How to Conduct & Write Literature Review (Step by Step)

Step 1. Choose a topic. After defining  your research question.

  • Literature review should be guided by a central research question.
  • It is not a collection of loosely related studies

─represents background and research developments related to a specific research question

─ should be interpreted and analyzed by you in a synthesized way


─Make sure your research question is not too broad or too narrow.

─Begin writing down terms that are related to your question.

─If you have the opportunity, discuss your topic with your professor.

Step 2. Decide on the scope of your review.

  • How many studies do you need to look at?
  • How comprehensive should it be?
  • How many years should it cover?
  • How many sources does the assignment require?
  • Step 3. elect the databases you will use to conduct your searches.
  • Make a list of the databases you will search.
  • Remember to include comprehensive databases for journals and books
  • Dissertations & Theses, if you need to.

Step 4. Conduct your searches and find the literature.

  • Review the abstracts of research studies carefully. This will save you time.
  • Write down the searches you conduct in each database
  • Use the bibliographies and references of research studies you find to locate others.
  • Ask your professor or a scholar in the field if you are missing any key works in the field.
  • Use software to keep track of your research citations.

Step 5. Review the literature.

  • Some questions to help you analyze the research:
  • What was the research question of the study you are reviewing?
  • What were the authors trying to discover?
  • What were the research methodologies?
  • What are the results, findings and the conclusions.
  • Does the research seem to be complete?
  • What further questions does it raise?
  • If there are conflicting studies, why do you think that is?

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