dissertation (2016)
  • The good paper : a handbook for writing papers in higher education (2015)
  • Proposals that work : a guide for planning dissertations and grant proposals (2014)
  • Theses and dissertations : a guide to planning, research, and writing (2008)
  • Talk to your professors, advisors, mentors, peers, etc. for advice

READ related material and pay attention to how others write their literature reviews:

  • Dissertations
  • Journal articles
  • Grant proposals
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MSc In Management Research Guide

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Conducting & Writing Literature Reviews

Literature reviews: online guides, writing a literature review section - video tutorial, writing a literature review paper - video tutorial, literature reviews: an overview (video tutorial, 9m 38s).

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  • An important step in the research process for your Master's thesis is the literature review. This is the section of your thesis where you identify and critically discuss previously published literature (e.g. journal articles or other theses) relevant to your research topic.
  • There are many guides available on how to conduct and write up literature reviews. Here are a few to get you started:

Cover Art

Systematic Approaches

  • Systematic reviews, scoping reviews, and other evidence synthesis Overview of evidence synthesis reviews and relevant strategies, tools and resources.

literature review sample for master thesis

Start Here:

  • Reviewing the Literature (Project Planner via Sage Research Methods database)
  • Chapter 7 Literature Review (Designing and managing a research project: a business student's guide) Discusses the literature review as part of the research project.

Other Online Guides:

  • The Literature Review: A Few Tips on Conducting It (University of Toronto Writing Advice)
  • Literature Reviews (Walden University Online Writing Center)
  • Literature Reviews (UNC at Chapel Hill Writing Center)

The following videos from San Jose State University's King Library provide an in depth introduction to writing literature reviews. They distinguish between writing a literature review section (of a paper, or thesis), and writing a literature review paper (a standalone paper which synthesizes the literature on your topic).

This video tutorial, from North Carolina State University Libraries, is targeted specifically at graduate students, and explains how literature reviews fit in to the overall research process.

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  • Last Updated: Nov 2, 2023 9:10 AM
  • URL: https://researchguides.library.brocku.ca/MSCM

literature review sample for master thesis

  • Meriam Library

Literature Reviews

  • What's a literature review?

Literature Review Examples

Articles (free for csuc users), additional how-to guides and help.

  • Resources for Educators
  • Evaluating Info
  • Empirical Research This link opens in a new window
  • Annotated Bibliography This link opens in a new window

Books On Literature Reviews in the Meriam Library

  • Conducting Research Literature Reviews : From the Internet to Paper Call Number: Main Collection - Q180.55.M4 F56 2014
  • Literature Reviews Made Easy: A Quick Guide to Success Call Number: Main Collection - PN98.B7 D37 2010
  • Preparing Literature Reviews: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches Call Number: Main Collection - Q180.55.E9 P36 2008
  • Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review Call Number: Main Collection - LB1047.3 .B66 2012
  • The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success Call Number: Main Collection - LB1047.3 .M33 2009
  • Writing Literature Reviews: A Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Call Number: Reference H61.8 .G34 2013

Books on Research Methodology in the Meriam Library

  • Doing Case Study Research : A Practical Guide for Beginning Researchers Call Number: Main Collection - LB1028 .H313 2006
  • Evaluating Research Articles from Start to Finish Call Number: Main Collection - Q180.55.E9 G57 2011
  • How to do a Research Report: A Guide for Undergraduate Students Call Number: Main Collection - LB2369 .R575 2007
  • How to Write a Master's Thesis Call Number: Main Collection - LB2369 .B75 2014
  • Understanding Research Methods: An Overview of the Essentials Call Number: Main Collection - Q180.55.M4 P38 2018
  • Master's Theses Database of master's theses written by CSU, Chico students, from 2009 on. Many of these will contain published examples of literature reviews.
  • Proquest Dissertations and Theses: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection Containes over 2 million dissertations and theses with abstracts, 24 page free previews, and full-text PDF, if available, for dissertations and theses dating back to 1637.
  • Sample APA Paper (lit. review begins page 3) Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
  • A Commentary on Literature Reviews Rhodes, E.A. (2011). A commentary on literature reviews. Volta Reviews, 111(3), 353-368.
  • A Guide to Writing the Dissertation Literature Review Randolph, J.J. (2009). A guide to writing the dissertation literature review. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 14(13), 1-13.
  • The Value and Purpose of the Traditional Qualitative Literature Review Rozas, L.W. & Klein, W.C. (2010). The value and purpose of the traditional qualitative literature review. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 7(5), 382-399.
  • Undertaking a Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Approach Cronin, P., Ryan, F., & Coughlan, M. (2008). Undertaking a literature review: a step-by-step approach. British Journal of Nursing, 17(1), 38-43.
  • Undertaking a Structured Literature Review or Structuring a Literature Review: Tales from the Field Armitage, A. & Keeble-Allen, D. (2008). Undertaking a structured literature review or structuring a literature review: tales from the field. Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods, 6(2), 103-114.
  • CSU, Chico Office of Graduate Studies - Thesis Assistance Instructions, policies, and guidelines for graduate studies theses/projects.
  • CSU, Chico Writing Center Make a one-on-one appointment with a writing tutor to help with your writing assignments.
  • Learn How to Write a Review of the Literature University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Literature Review: An Overview for Graduate Students Video overview by North Carolina State University Libraries
  • Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide University of Connecticut University Libraries
  • Social Work Literature Review Guidelines Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
  • << Previous: What's a literature review?
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  • Last Updated: Sep 2, 2020 12:43 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.csuchico.edu/LiteratureReviews

Meriam Library | CSU, Chico

  • UWF Libraries

Literature Review: Conducting & Writing

  • Sample Literature Reviews
  • Steps for Conducting a Lit Review
  • Finding "The Literature"
  • Organizing/Writing
  • Chicago: Notes Bibliography

Sample Lit Reviews from Communication Arts

Have an exemplary literature review.

  • Literature Review Sample 1
  • Literature Review Sample 2
  • Literature Review Sample 3

Have you written a stellar literature review you care to share for teaching purposes?

Are you an instructor who has received an exemplary literature review and have permission from the student to post?

Please contact Britt McGowan at [email protected] for inclusion in this guide. All disciplines welcome and encouraged.

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  • Last Updated: Aug 24, 2023 9:59 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.uwf.edu/litreview

Grad Coach

Free Download 📥

Literature review chapter template.

If you’re preparing to write your literature review, our free literature review chapter template is the perfect starting point. In it, we cover each section of the literature review chapter step by step, along with plain-language explanations and examples .

Download: Literature Review Template

What’s Included: Literature Review Template

This template is structure is based on the tried and trusted best-practice format for formal academic research projects such as dissertations and theses. The template includes the following sections:

  • Before you start – essential groundwork to ensure you’re ready
  • The introduction section
  • The core/body section
  • The conclusion /summary
  • Extra free resources

Each section is explained in plain, straightforward language , followed by an overview of the key elements that you need to cover. We’ve also included practical examples to help you understand exactly what’s required in each section.

The cleanly-formatted Word document is fully editable , so you can use it as-is for your dissertation or thesis, copy over the contents to a fresh document, or convert it to LaTeX.

Webinar - how to write a literature review

Frequently Asked Questions

What format is the literature review template (DOC, PDF, PPT, etc.)?

The template is provided in a fully editable MS Word document (.DOCX). You’re welcome to convert it to whatever format works best for you, such as LaTeX or PDF.

What types of literature reviews can this template be used for?

The template follows the standard format for academic literature reviews, which means it will be suitable for the vast majority of academic research projects (especially those within the sciences), whether they are qualitative or quantitative in terms of design.

Keep in mind that the exact requirements for the literature review chapter will vary between universities and degree programs. These are typically minor, but it’s always a good idea to double-check your university’s requirements before you finalize your structure.

Is this template for an undergrad, Master or PhD-level thesis?

This template can be used for a literature review at any level of study. Doctoral-level projects typically require the literature review to be more extensive/comprehensive, but the structure will typically remain the same.

What structural style does this literature review template use?

The template assumes a thematic structure (as opposed to a chronological or methodological structure), as this is the most common approach. However, this is only one dimension of the template, so it will still be useful if you are adopting a different structure.

Do you have an example of a populated template?

We provide a walkthrough of the template and review an example of a high-quality literature research chapter here .

Does this template include the Excel literature catalog?

No, that is a separate template, which you can download for free here . This template is for the write-up of the actual literature review chapter, whereas the catalog is for use during the literature sourcing and sorting phase.

How long should the literature review chapter be?

This depends on your university’s specific requirements, so it’s best to check with them. As a general ballpark, literature reviews for Masters-level projects are usually 2,000 – 3,000 words in length, while Doctoral-level projects can reach multiples of this.

Can I share this literature review template with my friends/colleagues? 

Yes, you’re welcome to share this template in its original format (no editing allowed). If you want to post about it on your blog or social media, all we ask is that you reference this page as your source.

Can Grad Coach help me with my literature review?

Yes, you’re welcome to get in touch with us to discuss our private coaching services , where we can help you work through the literature review chapter (and any other chapters).

Need a helping hand?

literature review sample for master thesis

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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Good morning my friend. Am Paul Mangao from Papua New Guinea has just enrolled in Research Methodology at a Local University and is struggling to commence my literature review in my selected topic.

I now seeking your interevention in assistances with Literature Review templates to guide me through to get started in my Literature Review.

Looking forward to your assistances soon.

Pat

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Hi I must defend my Phd Proposal, any help with Methodology and Gestalt Configuration theoram?

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How to write a literature review introduction (+ examples)

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The introduction to a literature review serves as your reader’s guide through your academic work and thought process. Explore the significance of literature review introductions in review papers, academic papers, essays, theses, and dissertations. We delve into the purpose and necessity of these introductions, explore the essential components of literature review introductions, and provide step-by-step guidance on how to craft your own, along with examples.

Why you need an introduction for a literature review

When you need an introduction for a literature review, what to include in a literature review introduction, examples of literature review introductions, steps to write your own literature review introduction.

A literature review is a comprehensive examination of the international academic literature concerning a particular topic. It involves summarizing published works, theories, and concepts while also highlighting gaps and offering critical reflections.

In academic writing , the introduction for a literature review is an indispensable component. Effective academic writing requires proper paragraph structuring to guide your reader through your argumentation. This includes providing an introduction to your literature review.

It is imperative to remember that you should never start sharing your findings abruptly. Even if there isn’t a dedicated introduction section .

Instead, you should always offer some form of introduction to orient the reader and clarify what they can expect.

There are three main scenarios in which you need an introduction for a literature review:

  • Academic literature review papers: When your literature review constitutes the entirety of an academic review paper, a more substantial introduction is necessary. This introduction should resemble the standard introduction found in regular academic papers.
  • Literature review section in an academic paper or essay: While this section tends to be brief, it’s important to precede the detailed literature review with a few introductory sentences. This helps orient the reader before delving into the literature itself.
  • Literature review chapter or section in your thesis/dissertation: Every thesis and dissertation includes a literature review component, which also requires a concise introduction to set the stage for the subsequent review.

You may also like: How to write a fantastic thesis introduction (+15 examples)

It is crucial to customize the content and depth of your literature review introduction according to the specific format of your academic work.

In practical terms, this implies, for instance, that the introduction in an academic literature review paper, especially one derived from a systematic literature review , is quite comprehensive. Particularly compared to the rather brief one or two introductory sentences that are often found at the beginning of a literature review section in a standard academic paper. The introduction to the literature review chapter in a thesis or dissertation again adheres to different standards.

Here’s a structured breakdown based on length and the necessary information:

Academic literature review paper

The introduction of an academic literature review paper, which does not rely on empirical data, often necessitates a more extensive introduction than the brief literature review introductions typically found in empirical papers. It should encompass:

  • The research problem: Clearly articulate the problem or question that your literature review aims to address.
  • The research gap: Highlight the existing gaps, limitations, or unresolved aspects within the current body of literature related to the research problem.
  • The research relevance: Explain why the chosen research problem and its subsequent investigation through a literature review are significant and relevant in your academic field.
  • The literature review method: If applicable, describe the methodology employed in your literature review, especially if it is a systematic review or follows a specific research framework.
  • The main findings or insights of the literature review: Summarize the key discoveries, insights, or trends that have emerged from your comprehensive review of the literature.
  • The main argument of the literature review: Conclude the introduction by outlining the primary argument or statement that your literature review will substantiate, linking it to the research problem and relevance you’ve established.
  • Preview of the literature review’s structure: Offer a glimpse into the organization of the literature review paper, acting as a guide for the reader. This overview outlines the subsequent sections of the paper and provides an understanding of what to anticipate.

By addressing these elements, your introduction will provide a clear and structured overview of what readers can expect in your literature review paper.

Regular literature review section in an academic article or essay

Most academic articles or essays incorporate regular literature review sections, often placed after the introduction. These sections serve to establish a scholarly basis for the research or discussion within the paper.

In a standard 8000-word journal article, the literature review section typically spans between 750 and 1250 words. The first few sentences or the first paragraph within this section often serve as an introduction. It should encompass:

  • An introduction to the topic: When delving into the academic literature on a specific topic, it’s important to provide a smooth transition that aids the reader in comprehending why certain aspects will be discussed within your literature review.
  • The core argument: While literature review sections primarily synthesize the work of other scholars, they should consistently connect to your central argument. This central argument serves as the crux of your message or the key takeaway you want your readers to retain. By positioning it at the outset of the literature review section and systematically substantiating it with evidence, you not only enhance reader comprehension but also elevate overall readability. This primary argument can typically be distilled into 1-2 succinct sentences.

In some cases, you might include:

  • Methodology: Details about the methodology used, but only if your literature review employed a specialized method. If your approach involved a broader overview without a systematic methodology, you can omit this section, thereby conserving word count.

By addressing these elements, your introduction will effectively integrate your literature review into the broader context of your academic paper or essay. This will, in turn, assist your reader in seamlessly following your overarching line of argumentation.

Introduction to a literature review chapter in thesis or dissertation

The literature review typically constitutes a distinct chapter within a thesis or dissertation. Often, it is Chapter 2 of a thesis or dissertation.

Some students choose to incorporate a brief introductory section at the beginning of each chapter, including the literature review chapter. Alternatively, others opt to seamlessly integrate the introduction into the initial sentences of the literature review itself. Both approaches are acceptable, provided that you incorporate the following elements:

  • Purpose of the literature review and its relevance to the thesis/dissertation research: Explain the broader objectives of the literature review within the context of your research and how it contributes to your thesis or dissertation. Essentially, you’re telling the reader why this literature review is important and how it fits into the larger scope of your academic work.
  • Primary argument: Succinctly communicate what you aim to prove, explain, or explore through the review of existing literature. This statement helps guide the reader’s understanding of the review’s purpose and what to expect from it.
  • Preview of the literature review’s content: Provide a brief overview of the topics or themes that your literature review will cover. It’s like a roadmap for the reader, outlining the main areas of focus within the review. This preview can help the reader anticipate the structure and organization of your literature review.
  • Methodology: If your literature review involved a specific research method, such as a systematic review or meta-analysis, you should briefly describe that methodology. However, this is not always necessary, especially if your literature review is more of a narrative synthesis without a distinct research method.

By addressing these elements, your introduction will empower your literature review to play a pivotal role in your thesis or dissertation research. It will accomplish this by integrating your research into the broader academic literature and providing a solid theoretical foundation for your work.

Comprehending the art of crafting your own literature review introduction becomes significantly more accessible when you have concrete examples to examine. Here, you will find several examples that meet, or in most cases, adhere to the criteria described earlier.

Example 1: An effective introduction for an academic literature review paper

To begin, let’s delve into the introduction of an academic literature review paper. We will examine the paper “How does culture influence innovation? A systematic literature review”, which was published in 2018 in the journal Management Decision.

literature review sample for master thesis

The entire introduction spans 611 words and is divided into five paragraphs. In this introduction, the authors accomplish the following:

  • In the first paragraph, the authors introduce the broader topic of the literature review, which focuses on innovation and its significance in the context of economic competition. They underscore the importance of this topic, highlighting its relevance for both researchers and policymakers.
  • In the second paragraph, the authors narrow down their focus to emphasize the specific role of culture in relation to innovation.
  • In the third paragraph, the authors identify research gaps, noting that existing studies are often fragmented and disconnected. They then emphasize the value of conducting a systematic literature review to enhance our understanding of the topic.
  • In the fourth paragraph, the authors introduce their specific objectives and explain how their insights can benefit other researchers and business practitioners.
  • In the fifth and final paragraph, the authors provide an overview of the paper’s organization and structure.

In summary, this introduction stands as a solid example. While the authors deviate from previewing their key findings (which is a common practice at least in the social sciences), they do effectively cover all the other previously mentioned points.

Example 2: An effective introduction to a literature review section in an academic paper

The second example represents a typical academic paper, encompassing not only a literature review section but also empirical data, a case study, and other elements. We will closely examine the introduction to the literature review section in the paper “The environmentalism of the subalterns: a case study of environmental activism in Eastern Kurdistan/Rojhelat”, which was published in 2021 in the journal Local Environment.

literature review sample for master thesis

The paper begins with a general introduction and then proceeds to the literature review, designated by the authors as their conceptual framework. Of particular interest is the first paragraph of this conceptual framework, comprising 142 words across five sentences:

“ A peripheral and marginalised nationality within a multinational though-Persian dominated Iranian society, the Kurdish people of Iranian Kurdistan (a region referred by the Kurds as Rojhelat/Eastern Kurdi-stan) have since the early twentieth century been subject to multifaceted and systematic discriminatory and exclusionary state policy in Iran. This condition has left a population of 12–15 million Kurds in Iran suffering from structural inequalities, disenfranchisement and deprivation. Mismanagement of Kurdistan’s natural resources and the degradation of its natural environmental are among examples of this disenfranchisement. As asserted by Julian Agyeman (2005), structural inequalities that sustain the domination of political and economic elites often simultaneously result in environmental degradation, injustice and discrimination against subaltern communities. This study argues that the environmental struggle in Eastern Kurdistan can be asserted as a (sub)element of the Kurdish liberation movement in Iran. Conceptually this research is inspired by and has been conducted through the lens of ‘subalternity’ ” ( Hassaniyan, 2021, p. 931 ).

In this first paragraph, the author is doing the following:

  • The author contextualises the research
  • The author links the research focus to the international literature on structural inequalities
  • The author clearly presents the argument of the research
  • The author clarifies how the research is inspired by and uses the concept of ‘subalternity’.

Thus, the author successfully introduces the literature review, from which point onward it dives into the main concept (‘subalternity’) of the research, and reviews the literature on socio-economic justice and environmental degradation.

While introductions to a literature review section aren’t always required to offer the same level of study context detail as demonstrated here, this introduction serves as a commendable model for orienting the reader within the literature review. It effectively underscores the literature review’s significance within the context of the study being conducted.

Examples 3-5: Effective introductions to literature review chapters

The introduction to a literature review chapter can vary in length, depending largely on the overall length of the literature review chapter itself. For example, a master’s thesis typically features a more concise literature review, thus necessitating a shorter introduction. In contrast, a Ph.D. thesis, with its more extensive literature review, often includes a more detailed introduction.

Numerous universities offer online repositories where you can access theses and dissertations from previous years, serving as valuable sources of reference. Many of these repositories, however, may require you to log in through your university account. Nevertheless, a few open-access repositories are accessible to anyone, such as the one by the University of Manchester . It’s important to note though that copyright restrictions apply to these resources, just as they would with published papers.

Master’s thesis literature review introduction

The first example is “Benchmarking Asymmetrical Heating Models of Spider Pulsar Companions” by P. Sun, a master’s thesis completed at the University of Manchester on January 9, 2024. The author, P. Sun, introduces the literature review chapter very briefly but effectively:

literature review sample for master thesis

PhD thesis literature review chapter introduction

The second example is Deep Learning on Semi-Structured Data and its Applications to Video-Game AI, Woof, W. (Author). 31 Dec 2020, a PhD thesis completed at the University of Manchester . In Chapter 2, the author offers a comprehensive introduction to the topic in four paragraphs, with the final paragraph serving as an overview of the chapter’s structure:

literature review sample for master thesis

PhD thesis literature review introduction

The last example is the doctoral thesis Metacognitive strategies and beliefs: Child correlates and early experiences Chan, K. Y. M. (Author). 31 Dec 2020 . The author clearly conducted a systematic literature review, commencing the review section with a discussion of the methodology and approach employed in locating and analyzing the selected records.

literature review sample for master thesis

Having absorbed all of this information, let’s recap the essential steps and offer a succinct guide on how to proceed with creating your literature review introduction:

  • Contextualize your review : Begin by clearly identifying the academic context in which your literature review resides and determining the necessary information to include.
  • Outline your structure : Develop a structured outline for your literature review, highlighting the essential information you plan to incorporate in your introduction.
  • Literature review process : Conduct a rigorous literature review, reviewing and analyzing relevant sources.
  • Summarize and abstract : After completing the review, synthesize the findings and abstract key insights, trends, and knowledge gaps from the literature.
  • Craft the introduction : Write your literature review introduction with meticulous attention to the seamless integration of your review into the larger context of your work. Ensure that your introduction effectively elucidates your rationale for the chosen review topics and the underlying reasons guiding your selection.

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Literature reviews

Writing a literature review.

The following guide has been created for you by the  Student Learning Advisory Service . For more detailed guidance and to speak to one of our advisers, please book an  appointment  or join one of our  workshops . Alternatively, have a look at our  SkillBuilder  skills videos.   

Preparing a literature review involves:

  • Searching for reliable, accurate and up-to-date material on a topic or subject
  • Reading and summarising the key points from this literature
  • Synthesising these key ideas, theories and concepts into a summary of what is known
  • Discussing and evaluating these ideas, theories and concepts
  • Identifying particular areas of debate or controversy
  • Preparing the ground for the application of these ideas to new research

Finding and choosing material

Ensure you are clear on what you are looking for. ask yourself:.

  • What is the specific question, topic or focus of my assignment?
  • What kind of material do I need (e.g. theory, policy, empirical data)?
  • What type of literature is available (e.g. journals, books, government documents)?

What kind of literature is particularly authoritative in this academic discipline (e.g. psychology, sociology, pharmacy)?

How much do you need?

This will depend on the length of the dissertation, the nature of the subject, and the level of study (undergraduate, Masters, PhD). As a very rough rule of thumb – you may choose 8-10 significant pieces (books and/or articles) for an 8,000 word dissertation, up to 20 major pieces of work for 12-15,000 words, and so on. Bear in mind that if your dissertation is based mainly around an interaction with existing scholarship you will need a longer literature review than if it is there as a prelude to new empirical research. Use your judgement or ask your supervisor for guidance.

Where to find suitable material

Your literature review should include a balance between substantial academic books, journal articles and other scholarly publications. All these sources should be as up-to-date as possible, with the exception of ‘classic texts’ such as major works written by leading scholars setting out formative ideas and theories central to your subject. There are several ways to locate suitable material:

Module bibliography: for undergraduate dissertations, look first at the bibliography provided with the module documentation. Choose one or two likely looking books or articles and then scan through the bibliographies provided by these authors. Skim read some of this material looking for clues: can you use these leads to identify key theories and authors or track down other appropriate material?

Library catalogue search engine: enter a few key words to capture a range of items, but avoid over-generalisations; if you type in something as broad as ‘social theory’ you are likely to get several thousand results. Be more specific: for example, ‘Heidegger, existentialism’. Ideally, you should narrow the field to obtain just a few dozen results. Skim through these quickly to identity texts which are most likely to contribute to your study.

Library bookshelves: browse the library shelves in the relevant subject area and examine the books that catch your eye. Check the contents and index pages, or skim through the introductions (or abstracts, in the case of journal articles) to see if they contain relevant material, and replace them if not. Don’t be afraid to ask one of the subject librarians for further help. Your supervisor may also be able to point you in the direction of some of the important literature , but remember this is your literature search, not theirs.

Online: for recent journal articles you will almost certainly need to use one of the online search engines. These can be found on the ‘Indexing Services’ button on the Templeman Library website. Kent students based at Medway still need to use the Templeman pages to access online journals, although you can get to these pages through the Drill Hall Library catalogue. Take a look as well at the Subject Guides on both the Templeman and DHL websites.

Check that you have made the right selection by asking:

  • Has my search been wide enough to ensure that I have identified all the relevant material, but narrow enough to exclude irrelevant material?
  • Is there a good enough sample of literature for the level (PhD, Masters, undergraduate) of my dissertation or thesis?
  • Have I considered as many alternative points of view as possible?
  • Will the reader find my literature review relevant and useful?

Assessing the literature

Read the material you have chosen carefully, considering the following:

  • The key point discussed by the author: is this clearly defined
  • What evidence has the author produced to support this central idea?
  • How convincing are the reasons given for the author’s point of view?
  • Could the evidence be interpreted in other ways?
  • What is the author's research method (e.g. qualitative, quantitative, experimental, etc.)?
  • What is the author's theoretical framework (e.g. psychological, developmental, feminist)?
  • What is the relationship assumed by the author between theory and practice?
  • Has the author critically evaluated the other literature in the field?
  • Does the author include literature opposing their point of view?
  • Is the research data based on a reliable method and accurate information?
  • Can you ‘deconstruct’ the argument – identify the gaps or jumps in the logic?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of this study?
  • What does this book or article contribute to the field or topic?
  • What does this book or article contribute to my own topic or thesis?

As you note down the key content of each book or journal article (together with the reference details of each source) record your responses to these questions. You will then be able to summarise each piece of material from two perspectives:     

Content: a brief description of the content of the book or article. Remember, an author will often make just one key point; so, what is the point they are making, and how does it relate to your own research project or assignment?

Critical analysis: an assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the evidence used, and the arguments presented. Has anything conveniently been left out or skated over? Is there a counter-argument, and has the author dealt with this adequately? Can the evidence presented be interpreted another way? Does the author demonstrate any obvious bias which could affect their reliability? Overall, based on the above analysis of the author’s work, how do you evaluate its contribution to the scholarly understanding and knowledge surrounding the topic?    

Structuring the literature review

In a PhD thesis, the literature review typically comprises one chapter (perhaps 8-10,000 words), for a Masters dissertation it may be around 2-3,000 words, and for an undergraduate dissertation it may be no more than 2,000 words. In each case the word count can vary depending on a range of factors and it is always best, if in doubt, to ask your supervisor.

The overall structure of the section or chapter should be like any other: it should have a beginning, middle and end. You will need to guide the reader through the literature review, outlining the strategy you have adopted for selecting the books or articles, presenting the topic theme for the review, then using most of the word limit to analyse the chosen books or articles thoroughly before pulling everything together briefly in the conclusion.

Some people prefer a less linear approach. Instead of simply working through a list of 8-20 items on your book review list, you might want to try a thematic approach, grouping key ideas, facts, concepts or approaches together and then bouncing the ideas off each other. This is a slightly more creative (and interesting) way of producing the review, but a little more risky as it is harder to establish coherence and logical sequencing.

Whichever approach you adopt, make sure everything flows smoothly – that one idea or book leads neatly to the next. Take your reader effortlessly through a sequence of thought that is clear, accurate, precise and interesting. 

Writing up your literature review

As with essays generally, only attempt to write up the literature review when you have completed all the reading and note-taking, and carefully planned its content and structure. Find an appropriate way of introducing the review, then guide the reader through the material clearly and directly, bearing in mind the following:

  • Be selective in the number of points you draw out from each piece of literature; remember that one of your objectives is to demonstrate that you can use your judgement to identify what is central and what is secondary.
  • Summarise and synthesise – use your own words to sum up what you think is important or controversial about the book or article.
  • Never claim more than the evidence will support. Too many dissertations and theses are let down by sweeping generalisations. Be tentative and careful in the way you interpret the evidence.
  • Keep your own voice – you are entitled to your own point of view provided it is based on evidence and clear argument.
  • At the same time, aim to project an objective and tentative tone by using the 3rd person, (for example, ‘this tends to suggest’, ‘it could be argued’ and so on).
  • Even with a literature review you should avoid using too many, or overlong, quotes. Summarise material in your own words as much as possible. Save the quotes for ‘punch-lines’ to drive a particular point home.
  • Revise, revise, revise: refine and edit the draft as much as you can. Check for fluency, structure, evidence, criticality and referencing, and don’t forget the basics of good grammar, punctuation and spelling.

The Literature Review: A Guide for Postgraduate Students

This guide provides postgraduate students with an overview of the literature review required for most research degrees. It will advise you on the common types of literature reviews across disciplines and will outline how the purpose and structure of each may differ slightly. Various approaches to effective content organisation and writing style are offered, along with some common strategies for effective writing and avoiding some common mistakes. This guide focuses mainly on the required elements of a standalone literature review, but the suggestions and advice apply to literature reviews incorporated into other chapters.

Please see the companion article ‘ The Literature Review: A Guide for Undergraduate Students ’ for an introduction to the basic elements of a literature review. This article focuses on aspects that are particular to postgraduate literature reviews, containing detailed advice and effective strategies for writing a successful literature review. It will address the following topics:

  • The purpose of a literature review
  • The structure of your literature review
  • Strategies for writing an effective literature review
  • Mistakes to avoid

The Purpose of a Literature Review

After developing your research proposal and writing a research statement, your literature review is one of the most important early tasks you will undertake for your postgraduate research degree. Many faculties and departments require postgraduate research students to write an initial literature review as part of their research proposal, which forms part of the candidature confirmation process that occurs six months into the research degree for full-time students (12 months for part-time students).

For example, a postgraduate student in history would normally write a 10,000-word research proposal—including a literature review—in the first six months of their PhD. This would be assessed in order to confirm the ongoing candidature of the student.

The literature review is your opportunity you show your supervisor (and ultimately, your examiners) that you understand the most important debates in your field, can identify the texts and authors most relevant to your particular topic, and can examine and evaluate these debates and texts both critically and in depth. You will be expected to provide a comprehensive, detailed and relevant range of scholarly works in your literature review.

In general, a literature review has a specific and directed purpose: to focus the reader’s attention on the significance and necessity of your research. By identifying a ‘gap’ in the current scholarship, you convince your readers that your own research is vital.

As the author, you will achieve these objectives by displaying your in-depth knowledge and understanding of the relevant scholarship in your field, situating your own research within this wider body of work , while critically analysing the scholarship and highlighting your own arguments in relation to that scholarship.

A well-focused, well-developed and well-researched literature review operates as a linchpin for your thesis, provides the background to your research and demonstrates your proficiency in some requisite academic skills.

The Structure of Your Literature Review

Postgraduate degrees can be made up of a long thesis (Master’s and PhD by research) or a shorter thesis and coursework (Master’s by coursework; although some Australian universities now require PhD students to undertake coursework in the first year of their degree). Some disciplines involve creative work (such as a novel or artwork) and an exegesis (such as a creative writing research or fine arts degree). Others can comprise a series of published works in the form of a ‘thesis by publication’ (most common in the science and medical fields).

The structure of a literature review will thus vary according to the discipline and the type of thesis. Some of the most common discipline-based variations are outlined in the following paragraphs.

Humanities and Social Science Degrees

Many humanities and social science theses will include a standalone literature review chapter after the introduction and before any methodology (or theoretical approaches) chapters. In these theses, the literature review might make up around 15 to 30 per cent of the total thesis length, reflecting its purpose as a supporting chapter.

Here, the literature review chapter will have an introduction, an appropriate number of discussion paragraphs and a conclusion. As with a research essay, the introduction operates as a ‘road map’ to the chapter. The introduction should outline and clarify the argument you are making in your thesis (Australian National University 2017), as readers will then have a context for the discussion and critical analysis paragraphs that follow.

The main discussion section can be divided further with subheadings, and the material organised in several possible ways: chronologically, thematically or from the better- to the lesser-known issues and arguments. The conclusion should provide a summary of the chapter overall, and should re-state your thesis statement, linking this to the gap you have identified in the literature that confirms the necessity of your research.

For some humanities’ disciplines, such as literature or history (Premaratne 2013, 236–54), where primary sources are central, the literature review may be conducted chapter-by-chapter, with each chapter focusing on one theme and set of scholarly secondary sources relevant to the primary source material.

Science and Mathematics Degrees

For some science or mathematics research degrees, the literature review may be part of the introduction. The relevant literature here may be limited in number and scope, and if the research project is experiment-based, rather than theoretically based, a lengthy critical analysis of past research may be unnecessary (beyond establishing its weaknesses or failings and thus the necessity for the current research). The literature review section will normally appear after the paragraphs that outline the study’s research question, main findings and theoretical framework. Other science-based degrees may follow the standalone literature review chapter more common in the social sciences.

Strategies for Writing an Effective Literature Review

A research thesis—whether for a Master’s degree or Doctor of Philosophy—is a long project, and the literature review, usually written early on, will most likely be reviewed and refined over the life of the thesis. This section will detail some useful strategies to ensure you write a successful literature review that meets the expectations of your supervisor and examiners.

Using a Mind Map

Before planning or writing, it can be beneficial to undertake a brainstorm exercise to initiate ideas, especially in relation to the organisation of your literature review. A mind map is a very effective technique that can get your ideas flowing prior to a more formal planning process.

A mind map is best created in landscape orientation. Begin by writing a very brief version of your research topic in the middle of the page and then expanding this with themes and sub-themes, identified by keywords or phrases and linked by associations or oppositions. The University of Adelaide provides an excellent introduction to mind mapping.

Planning is as essential at the chapter level as it is for your thesis overall. If you have begun work on your literature review with a mind map or similar process, you can use the themes or organisational categories that emerged to begin organising your content. Plan your literature review as if it were a research essay with an introduction, main body and conclusion.

Create a detailed outline for each main paragraph or section and list the works you will discuss and analyse, along with keywords to identify important themes, arguments and relevant data. By creating a ‘planning document’ in this way, you can keep track of your ideas and refine the plan as you go.

Maintaining a Current Reference List or Annotated Bibliography

It is vital that you maintain detailed and up-to-date records of all scholarly works that you read in relation to your thesis. You will need to ensure that you remain aware of current and developing research, theoretical debates and data as your degree progresses; and review and update the literature review as you work through your own research and writing.

To do this most effectively and efficiently, you will need to record precisely the bibliographic details of each source you use. Decide on the referencing style you will be using at an early stage (this is often dictated by your department or discipline, or suggested by your supervisor). If you begin to construct your reference list as you write your thesis, ensure that you follow any formatting and stylistic requirements for your chosen referencing style from the start (nothing is more onerous than undertaking this task as you are finishing your research degree).

Insert references (also known as ‘citations’) into the text or footnote section as you write your literature review, and be aware of all instances where you need to use a reference . The literature review chapter or section may appear to be overwhelmed with references, but this is just a reflection of the source-based content and purpose.

The Drawbacks of Referencing Software

We don’t recommend the use of referencing software to help you with your references because using this software almost always leads to errors and inconsistencies. They simply can’t be trusted to produce references that will be complete and accurate, properly following your particular referencing style to the letter.

Further, relying on software to create your references for you usually means that you won’t learn how to reference correctly yourself, which is an absolutely vital skill, especially if you are hoping to continue in academia.

Writing Style

Similar to structural matters, your writing style will depend to some extent on your discipline and the expectations and advice of your supervisors. Humanities- and creative arts–based disciplines may be more open to a wider variety of authorial voices. Even if this is so, it remains preferable to establish an academic voice that is credible, engaging and clear.

Simple stylistic strategies such as using the active—instead of the passive—voice, providing variety in sentence structure and length and preferring (where appropriate) simple language over convoluted or overly obscure words can help to ensure your academic writing is both formal and highly readable.

Reviewing, Rewriting and Editing

Although an initial draft is essential (and in some departments it is a formal requirement) to establish the ground for your own research and its place within the wider body of scholarship, the literature review will evolve, develop and be modified as you continue to research, write, review and rewrite your thesis. It is likely that your literature review will not be completed until you have almost finished the thesis itself, and a final assessment and edit of this section is essential to ensure you have included the most important scholarship that is relevant and necessary to your research.

It has happened to many students that a crucial piece of literature is published just as they are about to finalise their thesis, and they must revise their literature review in light of it. Unfortunately, this cannot be avoided, lest your examiners think that you are not aware of this key piece of scholarship. You need to ensure your final literature review reflects how your research now fits into the new landscape in your field after any recent developments.

Mistakes to Avoid

Some common mistakes can result in an ineffective literature review that could then flow on to the rest of your thesis. These mistakes include:

  • Trying to read and include everything you find on your topic. The literature review should be selective as well as comprehensive, examining only those sources relevant to your research topic.
  • Listing the scholarship as if you are writing an annotated bibliography or a series of summaries. Your discussion of the literature should be synthesised and holistic, and should have a logical progression that is appropriate to the organisation of your content.
  • Failing to integrate your examination of the literature with your own thesis topic. You need to develop your discussion of each piece of scholarship in relation to other pieces of research, contextualising your analyses and conclusions in relation to your thesis statement or research topic and focusing on how your own research relates to, complements and extends the existing scholarship.

Writing the literature review is often the first task of your research degree. It is a focused reading and research activity that situates your own research in the wider scholarship, establishing yourself as an active member of the academic community through dialogue and debate. By reading, analysing and synthesising the existing scholarship on your topic, you gain a comprehensive and in-depth understanding, ensuring a solid basis for your own arguments and contributions. If you need advice on referencing , academic writing , time management or other aspects of your degree, you may find Capstone Editing’s other resources and blog articles useful.

Australian National University. 2017. ‘Literature Reviews’. Last accessed 28 March. http://www.anu.edu.au/students/learning-development/research-writing/literature-reviews.

Premaratne, Dhilara Darshana. 2013. ‘Discipline Based Variations in the Literature Review in the PhD Thesis: A Perspective from the Discipline of History’. Education and Research Perspectives 40: 236–54.

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How To Write Literature Review For Thesis? Read On To Find Out!

thesis literature review

Table of Contents

  • 1. What is a literature review?
  • 2. Thesis literature review example
  • 3. Importance of the thesis literature review
  • 4. Literature review structure
  • 4.1. Step 1: Look for the Relevant Scholarly Resources
  • 4.2. Step 2: Evaluate the Resources
  • 4.3. Step 3: Identify Gaps in Current Resources
  • 4.4. Step 4: Develop the Outline of the Master Thesis Literature Review

Types Of Literature Review

  • 4.5. Write Your Literature Review
  • 4.6. Step 7: Write Your Bibliography

What Is A Literature Review

A thesis literature review is a complete analysis of scholarly sources on a selected topic of study. It is crafted to give an overview of the current knowledge, to help the researcher know the methods, theories, and gaps that exist in research.

Thesis Literature Review Example

thesis literature review

Why is Literature Review for Thesis Important?

When you are working on your graduate thesis, one of the core components needed to make it complete is a literature review. Here is a demonstration of the main benefits of carrying a literature review for your thesis.

  • Allows you to show how familiar you are with the topic of study.
  • Offers you an opportunity to develop a comprehensive methodology.
  • Demonstrate how your research will address the existing gap in your topic of study.
  • Make your contribution to your area of the study felt.

Doing a literature review requires you to collect and analyze scholarly resources that are related to your topic. When conducting a literature review, the process can be broken down into five key stages.

Literature Review Structure

  • Look for relevant scholarly resources . This is checking for different resources, such as journals and books, which are related to your study.
  • Evaluate the resources. This is careful sorting of the different resources to identify the most relevant ones.
  • Identify debates and gaps in these resources . This is further analysis of the scholarly resources to establish the main arguments and possible gaps in research.
  • Develop your outline. This is the format of the literature review that tells you what you are supposed to discuss at different points.
  • Write the literature review . This is the final step that involves putting down the findings that you found after analyzing different resources.

To help you craft a good literature review for thesis, here are the main steps that you should follow.

Step 1: Look for the Relevant Scholarly Resources

By the time you get to writing the thesis for your literature, you will have worked on chapter one (introduction) that clearly defines the topic. But you can still relook at it before setting off to look for the relevant resources. By defining the problem, you will be able to look at the resources that are closely related to the study questions and problems.

Another method of looking for relevant studies is searching using the keyword. Consider using the main databases for the latest journals, books and articles. Some of these databases include:

  • Project Muse .
  • Google Scholar .
  • Your university library.

After pulling out different resources, check whether it is relevant by going through the abstract. If the resource is relevant, peruse to the last section, the bibliography, for additional resources. When you find a specific resource recurring in the resources, it means it is very relevant.

Step 2: Evaluate the Resources

Once you have gathered an assortment of resources, the chances are that not all of them will be used during the study. So you will need to evaluate them further to determine which ones to use in the study. So here is how to evaluate every resource:

  • What problem is addressed in the resource?
  • How has the author defined the main concepts?
  • What theories and methods are used in the resource?
  • What is the conclusion of the resource?
  • What is the relationship between the resource and other resources?
  • How does the resource contribute to knowledge about the topic?

You should only pick the most relevant resources. Also, it is important to appreciate that if you are in the sciences, the review has to be focused on the latest resources. But if your thesis is in humanities, it might be necessary to check older resources to bring out the historical perspectives. As you read through, keep track of the resources by taking notes, capturing the pages, and citing them properly.

Step 3: Identify Gaps in Current Resources

Before you can organize the arguments in the literature, it is prudent to comprehend how the resources are related. So what should you look for?

  • Patterns and trends, especially in theories, methods, and results.
  • Debates, major conflicts, and contradictions.
  • Gaps on what is missing in the literature.
  • Pivotal publications.

Step 4: Develop the Outline of the Master Thesis Literature Review

The outline of your literature provides you with a breakdown of what you should discuss at what different stages. There are a number of strategies that you can use to prepare your literature review.

  • Chronological . This approach involves tracing the development based on the topic occurrence over time. It is the simplest strategy.
  • Thematic . This strategy involves presenting the review based on different themes.
  • Methodological . If the resources you use for the review have varying methods, a methodological presentation can helps you to compare the results as well as conclusions.
  • Theoretical . This approach involves exploring the theories, definitions, concepts, and models used in the resources. You might also want to focus on particular theories depending on the topic of study.

Note that you can opt to use one or combine several of them to make your literature review more articulate.

Step 5: Write Your Literature Review

Like other forms of academic writing, your literature review should take this format: introduction, body, and conclusion. Here is what to include in every section:

  • Introduction: This should be used to give the focus of the literature review.
  • Body: In the body of the literature review, you get into the finer details of the review. Here you should do the following:
  • Summarize, analyze, and interpret.
  • Evaluate comprehensively.
  • Write carefully in properly structured and easy to read paragraphs.

Literature Review Example

To help you craft a great literature review thesis, it is important to also have the entire project in mind. This means that although you are reviewing literature, the methods you will use should be clear the back of your mind. Here is a thesis literature review example paragraph. The paragraph is borrowed from literature review of a thesis on the effects of cyberbullying.

“ Cyberbullying gives the bully a much larger spectrum to choose from when it comes to how exactly they want to intimidate their victims, which may be why it is often easier for them to carry out the act. Of all the different ways to cyberbully Faucher et al. (2014) found the most common platforms for cyberbullying to be social media, text messaging, and email, which were used to bully students about half of the time followed up by blogs forums and chat rooms which were 25 percent. This is no surprise that social media is the most common platform for cyberbullying because it can allow for the bully to remain completely anonymous to your average victim. This allows people who may not fit the mold of your average bully to create a fake account and build their own persona in order to bully others.”
  • Conclusion.

Once you have written the body of the literature review, you still need to conclude it. This is a summary of the literature review that captures the main points that you have discussed.

Step 6: Write Your Bibliography

This guide on how to write literature review for thesis cannot be complete without including a bibliography. This is a complete list of all the resources that you have used during the review. It is important to ensure that you follow the method that your supervisor recommends for formatting and referencing. See two reference examples presented below.

Abeele, M., & Cock, R. (2013). Cyberbullying by mobile phone among adolescents: The role of gender and peer group status. Communications: The European Journal of Communication Research, 38(1), 107-118. Doi:10.1515/commun-2013-0006

Arntfield, M. (2015). Toward a Cybervictimology: Cyberbullying, Routine Activities Theory, and the Anti-Sociality of Social Media. Canadian Journal Of Communication, 40(3), 371-388

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Master’s thesis literature review examples: Analyzing best practices

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literature review sample for master thesis

A literature review is an essential component of a Master’s thesis, as IT provides an overview of existing research on the topic. IT allows the researcher to identify gaps in knowledge, highlight the most relevant studies, and develop a theoretical framework for their own research. In this article, we will analyze some master’s thesis literature review examples to understand the best practices for conducting and presenting this critical section of your thesis.

In a study examining the effects of mindfulness meditation on stress reduction, the literature review begins with a broad introduction to the concept of stress. The researcher then explores the different theoretical models of stress and their limitations. A comprehensive review of previous studies investigating the relationship between mindfulness meditation and stress reduction follows. Various methodologies and measurement tools used in these studies are discussed, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. Finally, the review concludes by synthesizing the findings and identifying gaps in the existing literature, which the researcher aims to address in their own study.

For a thesis exploring the impact of social media on body image dissatisfaction among young adults, the literature review starts with an examination of the ideal body standards perpetuated by mass media. The researcher discusses the theories related to body image dissatisfaction and the role of social comparison and social media in shaping body image perceptions. The review then provides an overview of previous studies investigating the relationship between social media usage and body dissatisfaction. Different research methodologies, including qualitative and quantitative approaches, are discussed, highlighting the strengths and limitations of each. The literature review ends with a summary of key findings and a discussion of the gaps in existing research, paving the way for the researcher’s study.

These examples illustrate some best practices for conducting a literature review in a master’s thesis:

1. Clearly define the research question: Before conducting the literature review, IT is crucial to define specific research objectives and questions. This will help focus the review and ensure its relevance to the thesis topic.

2. Identify relevant databases and sources: Conduct a comprehensive search of academic databases, such as PubMed, Scopus, or Google Scholar, to identify relevant peer-reviewed articles, books, and dissertations. Additionally, consider including gray literature, such as government reports or conference proceedings.

3. Critically analyze the selected literature: While reviewing the literature, critically evaluate each study’s methodologies, sample sizes, and relevance to your research question. Identify both the strengths and weaknesses of each study to provide a balanced analysis.

4. Organize the literature review logically: Structure the literature review based on themes or subtopics to provide a clear flow of information. Ensure that ideas and arguments are connected smoothly, providing a coherent narrative.

5. Synthesize and summarize the findings: After presenting the key findings of each study, synthesize the information to identify patterns, consistencies, or contradictions in the literature. Summarize these findings concisely to highlight the gaps or areas that need further exploration.

Q: How many sources should I include in the literature review?

A: The number of sources depends on the scope and depth of the research question. However, aim to include a sufficient number of quality sources to ensure a comprehensive and balanced review. Generally, a literature review could include 30-50 sources, but this may vary based on the field of study.

Q: How old can the sources be?

A: Generally, IT is advisable to include recent sources (within the last 5-10 years) to ensure that your review reflects current knowledge and scholarship. However, older sources can be included if they are seminal works or provide crucial historical context for your research.

Q: How long should a literature review be?

A: There is no set length for a literature review, as IT depends on various factors such as the research question and the scope of the topic. However, aim to provide a comprehensive and concise review that covers the essential studies and concepts related to your research question.

Q: Can I include my own opinion in the literature review?

A: The literature review is primarily a presentation of existing knowledge and research, so IT should not include personal opinions. However, you can analyze and critique the methodologies or limitations of the reviewed studies to present a balanced view of the literature.

A well-executed literature review establishes the foundation for your Master’s thesis. By analyzing previous research, you can build on existing knowledge, identify gaps in understanding, and formulate research questions that contribute to your field. Following the best practices outlined in the examples above, you can create a robust and coherent literature review that strengthens the overall quality of your thesis.

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  • Masters Literature review
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An literature review examples on masters is a prosaic composition of a small volume and free composition, expressing individual impressions and thoughts on a specific occasion or issue and obviously not claiming a definitive or exhaustive interpretation of the subject.

Some signs of masters literature review:

  • the presence of a specific topic or question. A work devoted to the analysis of a wide range of problems in biology, by definition, cannot be performed in the genre of masters literature review topic.
  • The literature review expresses individual impressions and thoughts on a specific occasion or issue, in this case, on masters and does not knowingly pretend to a definitive or exhaustive interpretation of the subject.
  • As a rule, an essay suggests a new, subjectively colored word about something, such a work may have a philosophical, historical, biographical, journalistic, literary, critical, popular scientific or purely fiction character.
  • in the content of an literature review samples on masters , first of all, the author’s personality is assessed - his worldview, thoughts and feelings.

The goal of an literature review in masters is to develop such skills as independent creative thinking and writing out your own thoughts.

Writing an literature review is extremely useful, because it allows the author to learn to clearly and correctly formulate thoughts, structure information, use basic concepts, highlight causal relationships, illustrate experience with relevant examples, and substantiate his conclusions.

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Harvard Clears Its President of ‘Research Misconduct’ After Plagiarism Charges

The university started an investigation after receiving accusations in October as its president, Claudine Gay, was being criticized for her response to antisemitism on campus.

The campus of Harvard on a sunny day, with someone walking in shadow.

By Jennifer Schuessler and Vimal Patel

The battle over the fate of Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, took an unexpected turn this week, as accusations of plagiarism in her scholarly work surfaced, along with questions about how the university had handled them.

On Tuesday, the Harvard Corporation, the university’s governing body, announced that Dr. Gay would keep her job, despite the uproar over her statements on campus antisemitism at a congressional hearing. But the Corporation also revealed that it had conducted a review of her published work after receiving accusations in October about three of her articles.

The Corporation said that while the review found that she had not violated the university’s standards for “research misconduct,” it did discover “a few instances of inadequate citation.” Dr. Gay would request “four corrections in two articles to insert citations and quotation marks that were omitted from the original publications,” the statement said.

The accusations were first widely publicized on Sunday, in a newsletter by the conservative education activist Christopher Rufo. On Monday, The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative media outlet, published its own investigation , identifying what it said were issues with four papers published between 1993 and 2017. The article said the papers had paraphrased or quoted nearly 20 authors without proper attribution.

By Tuesday evening, there was growing concern about Dr. Gay’s work and Harvard’s actions, after The New York Post reported that it had approached Harvard in October about similar accusations.

According to The Post, it had contacted Harvard on Oct. 24, seeking comment on what it said were more than two dozen passages in which Dr. Gay’s words seemed to closely parallel the words, phrases or sentences in published works by other scholars.

A few days later, The Post said, it received a 15-page response from a lawyer who identified himself as a defamation counsel for Harvard and Dr. Gay.

Jonathan Swain, a spokesman for the university, said on Tuesday evening that the Harvard Corporation stood by its statement from earlier in the day. He declined to comment further. A spokeswoman for The Post said: “The story speaks for itself.”

Dr. Gay has strongly defended her work. “I stand by the integrity of my scholarship,” she said in a statement on Monday. “Throughout my career, I have worked to ensure my scholarship adheres to the highest academic standards.”

The accusations could deepen the turmoil around Dr. Gay, who was inaugurated as president in September. After the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel, she was harshly criticized by some students, faculty members, alumni and university donors for what they saw as a series of tepid responses to events in Israel and Gaza and to rising antisemitism on campus.

That seemed to reach a climax last week, when Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, sharply questioned Dr. Gay and two other college presidents about what she characterized as tolerance for calls for genocide against Jews.

On Tuesday, Ms. Stefanik criticized Harvard’s decision to stand behind Dr. Gay. “The only update to the code of conduct is to allow a plagiarist as the president of Harvard,” she said during a news conference.

Dr. Gay, Harvard’s first Black president , has been a professor of government and of African and African American studies at the university since 2006. Her scholarship has explored subjects like how the election of minority officeholders affects citizens’ perception of government, and how housing mobility programs affect political participation for the poor.

At Harvard, where she received her doctorate in 1998, she has been both a barrier-breaker and savvy insider, steadily climbing the administrative ranks since joining the faculty.

The Harvard Corporation’s statement on Dr. Gay does not use the word “plagiarism.” But some members of Harvard’s faculty said they were disturbed by the passages highlighted in news coverage, saying students who committed similar infractions were often disciplined, sometimes harshly.

“It’s troubling to see the standards we apply to undergrads seem to differ from the standards we apply to faculty,” said Theda Skocpol, a professor of government.

A Harvard guide for students defines “plagiarism” broadly. “When you fail to cite your sources, or when you cite them inadequately, you are plagiarizing, which is taken extremely seriously at Harvard,” it says. “Plagiarism is defined as the act of intentionally OR unintentionally submitting work that was written by somebody else.”

But not all instances of potential plagiarism are equal, particularly when they do not reflect any intention to deceive, some scholars said.

Dr. Gay’s 1997 dissertation, The Free Beacon said, “borrowed” two paragraphs from a 1996 conference paper by Bradley Palmquist, who was then a political science professor at Harvard, and Stephen Voss, a political scientist at the University of Kentucky who was in Dr. Gay’s doctoral program at Harvard.

In an interview, Dr. Voss called Dr. Gay’s use of his work, which involved changing only a few words, “technically plagiarism.” But said he considered it “fairly benign,” particularly since the paragraphs in question involved a technical description.

“If a student gave me a paper that did what she did, I would bounce it back to them,” he said.

Katie Robertson contributed reporting.

Jennifer Schuessler is a culture reporter covering intellectual life and the world of ideas. She is based in New York. More about Jennifer Schuessler

Vimal Patel is a higher education reporter for The Times, focusing on speech and campus culture. He was previously a reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education. More about Vimal Patel

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  1. Module 07 Writing Thesis Literature Review

  2. HOW TO WRITE THE LITERATURE REVIEW

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  5. Ph.D. Chapter two Literature Review for a Thesis| HOW TO WRITE CHAPTE TWO for Ph.D

  6. Background, Literature Review, and Theoretical Framework -- Sarah Lynne Bowman

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Literature Review

    What is the purpose of a literature review? Examples of literature reviews Step 1 - Search for relevant literature Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure Step 5 - Write your literature review Free lecture slides Other interesting articles

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    An introductory paragraph that explains what your working topic and thesis is A forecast of key topics or texts that will appear in the review

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    (1) The literature(s) from which you develop the theoretical/empirical puzzle that drives your research question. (2) The literature(s) on the substantive case/data you're examining. (3) The literature(s) you draw on to make your theoretical contribution (i.e., how you explain your findings). Literature for Theoretical Contribution

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    Here's an example of the layout visualised in a literature review introduction: Your introduction should also outline your topic (including any tricky terminology or jargon) and provide an explanation of the scope of your literature review - in other words, what you will and won't be covering (the delimitations ).

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    The research gap The closing section We then progress to the sample literature review (from an A-grade Master's-level dissertation) to show how these concepts are applied in the literature review chapter. You can access the free resources mentioned in this video below. Download the literature review chapter template

  6. What is a Literature Review?

    Why write a literature review? Examples of literature reviews Step 1: Search for relevant literature Step 2: Evaluate and select sources Step 3: Identify themes, debates and gaps Step 4: Outline your literature review's structure Step 5: Write your literature review Frequently asked questions about literature reviews Introduction Quick Run-through

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    Personal: To familiarize yourself with a new area of research, to get an overview of a topic, so you don't want to miss something important, etc. Required writing for a journal article, thesis or dissertation, grant application, etc. Literature reviews vary; there are many ways to write a literature review based on discipline, material type ...

  8. PDF How to Write a Literature Review

    of a literature review are. The Purpose of a Literature Review A literature review demonstrates your ability to research; it also showcases your expertise on your chosen topic. By including a literature review in your project or thesis, you are also providing your reader with the most prevalent theories and studies on your topic, evaluations ...

  9. PDF Writing an Effective Literature Review

    begin by clearing up some misconceptions about what a literature review is and what it is not. Then, I will break the process down into a series of simple steps, looking at examples along the way. In the end, I hope you will have a simple, practical strategy to write an effective literature review.

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    Here are a few to get you started: Literature Review and Research Design: A Guide to Effective Research Practice by Dave Harris. Publication Date: 2019. Available Online. Writing Literature Reviews: A Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 7th ed. by Jose L. Galvan; Melisa C. Galvan. Call Number: Read this online.

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    Have an exemplary literature review? Have you written a stellar literature review you care to share for teaching purposes? Are you an instructor who has received an exemplary literature review and have permission from the student to post? Please contact Britt McGowan at [email protected] for inclusion in this guide.

  14. How To Write A Literature Review (+ Free Template)

    Step 1: Find the relevant literature Naturally, the first step in the literature review journey is to hunt down the existing research that's relevant to your topic. While you probably already have a decent base of this from your research proposal, you need to expand on this substantially in the dissertation or thesis itself.

  15. What Is A Literature Review (In A Dissertation Or Thesis)

    What Is A Literature Review? A Plain-Language Explainer (With Examples) By: Derek Jansen (MBA) & Kerryn Warren (PhD) | June 2020 (Updated May 2023) If you're faced with writing a dissertation or thesis, chances are you've encountered the term "literature review".

  16. Free Literature Review Template (Word Doc & PDF)

    What's Included: Literature Review Template. This template is structure is based on the tried and trusted best-practice format for formal academic research projects such as dissertations and theses. The template includes the following sections: Before you start - essential groundwork to ensure you're ready. The introduction section. The ...

  17. Write a Literature Review: for Researchers

    You may be asked to do a scoping review.. Booth et al. say that a scoping review "Is characterised as a broad-brush approach to finding the most notable studies in the field, with minimal attempts to evaluate them for quality, a rudimentary attempts at synthesis (perhaps through listing, tabulation or mapping), and an analysis that caricatures the quantity and distribution of the literature ...

  18. How to write a literature review introduction (+ examples)

    For example, a master's thesis typically features a more concise literature review, thus necessitating a shorter introduction. In contrast, a Ph.D. thesis, with its more extensive literature review, often includes a more detailed introduction.

  19. Writing a Literature Review

    In a PhD thesis, the literature review typically comprises one chapter (perhaps 8-10,000 words), for a Masters dissertation it may be around 2-3,000 words, and for an undergraduate dissertation it may be no more than 2,000 words.

  20. How to Research & Write a Literature Review: for Postgrads

    A research thesis—whether for a Master's degree or Doctor of Philosophy—is a long project, and the literature review, usually written early on, will most likely be reviewed and refined over the life of the thesis.

  21. Thesis Literature Review: Your Complete Guide

    Literature review structure 4.1. Step 1: Look for the Relevant Scholarly Resources 4.2. Step 2: Evaluate the Resources 4.3. Step 3: Identify Gaps in Current Resources 4.4. Step 4: Develop the Outline of the Master Thesis Literature Review Types Of Literature Review 4.5. Write Your Literature Review 4.6. Step 7: Write Your Bibliography

  22. Master's thesis literature review examples: Analyzing best practices

    These examples illustrate some best practices for conducting a literature review in a master's thesis: 1. Clearly define the research question: Before conducting the literature review, IT is crucial to define specific research objectives and questions. This will help focus the review and ensure its relevance to the thesis topic. 2.

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    An literature review examples on masters is a prosaic composition of a small volume and free composition, expressing individual impressions and thoughts on a specific occasion or issue and obviously not claiming a definitive or exhaustive interpretation of the subject. Some signs of masters literature review:

  24. Harvard Clears Its President of 'Research Misconduct' After Plagiarism

    Adam Glanzman for The New York Times. The battle over the fate of Harvard's president, Claudine Gay, took an unexpected turn this week, as accusations of plagiarism in her scholarly work ...