What is Literature Review in Research Paper

A literature review is an essential part of any academic research paper. It provides an overview of previous research on a topic and identifies gaps, contradictions, and inconsistencies in the literature. A good literature review surveys scholarly articles, books, dissertations, conference proceedings and other resources relevant to a particular area of research.

A literature review in a research paper critically evaluates and synthesizes existing scholarly literature relevant to the topic under investigation, and with the expertise and guidance of a skilled research paper writer, scholars can ensure the integration of key findings and insights from various sources, thereby enriching the depth and quality of their research.

The main objectives of a literature review are:

  • To summarize existing research by identifying patterns, themes and issues.
  • To synthesize and evaluate what is known about a particular topic.
  • To identify major methodological approaches and theories that have informed the field.
  • To identify inconsistencies, gaps and contradictions in the literature.
  • To outline areas for further research.

Conducting a literature review involves systematically searching for, analyzing, evaluating and synthesizing prior studies found in academic databases, journals, books and other sources.

The Importance of Literature Review in Research

A literature review provides a solid background for conducting your own study. Reviewing previous research familiarizes you with the field of inquiry,important variables and how they were measured and defined in prior studies, differences in theories, populations sampled, geographic locations studied, as well as methods used for collecting and analyzing data. This helps you determine how your research fits into the broader conversation in the field and how it will expand on existing knowledge.

Additionally, analyzing and critiquing other studies stimulates new research ideas by identifying gaps and inconsistencies that need to be addressed. It also helps you refine your research methods to avoid potential pitfalls encountered by previous researchers. Understanding the current state of knowledge arms you with an informed perspective to approach your own thesis.

In sum, an effective literature groundwork strengthens the methodological robustness and significance of your research.

Characteristics of a Good Literature Review

A literature review in a research paper serves as a comprehensive exploration and analysis of existing literature related to the research topic, providing valuable insights and context, and for those seeking additional guidance, the option to buy research paper assistance can facilitate the integration of relevant scholarly sources, enhancing the credibility and depth of the review.

An exemplary literature review has the following key attributes:

1. Methodical and systematic search

A meticulous literature search is undertaken to compile relevant publications using specific keywords and search strategies. Bibliographic databases like Google Scholar, Web of Science and PubMed are searched along with library catalogs and subject specific databases.

2. Critical analysis and synthesis

Materials are carefully analyzed, their chief contributions and research methods evaluated, and primary findings compared. The review synthesizes results into key themes, trends and patterns across studies instead of merely summarizing works individually.

3. Identification of research gaps

Central issues and questions that remain unresolved or need further exploration are highlighted to establish the reviewer’s research territory.

4. Link to thesis topic

The review remains sharply focused on studies relating to the specific research problem and area of inquiry intended to be addressed by the author’s thesis or project.

5. Clear organization

There is a logical flow from one section to the next as the paper progresses from general background to specific relevance to the thesis topic.

6. Objectivity

The review is written in a balanced manner with an impartial, critical stance towards previous literature. Both the strengths and weaknesses of prior studies are analyzed.

Types of Literature Reviews

There are several ways to organize and structure a literature review based on the purpose it serves in a research paper:

Narrative Review

Provides a broad overview of a topic from a theoretical and historical perspective. A narrative review summarizes individual studies and synthesizes key details into a coherent explanation of the current state of knowledge in the field. Useful for introducing readers to a subject.

Systematic Review

Adheres to a rigorous methodology to comprehensively search for, identify, analyze and evaluate all studies on a specific question according to predetermined criteria. Often involves meta-analysis to statistically combine data on a topic. Provides a high level of evidence. Common in healthcare and social sciences.

Integrative Review

Combines data from theoretical and empirical literature. Focuses on reviewing, critiquing and synthesizing representative literature on a subject in an integrated way.

Methodological Review

Critically analyzes the techniques utilized in previous works to carry out research instead of their actual findings. Assesses the appropriateness of data collection and analysis procedures.

Theoretical Review

Examines the existing theory or conceptual framework that has informed research and academic understanding of a subject. Identifies main theories and concepts, assumptions and defining characteristics of a theoretical tradition.

Steps to Writing an Effective Literature Review

Writing a comprehensive literature review involves the following steps:

1. Formulate inclusion criteria

Determine key factors like area of focus, time period, language, publication status and type of literature to include.

2. Search the literature

Systematically search bibliographic databases, library catalogs, project websites and other sources to compile relevant publications.

3. Analyze and synthesize findings critically

Thoroughly examine materials to identify phenomena like hypotheses, variables, methodology, conclusions and gaps in the literature. Synthesize findings under common ideas and themes.

4. Summarize existing knowledge

Succinctly summarize the current state of knowledge in the field and major conclusions on the research problem.

5. Identify gaps

Highlight inadequacies, inconsistencies and lack of studies on certain aspects to establish the focus of your own study.

6. Outline structure

Organize the review into a coherent essay with logical sections and transitions between ideas.

7. Write the review

Synthesize studies under topic sentences for each paragraph with citations. Conclude by summarizing key themes and relating ideas back to your thesis.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Some common mistakes that should be avoided when writing a literature review include:

  • Simply listing or summarizing sources individually without synthesis
  • Losing focus by bringing in loosely related or irrelevant material
  • Getting overly descriptive instead of taking a critical stance
  • Reporting rather than analyzing and interpreting previous findings
  • Making claims not supported by evidence in the sources
  • Not having a central organizing theme or idea
  • Lacking organization and flow from one idea to the next
  • Failing to cite sources appropriately and accurately

Literature Review Structure

A literature review generally contains the following sections:


The introduction provides a brief overview of the topic and rationale for selecting it. It discusses the significance of the research problem and points out gaps in current knowledge the review aims to address. Relevant background context is provided to orient readers to the topic.


This section explains the approach utilized for searching the academic literature, inclusion criteria, databases searched, search terms and other details on the retrieval process so the search can be replicated.

Previous Research

This main body summarizes, analyzes and synthesizes relevant prior studies on the topic. It is organized thematically, by methodological approach or chronologically.

Limitations of Previous Research

Areas requiring further study and gaps in existing literature are highlighted here. The need for the author’s study is established.


The conclusion summarizes key findings and emphasizes the significance of the literature review. It ties back to the research issue and sets the stage for the author’s study.

Writing a literature review requires meticulous research, critical analysis and strong synthesis skills. Following the steps outlined above can help you gain a solid understanding of current knowledge and write a effective review as part of a research paper. Consulting writing resources or seeking guidance from a tutor or advisor can also help strengthen your literature review. With time and practice, your literature review skills are sure to improve.

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