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How to Write a Literature Review

This guide will help you write a Literature Review with the help of library resources, tips, and tricks.

How to Write a Literature Review

This guide will help you successfully write a literature review and is updated frequently, so check back for more tips and resources. Try the Communication Resource Center for help writing, reading, & speaking.

What's the purpose of a literature review?

  • Good news! If you've ever written an academic paper, you've done a review of literature for your Introduction section, so you're already familiar with most of what we'll be talking about. If you keep in mind that you've done this before, writing literature reviews is pretty simple.
  • Literature review articles summarize, evaluate, and analyze the existing literature into a narrative about a given topic and are an important part of your research into that topic. The most important piece of this, and the thing that makes literature review articles different from annotated bibliographies, is analysis. You're not only summarizing the sources you've selected, you're talking about how they fit together and what the greater implications of that are.
  • Once you've done a review of the literature, you have a much better understanding about the topic, where there are gaps in the literature, and even which directions you could pursue for your own new research. Literature review articles are an important piece of grant proposals, theses, and dissertations, but even outside of academia, they're very useful to anyone looking to understand a topic better.

So how do you write a literature review article?

  • Literature review articles are written as a cohesive narrative that most often consists of three parts: introduction, body, and conclusion, though longer literature review articles may also contain an abstract. The formatting for all of these parts is the same as formatting any other type of article in APA style.
  • The central topic of a literature review article is broken down into smaller subsections and the articles within each subsection are compared with each other. These subsections can be based on similar concepts, methodology, outcome - really, any way that makes sense to you.
  • Begin with broad background information or studies to introduce your topic. Once you've set the stage, you can begin to include more narrow research into the parts of your topic that you want to focus on more specifically. 
  • And that's really about all there is to it! For more detailed information about writing each part of the article, choosing topics, or deciding how to organize studies, check out the links below to guides other libraries have created for students.

Need more detailed instructions?

Examples & Help

Need examples of literature reviews in academic writing?

Search TOPCAT for practice-based inquiry project to find the Master of Science in Nursing capstone project reports.

Search TOPCAT for Master's action research report to find the Master's Action Research Reports by Alverno's Masters of Arts graduates. Find the physical copies near the Research Assistance Desk, call numbers start with 001.4.

Relevant & Related LibGuides

Ebooks at Alverno - Downloads, tutorials, and other helpful information on making the most our ebooks.

How to Cite in APA 7 - Instructions, examples, and resources for citing over 20 common source types.

Scroll right for more books. Click any cover to go to that book in TOPCAT or Ebook Central.


Preparing literature reviews book coverWriting literature reviews book coverThe literature review book coverbook cover: simon and schuster handbook for writers‚Äč book cover: the handbook of scholarly writing and publishing      book cover: evaluating research in academic journals book cover: the power of questions      book cover: your psychology project the essential guide

Library Catalog (TOPCAT)

ProQuest Ebook Central

Google Scholar



Citing in APA 7

NoodleTools helps create accurate citations, reference lists, and annotated bibliographies. For best results, use it in conjugation with the APA manual or the APA Style website.