Skip to Main Content

Writing a Literature Review

This purpose of this guide is to assist students with writing literature reviews for research papers in the sciences

About this guide

The guide instructs students on how to write the literature review in scientific research papers. It illustrates the principles and practices that enable students to write a cogent and relevant literature review that frames their research study in terms of structure, scope and content. Using steps delineated in this guide illustrates to the researcher the process of writing a literature review. It allows the reader, when reading the review, to understand the justification for the research study as supported through the literature.. 

The process of writing a literature review encompasses four phases:

1. Planning the Review. Provides a strategic roadmap for the writing process. 

2. Exploring the Literature. Searching the literature for relevant sources for addition into their review.

3. Managing the Literature. Compiling and evaluating relevant sources for inclusion into the review.

4. Organizing and Writing the Review. Involves outlining and writing the literature review.  

What is a literature review?

A literature review surveys the scholarly literature for relevant sources that address the scope of a research topic. Neither an annotated bibliography, nor a systematic review, it lays the groundwork for justification of the research study by identifying the research problem, formulating the study’s research questions, and defining the objectives of the study.

There are two types of literature reviews. The first type, article literature review, provides a comprehensive coverage of a research topic, problem or area of interest. The second type is a chapter embedded within a research article, which cites relevant literature sources that support the research study findings and discussion. This libguide focuses on how to write a literature review for a research article.

Trials and tribulations of writing

© University of Nevada Las Vegas