How to Write the Literature Review: 4 Steps

For many students, writing the literature review is one of the most time consuming and mind-boggling part of thesis writing. However, this should not cause anybody to lose confidence or enthusiasm as there are ways by which the literature review could be written without much pain. If you know what you are doing, then the task becomes easier.

This article deciphers existing tips on how to write the literature review in order to be more systematic about it. Here’s a step by step guide on how to get started.

4 Steps on How to Write the Literature Review

Step 1. Rewrite the article to summarize the salient points.

After you have gathered the necessary literature related to the topic you have chosen to do research on, the next step is to write the literature review. This is quite a challenge, as you will have to rewrite, in your own words, the scientific articles that you have read. The important findings of an article can be described in a paragraph of a few sentences.

What information will you include in the description of other researchers’ work? Essentially, the paragraph should contain the following:

  • The author(s) and date when the article was published;
  • What the authors did (the method);
  • The variables they examined or manipulated;
  • A short description of the major findings; and
  • A brief explanation of relationships, trends, or differences between variables.
  • Here’s an example:

    Regoniel et al. (2013) examined the adaptation options of stakeholders to typhoons in two coastal communities, one directly exposed to the open sea while the other is buffered from strong winds by islets near the coast. The coastal residents in the community directly exposed to strong typhoons built concrete breakwater to mitigate the effects of storm surges and strong waves. On the other hand, the other community opted to reforest the mangroves along the coastline.

    Apparently, the intensity of typhoons caused the difference in response to typhoons, one group opted a quick fix by putting up a breakwater while the other chose mangrove reforestation as a long-term strategy because there is no immediate need to reduce the impact of typhoons.

    Step 2. Decide on how the paragraphs should be arranged.

    Which article description should go first? Some researchers arrange by topic or theme while others prefer to arrange using the set of questions posed in the introduction, specifically, according to how the problem statements are arranged. The latter appears to be more effective as the reader is oriented on the issue or concern.

    The literature review serves as an attempt to answer the questions posed in the early part of the research paper, but of course, it is unable to do so because the review should 1) point out the “gap” in knowledge, 2) show the insufficiency of current literature to resolve or convincingly explain the phenomenon in question, or 3) merely describe what attempts have been done so far to explain the phenomenon.

    Step 3. Link the paragraphs.

    The next step is to link together the different paragraphs using introductory statements before the paragraph and end with concluding statements. You may add transition paragraphs in between the descriptions of studies to facilitate the flow of ideas.

    Step 4. Write your opening and closing paragraphs.

    At the beginning of the Literature Review section, add a paragraph that explains the content of the whole write-up. This will serve as the reader’s guide on what he expects to read in the review. End with another paragraph that briefly summarizes the evidences that support the thesis of the research paper.

    Writing the literature may be difficult at first, but with careful planning, practice and diligence, you can come up with a good one. Once you’re done with your literature review, more than half of your thesis writing task is already done.


    Ashton, W. (2015). Writing a Short Literature Review. Retrieved on January 6, 2015 from

    ©2015 January 6 P. A. Regoniel

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