laptop labeled Step 4
Conduct a Literature Review


What is a Literature Review? 3.1 | Note Taking 3.2 | Sample Literature Reviews | Writing a Literature Review 3.3
What is a Literature Review? Lesson 3.1

Conducting and writing a literature review is a common practice among researchers in many disciplines. You will use the resources listed below to read and learn about lterature reviews and complete the following Literature Review Overview activities; save and share your completed activity file as directed by your teacher.

Activity 1: Definition - What is a literature review? What is it NOT? What is meant by "the literature" on a topic?
Activity 2: Purpose - What is the purpose of a literature review in research? Why do scholars conduct literature reviews?
Activity 3: Breaking It Down - What does it mean to summarize, synthesize, and critically analyze information?

Reflect: After reading the section "Let's Get To It" in Literature Reviews (UNC Writing Center) and additional resources below, respond to these questions in your Reflection Journal:

  • What should you do before you write the literature review?
  • What is the most important strategy for writing the literature review for you, and why?
  • How will you organize the body of your literature review? Explain why this makes the most sense for your topic.
  • After reading the information under the  “Begin Composing” heading, what do you think is the most important tip?


Note Taking Lesson 3.2

Create a section titled Literature Review in your research course OneNote. Use this procedure for taking notes from the sources you have gathered on your Annotated Bibliography:

  1. Choose an article and cite it.
  2. Create a page in your Literature Review section in OneNote for this source.
  3. Copy the chart from the NoteTaking Guide onto the One Note page.
  4. Use the chart to take one note from the articcle.
  5. Go to your citation in EasyBib and click parenthetical. Copy the in-text citation into the appropriate column on your Guide, as necessary. 
  6. Continue to take notes using the chart.
  7. When you have exhausted this article for useful, relevant material, complete the following reflection:
    Reflect on taking notes using this note-taking chart. Explain what you like and/or dislike about this format.
  8. Consult the resources below for note-taking tips and formats. You may take notes however you like, provided that they are organized with the source, note, and in-text citation. All notes must be organized in your OneNote; if taking notes by hand, they can be scanned in using a smart device.
  9. Choose another article and repeat the process using a notetaking format of your choice. Do not repeat the reflection.
  10. You may find it necessary to locate additional sources. Revisit Step 2: Exlpore and Issue or Problem as needed.


Examples - picture of head with lightbulb

You may find it helpful to examine the sample literature reviews below (and/or student samples provided by your teacher) before you begin composing your own literature review.

Writing a Literature Review Lesson 3.3

A literature review consists of two distinct parts. The first part is the research review, for which you will read scholarly articles to determine what others have discovered about your topic. After you have read and reviewed the literature, you will compose a narrative description of what you have learned. As you write, remember that the purpose of a literature review is to inform the reader of about the existing knowledge and ideas about the topic, and your reason for reviewing the literature.

RESOURCES - Use the following resources as you approach the literature review writing process:



  • Find a focus. Make sure that your work is organized around ideas- not the sources, but a direction or position that they will support. 
  • Create a working thesis. Unlike other types of research papers, your thesis does not create an argument or a position.  What it does do is to create a way of looking at the research around your topic.
  • Think about elements of organization. Consider the best way to organize and present sources and ideas.  Creating an outline of topics and subtopics is a helpful way to organize.
Composing Tips:
  • Use evidence- Your interpretation of the resources you have chosen must be backed up with evidence that shows a link between your points and information to support them.
  • Be selective- Choose the most important parts of each source to highlight in your review.
  • Use quotes sparingly- Most literature reviews do not use direct quotes from the text. Use short quotes if you need only sparingly, and do not quote large passages of text.  Your goal is to summarize in your own words the studies you have found that provide documentation of your position or serve as background.
  • Paraphrase with caution- Be sure to differentiate between others' ideas and your own ideas.
  • Summarize and synthesize- As you summarize the work of others, you will also need to synthesize it as a way to relate it to your own ideas.
  • Keep your voice - Although you are presenting the ideas of others, you will need to relate these to own ideas and use your own words.
  • Revise, revise, revise - Take advantage of your teachers, librarian, mentors, and peers.  Ask them to read your work and help you to make your literature review as well written as possible.


Introduction: (1 1/2 - 2 Pages)

  • Define the general topic, issue, or area of concern.
  • Point out trends in the published research in the area; conflicts in the theory, methodology, evidence, and conclusions; gaps in the research; or a new perspective.
  • Detail your reasons for reviewing the literature on your topic; explain your stance and organizational structure.

Body: (4-6 Pages)
Use one of these organizational structures to present the sources you have found:

  • Chronological - Organize the research in the order it was conducted over time.
  • By publication - Group sources by the type of research they present or the area/field of research.
  • Trends - Categorize your sources to illustrate changes in ideas and data interpretation over time.
  • Thematic- Organize your review around specific issues or themes found in the literature.
  • Methodological - This approach groups research studies by the way the research was conducted.

Be sure to include:

  • The history or related ideas that have influenced the development of knowledge and thinking about this topic.
  • The current situation in regard to the topic or issue.

Conclusion: (2-3 Pages)

  • Summarize the major points of the most significant studies and articles related to your research topic.
  • Evaluate the current thinking on your topic.  This may be a place for you to suggest that there are flaws or gaps in the research, theories, findings or areas of study, or that a new perspective would be useful.
  • Conclude by providing insight into the relationship between the literature and the focus of your area of interest, study or proposed position on the topic.

Citations: Provide a complete alphabetized Works Cited page, based upon the Style required for the discipline/topic. Include only citations that are referenced in your paper with in text citations.

STEP THREE: Revise and Edit

  • Proofread your literature review draft for grammar/mechanics.
  • Self-evaluate your draft according to success criteria on the Literature Review Rubric and consider these Revision questions.
  • Have a peer read your draft and provide feedback using the Literature Review PQP form.
  • After you have revised/edited your Lit Review based on your peer’s feedback, re-evaluate it using the Rubric.

STEP FOUR: Share/submit your final draft to your teacher as directed.