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How to write a literature review for thesis and research paper


Literature review is an account of published materials on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. It is an overview of the field of inquiry. Literature review is often part of the introduction to an essay or thesis.

Its purpose is to convey to the reader what ideas are talked about on a topic as well as give strengths and weaknesses; the pros and cons. A literature review must be defined by a guiding concept e.g. research objective to avoid outlining every single content of the subject in question for example a book. It is not a set of summaries or a list of contents.

It lets the writer gain skills in information seeking as well as acquire ability to apply principles of analysis to identify unbiased and valid studies (critical appraisal).

It must be organized and related directly to the thesis. It also synthesizes results into a summary of what is known and what is not known, identifies areas of controversy in the literature and formulates questions that need further research.

Basic guidelines include:

  1. Review guidelines of the writing format e.g. APA format.
  2. Decide on a topic.
  3. Identify literature you will review.
  4. Analyze the literature.
  5. Summarize the literature in table/concept map format.
  6. Synthesize the literature prior to writing your review.

Like all forms of academic writing, literature review must have an introduction, body and conclusion. Those writing a literature review should strive to understand the content they are studying so as to achieve good results. This is by reading and understanding the piece of literature.

Note that the review needs to further the reader’s understanding of the problem and whether it provides a rationale for your research.


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