Tips for Writing a Great Literature Review Format for Academic Articles

For academic writing help, use these tips on writing a literature review outline and format for your next academic article
This article is part of an ongoing series on academic writing help of scholarly articles. The first part, explored how to write an introduction for a research paper, and next we discuss how to write a research methodology

Now that your academic article’s introduction is ready and your research questions are well-established, it’s time to present different points of view that relate to your study as they are presented in a literature review format.

With so many books, scholarly journal articles, theses, reports, conference proceedings, dissertations, and so on, writing a valuable literature review can appear like an overwhelming undertaking.

Further, we will discuss how to do literature review for writing a significant academic article.

The Purpose of a Literature Review

Literature review writing of your academic paper should focus on your critical analysis of academic sources, by exposing the similarities and differences of works related to your research subject.

It’s true that in your review of related literature in research you will also summarize the works that contributed to the development of your research subject, but summary is not enough.

A general framework for a great Literature Review format would be:
Literature Review represents a critical analysis of academic sources, by explaining, summarizing, comparing and contrasting different ideas on a research topic.

As discussed in our previous blog on how to write an introduction for a research paper, research questions are the essential part of your article. Knowing your research question will help guide your literature review.

Developing those research questions will then give you the opportunity to discuss the many available bodies of knowledge, patterns, approaches, as well as similarities and differences in theories, analyses, and discovered results.

By writing a literature review, you, as the Author:

  • give readers and other Researchers valuable insights on certain research topics
  • help identify research gaps and inconsistencies in previous studies
  • provide a constructive analysis of methods, research designs, techniques, and results for other Researchers
  • highlight valuable academic sources and increase their visibility through citations.

Main Premises of Writing a great Literature Review

If you are focusing on how to do a literature review for valuable research writing, you should:

  • compare and contrast different perspectives on a research subject
  • group Authors who reaches similar conclusions in their works
  • critically discuss limiting aspects of other works, while also offering insights and ideas for improvement (possibly also as part of your research)
  • showcase gaps in research that your study will address and help overcome
  • demonstrate how your academic publication is related to previous studies
  • place the literature review in a historical perspective
  • assess promising and note-worthy research designs, methods, and analyses

Literature Review Format

The format and structure of your review of related literature in research is dependent on your academic journal article or publication, as well as the subject of your paper.

a. Choosing the Right Sections

If your literature review is extensive, divide it in sections. In organizing your literature review, focus with the main keywords and concepts and build up your sections, accordingly.

A good place to start is by drawing a conceptual scheme of the review of related literature, with mind-mapping methods.

This type of diagram can assist in offering a logical approach to organize and link sections of your literature review. This diagram or figure can also help you in writing the review, and it can also help the readers if it is included in the final paper.

If your research scholarly article is based on a model, a good idea is to organize your literature review’s sections based on the hypotheses or concepts the model’s relationships.

It also helps if the model is displayed as a figure at the end of the literature review, after all the concept connections have been examined.

b. Current and Older Academic Sources

It’s a common mistake for Authors to include only references from the last decade, or the other way around and only mention older academic sources because they are familiar with them.

A valuable literature review sample should present new and older perspectives, to showcase the hard work Authors have put in developing the academic article, and to offer an evolution and development of the research subject.

Also, try to use the older references to provide a context and background of your scholarly article.

c. Linking Words

Linking words are very important to the whole academic writing process.

Use the following words / phrases:

    • to group together studies with similar ideas and research:

similarly, in addition, also, again, moreover, furthermore, although…

    • to show contrasting ideas or different points of view:

however, on the other hand, conversely, nevertheless, nonetheless…

    • to introduce someone’s opinion or work, try to avoid ‘ Authors say..’, instead use:

argues, claims, states, proposes, concludes, found, focused on, explains…

As a general practice for academic writing, use the present tense for general known ideas, opinions, and theories; or use the past tense for referencing specific studies and analyses.
e.g. Although Author 1 (Year 1) argues that …, Author 2 (Year 1) claims that….

Key takeaways

You should use the review of related literature to create a conclusive and comprehensive background of you research subject builds up your credibility as an Author and Researchers
For your Literature Review format, as Authors, you should focus on the following academic writing tips:

  • select literature review that is relevant to your research topic
  • indicate the relevance of each reference and academic source to your research
  • showcase the literature gap your scholarly article aims to bridge and cover
  • emphasize current and older approaches of your research, in a compare and contrast framework
  • in certain cases, diagrams and figures can help you and your academic article’s readers guide them in understanding the literature review
  • focus on a logical presentation of the ideas in your paper’s literature review
  • avoid describing what one author says, and then go on to give overviews from another author, and then another one, and so on; instead, offer your perspective on the subject through a critical analysis of each academic source.

In our ongoing series on academic writing, we aimed to discuss the premises of writing a great literature review outline, to help with your next academic article. Subsequent publications will explore research design and methodology.

Which aspects are you generally focusing on when writing literature review outline and format?

This blog series focuses on useful tips for academic writing for a valuable research paper. Next, we discuss how to write a research methodology.

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