Steps in Writing a Literature Review

In order to write a quality literature review it is highly advisable for students to have a plan and well defined steps as well as to keep a certain format and style.

A good thesis or dissertation must necessarily contain a properly written literature review. While it is a compulsory component of any major academic document like a thesis or a dissertation, it may be the justification for applying for a grant of money, an analysis of existing research work prepared and included in a research proposal, or a review paper based on an annotated bibliography. Depending on the requirement the literature review may vary in size or extent. So care must be taken to determine the nature of the literature review we are going to prepare. That is in fact the very first step in writing a literature review.

The next step is naturally to collect all available material on the topic under consideration. We call it available literature. That encompasses everything written on the topic so far. That is really the consolidated reports of all previous research conducted on the topic so far.

Available literature may be very vast or quite scarce depending on the subject. We must take care to collect all the varied sources available. They may include books, ebooks, journal articles, newspaper reports, interviews, memoirs, study reports, theses and dissertations, commentaries, announcements, pamphlets, letters and emails, web sources, etc. One thing is very important though: we should note all the source details when we gather the material. That is essential for the writing stage because all the literature we intend to use in the literature review will have to be referenced correctly and completely.

The next step is the analysis and consolidation stage. All the material we collect may not be useful, relevant or important. Detailed examination may be necessary to choose all the relevant material and none of the irrelevant ones. Then we must categorize the chosen material on the basis of the various aspects of our research problem. Verify whether each point is supported or evidenced by the literature we have collected. Identify any gaps in research. Our aim in our research must be to fill those gaps or to contribute to the points already raised.

The last step is of course that of writing. As this is the most important step in preparing the literature review, we must do it with extreme care, paying attention to the requirement and the instructions as regards style, size, methodology, etc.