A Comprehensive Guide On Writing An Essay Literature Review


When it comes to writing an essay Literature Review, it can be a painstaking and long process. To enable you to focus on the task, it is a good idea to remind yourself of some of the reasons why you are writing it.

Essentially it is a review of literature that is relevant to the topic you are writing about and your field of study. It can also cover literature that may cross over from other fields of study that cover significant and appropriate work.

What you are aiming for through this work is to:

  • Give an overview of what has been said about your topic.
  • Acknowledge the Key writers, that have contributed.
  • Discuss the most prominent theories and hypothesis (relate these to historical situations and/or technological advances where appropriate).
  • Highlight the questions that are currently being asked.
  • Detail the methods and methodologies that are appropriate to your work.

This type of work is not always a paper that stands on its own; it can also be a chapter of a thesis or dissertation that sets the scene for the work that will be the focus of the research question; or it can be used as a background that outlines the investigation for a research proposal.

  • Practicalities:
  • You can end up with a lot of information and you need to collate this so you can easily refer back to it. One of the most valuable tips is to set up a project diary, where you make a note of all of the sources that you have explored and make brief notes.

    If you come across a piece of work, that you feel is not appropriate then still make a note of it as you may come across it later and fail to remember why you decided to discount it.

    Your diary can be in longhand form or you can also use a document form which will make it easier to cut and paste citations and referencing formats.

    Make sure that you take the time to read through the instructions that your professor has given you. You will need to make sure that you have the correct minimum number of references; the right word count and which form you should use for your work.

  • Basically, Literature Reviews can take 2 forms:
    1. Descriptive. This type can be used as a annotated bibliography, showing a progression of idea that have led to the topic that you are working on. It should not be just a paraphrase of available written material, you will need to coax out other subject matter as well as the trends and directions of the topic.
    2. Critical Assessment. A full critical assessment will look at all appropriate available literature for your topic (hypothesis) within your field of study. This type of assessment will start by looking at the weaknesses and gaps that occur within research. It will then move on to comparing and contrasting the views of the most prominent authors in the field and raise relevant questions. Through evaluation, the assessment will then highlight the themes that have emerged.