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How to write a literature review section for your research paper

While writing a literature review is, in name, something few new college students have experienced as part of their high school career, they shouldn’t feel intimidated by this new assignment type. In fact, writing a research paper literature review is one of the easiest and most straightforward sections of a college level research paper. These simple guidelines will help any student write a great academic literature review:

  1. Gather your literature
  2. The obvious first step is to know what literature will be reviewed and gather it together. Once a student is prepared to begin writing a research paper, they typically have plenty of options for the literature review already. If not, the student should research their topic and choose solid scholarly articles related as closely as possible to the research they will be conducting. One good rule of thumb is to see if the paper has been widely cited in other articles and relevant publications. Those that have are probably rigorous enough to be included in the literature review.

  3. Read the chosen articles
  4. This is an obvious step—but many students go about it the wrong way. Instead of reading each article, taking notes for review, and adding them to the literature review one by one, the student should first read all of the articles chosen, making only basic notes as to their content. This will help them create an outline for the literature review, choosing the order in which to present the articles.

  5. Create an outline.
  6. Students sometimes neglect to do this for literature reviews, because they can’t imagine that it makes much difference what order the articles are presented in. In fact, it can make a significant difference when trying to create an organized literature review in a research paper. The flow of ideas in a research paper is important, and the literature review can be a great way to establish that flow and the relationships between the ideas that will be presented in the research.

  7. Read and review each article carefully.
  8. Once the outline is finished, re-read each article in order, taking careful notes as to what will be included in the final literature review. Refine the outline, if necessary, during this process. Finally, write a draft of the literature review, being careful to properly introduce each article, explain its significance, and cite helpful material.


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