The Literature Review – Complete Step-by-Step Guide

Academic writing involves submitting dissertations, research papers, and other academic documents. Writing these papers will often require a student or a researcher to construct a literature review. College students may have no idea how to write a literature review.

This will make the task more difficult and take more time to finish. Since a literature review is a challenging writing task, students and researchers should be aware of the proper way of writing a literature review. They can find a variety of online literature review examples that they can use as references. Aside from those examples, they should read this article to learn how to write a literature review.

What Is a Literature Review?


A literature review is an academic collection and summary of existing studies and sources regarding a specific subject. The document discusses previously published works that contain relevant information about a research topic. It includes the examination of existing theories, methods, conclusions, limitations, and recommendations. The document requires a student or a researcher to analyze and assess different sources. A literature review can range from a 3,000-word document to a lengthy 10,000-word paper. The length will depend on the type of research and whether the literature review is a stand-alone document.

How to Write A Literature Review

A literature review is an essential part of academic writing. It requires a student to critically analyze published works and relate the analysis to their research. The document is a lengthy paper that discusses the relevance of related literature to a research topic. 

A researcher should aim to analyze, evaluate, assess, and examine all the aspects of the various literature or sources. For the literature review, researchers can use the following as their sources:

The last one will allow the researcher to look at professionally written papers and learn from them.

Tip 1. Define the research topic

The researcher should first define their research topic before starting with the written part of the document. Defining the research topic will help the researcher find the most relevant sources for their study. The researcher should try to construct a solid question that will guide the research. This will allow them to create an initial plan for their research methodology and hypotheses as well as assess the limitations of their studies. Since the researcher has a vague plan for their study, they can easily choose sources that fit their research structure.

Tip 2. Look for related literature

After defining the topic, the researcher can then proceed with looking for sources that they can use for the document. As stated above, literature review sources can be books, journals, articles, and essays. They can find these sources online or from local libraries. The researcher can use relevant keywords to easily find related sources. They can use a database to find published works that contain the keywords. For example, a researcher who is studying distant learning can use keywords like “e-learning,” “online flipped classrooms,” and “online learning.”

Tip 3. Assess the relevance of the collected sources

The researcher will end up collecting multiple sources that they can use for the literature review. However, it will be impossible to utilize all the collected sources. A research topic can have hundreds of related studies that the researcher cannot fit in one literature review. The researcher will have to assess the collected sources and decide which sources to omit. To help in the assessment process, the researcher should look for sources that have identical aspects to their research topic. This could be an identical research question, methodology, or hypothesis. The researcher can look at the abstract of the collected sources to easily acquire an overview of the paper.

Tip 4. Analyze the selected sources

After the selection process, the researcher can then proceed with the analysis part of the literature review. They should read and analyze the selected sources and examine the similarities and differences between them. The researcher can ask questions like “what is the preferred research method of previous researchers?” They should take note of the gaps and recurring ideas in the various sources. For example, they may find that most sources imply that a qualitative research method is ineffective for the topic. The researcher can use this idea as a guide to their study and avoid making the same mistake. From here, they can begin to create a literature review format.

Steps for Writing A Literature Review

There are six general types of literature review. There is the integrative, historical, methodological, argumentative, systematic, and theoretical review. Each type can have its own format and structure. A researcher can find various online references that provide examples for each type. Despite the different types, most literature reviews follow the standard essay format of introduction, body, and conclusion. Below are the steps to writing the assignment.

Step 1: Create the literature review format

To begin writing the document, the researcher should decide on the writing format that they will use. They can use APA, MLA, Harvard, or Chicago writing format. Different fields of studies often require a specific format. Social sciences like sociology and psychology prefer to use the APA style, while the humanities field mostly utilizes the MLA style. The researcher’s instructor and organizational affiliation can also affect the writing format.

Step 2: Create the paper’s outline

Once the researcher has decided on the writing format that they will use, they can then begin with the paper’s outline. The outline should be a skeletal framework of the paper’s body. The research should list down the major ideas from their analysis of the sources. From their ideas, they can then decide the type of their literature review. The type can help them construct the paper’s outline. For example, a historical review will highlight the periodic development of the topic. The researcher can create an outline that divides the paper into different timelines.

Step 3: Write the introduction, body, and conclusion

Following the paper’s outline, the researcher can then proceed with the actual writing of the literature review. They should begin with an introduction that briefly discusses the topic of the paper. It should provide an overview of its content and the reasoning behind the review. After this, they can then write the body of the paper. This should discuss all the researcher’s main ideas and findings while reading the related literature. They should discuss the relationship between the related literature and their study. Lastly, the researcher should then write the conclusion. It should summarize the major points of the review and provide recommendations for future studies.

Step 4: List down the references

The last step in literature review writing is the reference list. This is the complete list of the sources that the researcher used in their paper. The researcher should list all the authors and works that they cited in their review. They should keep in mind that the format for their reference list depends on their writing format. An APA paper should use an APA referencing style, and a Harvard style paper should use a Harvard referencing style. After this, the researcher should try to proofread and edit any grammatical and typographical errors.

Literature Review Example

literature review

A literature review is a lengthy document that can range from 3,000 words to more than 10,000 words. Writing the paper is a monumental task that will require a lot of time and focus. Below are some examples of the different sections of a literature review.


“Internet and technology brought the age of information and paperless transactions. Students can complete their academic courses online. Businesses can engage in transactions without visiting their clients. People can purchase anything on the Internet and have another person deliver it to their home. However, it also caught the attention of hackers and other cybercriminals… ”

“This review is going to include thorough research regarding the harmful impact of cybercrimes to businesses, private individuals, and the government. The review will also examine the different forms of cybercrimes that cybercriminals commit.”


“Intellectual properties are intangible assets that an entity owns. Owners store these intellectual properties online. They take the form of new product designs, blueprints, trademarked properties, and institutional strategies (The Investopedia Team, 2021). Cybercriminals like hackers can gain unauthorized access to these properties and use them for their benefit.”

Programmers and hackers can disguise malicious software as common applications. Once an individual has downloaded and installed the malware, it will begin to gather information and even take control of the victim’s computer. An example of this is malware that hackers placed in pirated video games and software. The malware uses the victim’s computer for crypto mining without the owner’s consent (Shead, 2021)…


“Cybercrime activity disrupts the daily routine of individuals and organizations. As people’s reliance on the internet continues, cybercrime activities will increase and be difficult to stop. The various forms of cybercrime show the different methods that cybercriminals can utilize. Aside from the legislation that attempts to combat cybercrimes, institutions should create reliable cybers security systems. Future studies should consider the correlation between cybercrimes and a region’s computer literacy.”


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