| How to Write a Literature Review for a
Research Paper, Thesis, or Dissertation
The literature review is a very important part of a research paper, undergraduate thesis, master's thesis, or a doctoral dissertation. Thus, it is very important to write an effective literature review.
There may be a number of good ways to write a literature review. Nonetheless, in this article, I will provide some general guidelines that can be used to write a literature review for a research paper, thesis, or dissertation. I believe that these guidelines are relevant to writing any type of major paper (e.g., a research paper, master's thesis, or doctoral dissertation).
1. The Literature Review is Focused.
The reader does not need to know every finding or theory concerning the general topics of the research paper, thesis, or dissertation. Only ideas and findings that provide a solid theoretical or empirical foundation for the hypotheses or research questions should be presented. In other words, if findings or ideas have no relevance to the validity or importance of the hypotheses or research questions, then they do not need to be included.
2. The Literature Review is Comprehensive.
Although you need to include only relevant ideas and findings, the information that is relevant should be comprehensive. The literature review should be representative of the thinking and research on the topic, including conflicting ideas and findings. However, it may not be necessary to include detailed information about every idea or finding related to the paper topic. Ideas or findings that are redundant with what you have already stated may not need to be described in detail. You could mention in the literature review that there are other findings or ideas with references included in parentheses.
3. The Literature Review is Concise
It is important that the literature review is as concise as possible so that the reader can remain focused and interested in reading the paper. Also, it may be more difficult to discern the central ideas or themes if there is too much information provided.
4. The Literature Review is Clear
There are several ways to make the literature review clearer. First, short and simple sentences could be used. Second, ideas and findings should be stated precisely. Third, specific examples could be provided for ideas. Fourth, it would be good to provide detailed information about the most important findings. It should be clear concerning the research design (e.g., correlational study or randomized experiment), who the participants were, and what specific findings the conclusions are based on.
5. The Literature Review is Organized
The use of headings may help the reader comprehend the organization of the literature review. A heading could be used for each section of the literature review. The organization of the literature should reflect the basic elements of the thesis or research question in the paper. For example, imagine that your hypothesis is that a book with more pages will sell more copies. The first part of the literature review could cover findings or ideas concerning what may influence book sales. The second part of the literature review could cover research or theory that would support the idea quantity information influence decisions.