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How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes .

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, frequently asked questions, introduction.

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

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Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).


The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.


If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:


A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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How to Write a Literature Review in APA

A literature review is a written survey of what researchers have said about a particular group of related concepts. Literature reviews introduce the reader to the current state of understanding on a topic and highlight gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed. They may group or categorize studies as well as provide an evaluation or synthesis of those studies.

Literature reviews should be written in present tense and past tense and generally follow the order of introduction to the research question, review of the literature, and analysis or synthesis of results.

Literature reviews are common assignments in undergraduate and graduate courses, especially in the social sciences. Knowing how to write one is an important skill that students should master during their first year of school.

This guide will teach you how to write a literature review in APA style, including examples and suggestions for success.

When writing a literature review, the following steps are key to creating a compelling piece of writing:

When researching for this assignment, students should focus on a scholarly research paper, academic journals, and professional magazines rather than newspaper and magazine articles. These should be used sparingly and only to support arguments or prove a point that is not covered by other works. When searching for articles, make sure you include those from peer-reviewed publications as well as those from the target journal’s archives.

Once you’ve found your sources, it’s important to critically evaluate each one before including it in the paper. This means scanning the information and making sure that key elements are included.

When assessing a source, ask yourself questions like:

If you can’t answer yes to these questions, it’s probably not a good idea to include this source in your paper.

Evaluating your sources and choosing those that are relevant to your topic can be difficult. One way to make this process easier is to identify gaps in the research as well as debates that include contrasting views on a subject. When doing so, focus on how current studies contribute or attempt to contribute to these gaps and debates.

Once you have a list of articles, it’s time to start planning out your paper. The easiest way to do this is to make an outline that includes the key points that should be included in each section of the paper. This helps ensure that your literature review has all necessary components while also helping you create an introduction and conclusion for the entire piece.

The final step of the process is writing the actual literature review itself. Start by writing an introductory paragraph that includes a thesis, your research question, and key points about your paper.

APA Formatting Guidelines for a Literature Review Paper

APA (7th edition) style is the most commonly used citation and formatting system. This guide will outline how to format a paper in APA style, along with examples for each component.

General APA formatting rules include:

1) On all sides of the page, use 1-inch margins (top, bottom, left, and right).

2) Use a comprehensible font. Many fonts are appropriate, including Calibri 11-point, Arial 11-point, Times New Roman 12-point, and Georgia 11 point. The word-processing program’s default font is still ok.

3) Double-spacing is recommended for the entire paper, even for the block quotations and the reference list. Blank lines should not be added before or after headings. There should be no additional space between paragraphs.

4) Text paragraphs should be aligned to the left margin and indented. Allow for a ragged right margin. Use partial justification rather than complete justification. Using the tab key or your word-processing program’s paragraph-formatting feature, indent the first line of each paragraph of text by 0.5 inches.

5) Place a page number in the upper right corner of each page, including the cover page or title page, which is page 1. On any page of a student paper, there is no need for a running head.

Structure of a Literature Review Paper


Just like other papers, a literature review should start with an introduction. This section should include a thesis statement, the research question(s) being addressed, and key points about your paper. This is typically done in one paragraph.

Make sure that the thesis statement includes your argument, which you will develop more fully in the body of the paper. The thesis should help orient readers to what they can expect from the literature review, especially relative to your research question(s) and its context within existing scholarship about your topic.

An introduction should be interesting and grab the reader’s attention. You might include an anecdote or refer directly to an interesting passage from one of the articles you discuss in your paper.

The body section

The body should be divided into subsections, each of which covers a distinct aspect of your research question(s). Each section should begin with an introductory sentence that summarizes the main point you are addressing. As you develop these subheadings, make sure they reflect the purpose of your paper. For example, let’s say you are writing a paper about a certain type of superstition. The sections may be labeled as follows:

The final sentence of each subsection should include a transition sentence that signals to your reader that you are moving on to another aspect related to your research question(s).

The job of the body section is to present, evaluate and analyze your research results. The section should be well-written and organized, and formal.

Conclusion section

The conclusion should begin with a short paragraph restating the thesis statement. The conclusion can also contain some theoretical implications of your research, limitations of your paper, and ideas for future research in the area. It should be one to three paragraphs long, depending on what you are writing about.

It is important that you write an engaging literature review that is not too brief or too long, uses proper English, and is free of grammatical errors. Use the correct APA format for literature review papers.

how to write a literature review in apa

Organizing the Body of a Literature Review

There are different approaches to organizing a literature review, which includes the following:



This type of approach in structuring a literature review involves looking at the development of a particular concept or idea from the earliest to most recent times. It involves organizing the content according to date.

In this case, you should write about the first known occurrence of what you are writing about to its latest form.

For example, if you are writing about superstition, you can begin with its earliest known roots in prehistoric societies and the practices of various cultures.

According to this method, each new section should cover a distinct era.

This approach to structuring a literature review requires you to look at the content in terms of specific themes, key concepts, topics, or ideas.

Accordingly, it is best to divide your paper into distinct thematic categories, with each section addressing one topic, which you organize chronologically.

For each theme or topic, include a brief description of what it entails and provide examples where necessary. Make sure you give detailed explanations and avoid broad generalities, which often lead to misunderstandings.

Organizing the literature review by topic, theme, or idea is best suited for a paper that addresses an interdisciplinary research question. This type of organization gives you the liberty to discuss, draw connections, compare, and differentiate theories and views on your topic in separate sections.

A thematic approach is most appropriate when you intend to use your literature review papers to argue key findings on your topic.

A thematic approach is most appropriate when you intend to use your literature review papers to argue for a certain standpoint on your topic.

This structuring of a literature review involves dividing the content into sections that address distinct methodological approaches used in researching the particular topic.

This approach is particularly effective if you address a complex research question requiring you to discuss different types of research design and methods used in studying the area.

For example, if your literature review focuses on various ways of measuring job satisfaction, your methodology section can address:

This approach is particularly useful when there are many distinct ways of conducting research. It allows you to address each method separately in different sections of your paper, making it easier for the reader to follow the argument being put forward.

how to write a literature review in apa

Citation and References of a Literature Review in APA Format

In a paper, you have to include all the references used in your work. Citing references gives credit and accountability to authors who helped you with their research work. To maintain uniformity of style, a specific format must be followed when writing citations for APA papers, including those written for literature review.

In-text citation

For a literature review, whenever a reference is mentioned, it should be cited in parentheses. The parenthetical citation includes the author’s last name and the year of publication.

For example: (Blaikie, 2000)

Reference list

The references at the end of your paper should be organized alphabetically by the first author’s last name. At the end of each reference, there must be a full citation formatted according to APA style guidelines. For example:

Blaikie, N. (2000). Human geographies of the Global South: Development, nature and social transformation. London, UK: Longman Press.

Tips for Writing an Excellent Literature Review Paper

Clarity of expression is one of the most important aspects of good academic writing. When making conclusions in your literature review, make sure that your argument is based on solid reasoning and evidence.

Based on the specific question asked for this paper, establish what exactly needs to be included in the paper. You need to choose the areas that require in-depth analysis.

When making your point, you must provide relevant examples so that the reader can easily understand what you mean. As you are providing examples, try to use appropriate cases or, if possible international case studies.

A literature review is a formal document. For the reader to trust what you have written, it is important to use appropriate language and structure of writing. Avoid slang and words that are not commonly used for academic writing.

Be careful when you include information from internet sources. You should avoid using unreliable citations or references that have no backing evidence. If you are not sure about the credibility of a source, it is better to avoid including it.

As an academic writing assignment, it is important to avoid plagiarism. When you are paraphrasing or summarizing a source , use quotation marks and citation as appropriate.

At the end of your paper, include a comprehensive list of all references used in your paper. The reference must be cited within the text and listed alphabetically at the end according to APA style guidelines.

Following these tips will help you write an effective literature review. If you are still having trouble or need more advice on how to complete an individual assignment, please feel free to contact us, and we will be happy to help.

Need Assistance Writing a Literature Review Paper in APA Format?

It can be challenging for students to complete their literature review assignments in APA format. If you need assistance with adding a literature review to your paper, our academic writing company can help you complete your assignment on time and according to the required standards.

Our experts will add a literature review for your paper at an affordable price. Additionally, we offer free revisions in case you are not satisfied with the final document.

Our writing professional writers have experience in writing literature reviews in APA format successfully.

Customers who used our service have been satisfied with the quality of literature reviews that we completed for them. We can help you too!

A Literature review is an in-depth analysis of published academic literature on a particular topic. It provides the current state of knowledge about a research question and helps understand how future research can meet aims.

The purpose of a literature review will vary between disciplines, and the work done in your field is likely to influence the structure and tone.

If you need help with the writing process of a literature review in APA style, please contact us today. We can help you finish your assignment successfully and according to the required standards. Our rates are reasonable, and we guarantee satisfaction.

how to write a literature review in apa

I ‘m a freelance content and SEO writer with a passion for finding the perfect combination of words to capture attention and express a message . I create catchy, SEO-friendly content for websites, blogs, articles, and social media. My experience spans many industries, including health and wellness, technology, education, business, and lifestyle. My clients appreciate my ability to craft compelling stories that engage their target audience, but also help to improve their website’s search engine rankings. I’m also an avid learner and stay up to date on the latest SEO trends. I enjoy exploring new places and reading up on the latest marketing and SEO strategies in my free time.

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Writing Research Papers

When writing a research paper on a specific topic, you will often need to include an overview of any prior research that has been conducted on that topic.  For example, if your research paper is describing an experiment on fear conditioning, then you will probably need to provide an overview of prior research on fear conditioning.  That overview is typically known as a literature review.  

Please note that a full-length literature review article may be suitable for fulfilling the requirements for the Psychology B.S. Degree Research Paper .  For further details, please check with your faculty advisor.

Different Types of Literature Reviews

Literature reviews come in many forms.  They can be part of a research paper, for example as part of the Introduction section.  They can be one chapter of a doctoral dissertation.  Literature reviews can also “stand alone” as separate articles by themselves.  For instance, some journals such as Annual Review of Psychology , Psychological Bulletin , and others typically publish full-length review articles.  Similarly, in courses at UCSD, you may be asked to write a research paper that is itself a literature review (such as, with an instructor’s permission, in fulfillment of the B.S. Degree Research Paper requirement). Alternatively, you may be expected to include a literature review as part of a larger research paper (such as part of an Honors Thesis). 

Literature reviews can be written using a variety of different styles.  These may differ in the way prior research is reviewed as well as the way in which the literature review is organized.  Examples of stylistic variations in literature reviews include: 

Overall, all literature reviews, whether they are written as a part of a larger work or as separate articles unto themselves, have a common feature: they do not present new research; rather, they provide an overview of prior research on a specific topic . 

How to Write a Literature Review

When writing a literature review, it can be helpful to rely on the following steps.  Please note that these procedures are not necessarily only for writing a literature review that becomes part of a larger article; they can also be used for writing a full-length article that is itself a literature review (although such reviews are typically more detailed and exhaustive; for more information please refer to the Further Resources section of this page).

Steps for Writing a Literature Review

1. Identify and define the topic that you will be reviewing.

The topic, which is commonly a research question (or problem) of some kind, needs to be identified and defined as clearly as possible.  You need to have an idea of what you will be reviewing in order to effectively search for references and to write a coherent summary of the research on it.  At this stage it can be helpful to write down a description of the research question, area, or topic that you will be reviewing, as well as to identify any keywords that you will be using to search for relevant research.

2. Conduct a literature search.

Use a range of keywords to search databases such as PsycINFO and any others that may contain relevant articles.  You should focus on peer-reviewed, scholarly articles.  Published books may also be helpful, but keep in mind that peer-reviewed articles are widely considered to be the “gold standard” of scientific research.  Read through titles and abstracts, select and obtain articles (that is, download, copy, or print them out), and save your searches as needed.  For more information about this step, please see the Using Databases and Finding Scholarly References section of this website.

3. Read through the research that you have found and take notes.

Absorb as much information as you can.  Read through the articles and books that you have found, and as you do, take notes.  The notes should include anything that will be helpful in advancing your own thinking about the topic and in helping you write the literature review (such as key points, ideas, or even page numbers that index key information).  Some references may turn out to be more helpful than others; you may notice patterns or striking contrasts between different sources ; and some sources may refer to yet other sources of potential interest.  This is often the most time-consuming part of the review process.  However, it is also where you get to learn about the topic in great detail.  For more details about taking notes, please see the “Reading Sources and Taking Notes” section of the Finding Scholarly References page of this website.

4. Organize your notes and thoughts; create an outline.

At this stage, you are close to writing the review itself.  However, it is often helpful to first reflect on all the reading that you have done.  What patterns stand out?  Do the different sources converge on a consensus?  Or not?  What unresolved questions still remain?  You should look over your notes (it may also be helpful to reorganize them), and as you do, to think about how you will present this research in your literature review.  Are you going to summarize or critically evaluate?  Are you going to use a chronological or other type of organizational structure?  It can also be helpful to create an outline of how your literature review will be structured.

5. Write the literature review itself and edit and revise as needed.

The final stage involves writing.  When writing, keep in mind that literature reviews are generally characterized by a summary style in which prior research is described sufficiently to explain critical findings but does not include a high level of detail (if readers want to learn about all the specific details of a study, then they can look up the references that you cite and read the original articles themselves).  However, the degree of emphasis that is given to individual studies may vary (more or less detail may be warranted depending on how critical or unique a given study was).   After you have written a first draft, you should read it carefully and then edit and revise as needed.  You may need to repeat this process more than once.  It may be helpful to have another person read through your draft(s) and provide feedback.

6. Incorporate the literature review into your research paper draft.

After the literature review is complete, you should incorporate it into your research paper (if you are writing the review as one component of a larger paper).  Depending on the stage at which your paper is at, this may involve merging your literature review into a partially complete Introduction section, writing the rest of the paper around the literature review, or other processes.

Further Tips for Writing a Literature Review

Full-length literature reviews

Literature reviews as part of a larger paper

Benefits of Literature Reviews

By summarizing prior research on a topic, literature reviews have multiple benefits.  These include:

Downloadable Resources

Further Resources

How-To Videos     

External Resources

1 Ashton, W. Writing a short literature review . [PDF]     

2 carver, l. (2014).  writing the research paper [workshop]. , prepared by s. c. pan for ucsd psychology.

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Writing Abstracts for a Literature Review in APA Format

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Do you need to know how to write a literature review abstract in APA? You’ve come to the right place. This citation example focuses on abstract writing in an APA format style paper. Learning how to write an abstract in APA is an excellent skill to have, as it helps you develop the ability to summarize the essential points in your paper. In addition to a how-to, you can explore several APA abstract examples including a literature review abstract example.

Citation generator

Types of Research Papers

You may be asked to prepare various kinds of research papers as a student, including:

A literature review paper is one you’ll be asked to write frequently, as many times, there is not enough time in a class setting to complete extensive research. Therefore, it’s important to know how to create an abstract for your literature review.

What Is an Abstract?

An abstract is a concise summary of the purpose or aim of your research in your APA paper. You’ve probably seen an abstract a time or two when looking at a scholarly journal. These examples of abstracts in APA tell you whether the piece is worth your time to read. Abstracts vary by type but should include:

example APA abstract

The official writing style of the American Psychological Association , APA format is designed for psychology and social science papers. Therefore, abstracts you create in this writing style are for this purpose. Additionally, per the 7th edition of APA writing style, abstracts and keywords are no longer required for student papers, unless required by your teacher. 

Abstract Word Limits

The maximum word count for an APA abstract is 250 words. However, your instructor may ask for fewer words or provide you with additional guidance. Some instructors or publications may restrict the word count to 150.

How to Write an Abstract in APA

Since the abstract is a concise summary of your paper, you write it after you have finished your paper. Therefore, you have a clear idea of what to include in this short paragraph. Now, let’s explore the details of how to write and format an abstract for your APA paper.

APA Abstract Format

The abstract page is the second page of your report, right after the title page. This page is numbered 2 on your report.

Inserting Keywords into an APA Abstract

In today’s digital world, it is vital to think about ways readers can find your work online. Adding  keywords at the end of your abstract guides online searches. These keywords need to accurately represent the paper and be specific.

After the abstract paragraph, type Keywords:  italicized and indented.

Keywords:  digital print, online sources

Abstract Example in APA

This article is an examination of the history of gender demographics in the field of librarianship. The historical development and subsequent “feminization” of librarianship continues to influence the gender wage gap and the disproportionate leadership bias in the field today. This article examines the stereotyping of librarians and the cyclical effect of genderizing the profession. Consideration of current trends and data in librarian demographics demonstrates a consistent decrease in gender diversity, accompanied by a troubling lack of women leaders and executives. Additionally, this article explores options for combating the gender perceptions that negatively impact women in the library and information science fields, including management and negotiation training in graduate programs, increased emphasis on technological skills, and professional organization advocacy.

Keywords : gender, demographics, stereotyping, librarians

How to Write an Abstract for a Literature Review

When writing an abstract for a literature review, you take the same basic approach as you do for a general abstract. However, since you are reviewing other literature on a topic, you have some unique elements, including:

Literature Review Abstract Example With Keywords

The future of books and libraries is put into question by the increasing popularity of e-books and the use of computers as text platforms. To anticipate which reading platform—print, e-readers, or computer displays—will dominate in the coming years, recent research and experimental data on the suitability of each reading platform for reading comprehension will be considered, from the perspectives of optical issues, cognition, and metacognition. It will be shown that, while printed books are most conducive to learning from longer, more challenging texts, e-readers and computer displays offer convenience and some distinct advantages to readers in particular situations. This synthesis of current research will be helpful to librarians working in digital and print book purchasing and collection development, as well as those making long-range planning decisions.

Keywords : books, digital books, e-paper, reading comprehension, cognition

Tips for Writing a Literature Review Abstract in APA

Abstracts can be challenging, especially if you are new to the abstract writing game. Get some quick tips to make abstract writing easy.

infographic tips writing abstract in apa

Sectioning Your APA Research Paper

In the seventh edition of APA style , a research paper has four sections:

A Crucial Element

Knowing how to write an abstract in APA is a critical part of your school research paper. Thus, you should put a lot of thought into creating your APA abstract and make sure it includes all the required elements. As always, be sure to follow your teacher’s guidance for the length and format of your APA paper and abstract.

Annotated Bibliography Examples

Understanding APA Literature Reviews

FAQ Writing Abstracts for a Literature Review in APA Format

What is an apa abstract example.

An example of an abstract can be found on the second page of an APA paper. The abstract provides a brief break down of the article to help readers to understand how the paper is useful to their research. An abstract example includes a page number, title (Abstract), abstract text, and keywords at the bottom.

How do you write an abstract?

To write an abstract in APA, you want to include the research questions, research methods, types of research included, conclusions, and implications of the research. The abstract is going to be less than 250 words; therefore, it needs to be concise and to the point. To make sure your abstract is concise, you can create a rough draft and edit it down.

How do you write an abstract for APA 7th edition?

To write an abstract in APA 7th edition, you need to include the page number, title abstract in bold, abstract text of fewer than 250 words, and keywords. The abstract text should provide a concise overview of your APA paper, including research questions, hypotheses, study results, and conclusions. Additionally, APA 7 edition student papers do not require an abstract.

What makes a good abstract?

A good abstract in APA is a clear, concise overview of your research paper. It includes the research topic and questions, studies reviewed, conclusions, implications, and research methods. It's less than 250 words and includes keywords at the end.

What are keywords in APA format?

The keywords in an APA format abstract make the abstract easy to search in online databases. Additionally, they provide readers with a quick idea of the general topics covered in the paper. APA abstract keywords are found at the bottom of the paper, and the word "keywords" is indented and in italics.

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Writing a Literature Review for a College Research Paper

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How To Write APA Literature Review

how to write APA literature review

Guidelines: How To Write APA Literature Review

Writing style.

You are to make sure that you familiarize yourself with the basic writing styles there is and given that they actually include tonal variation and approach you should use a formal kind of tone in your piece. This will be able to communicate a level of professionalism and it reassures the reader that you really know what you were into. It also helps in the event that it is to be put up for a presentation; it can never go wrong with any kind of audience.  Basically, you need to make sure that you use a formal tone and that you are unbiased.

The other thing that can easily pull you down and dismiss your piece from being in an APA style to any other style is the formatting; by formatting , I mean what the outlook is basically made of. You will want to consider factors such as font type, size, spacing, title page, and even the margins. You have to be precise and realize that using a font of 11 is not the same as using a 12 font. You should write your piece in Times New Romans and make sure that the font size is up to 12, not higher, not less. Having a comprehensive understanding of the APA formatting style could easily take your piece from being a 7 to a 9. You will realize that when you combine ideas and a good format, you get a complete piece. But when you just have the ideas you will be missing something.

In-text citation

This covers all things content and what is engulfed in your piece. Hear me out on this, I don’t really mean that you reinvent the wheel but you need to bring some originality in your work. You have to make sure that your work is plagiarism free and it is fresh. That can only be as a result of vast research and getting content that is quite reliable. You might need to get a couple of sources to match and after you get a trend you can now fixate on one piece that seems to be quite comprehensive. However, have in mind that if you decide to pick something from a piece that you show that by bringing in the opening and closing inverted commas and stating out from where it came from. However, this too has to be done professionally. You have to state the date, month then the year or vice-versa and give credit where it is due by giving a name.

literature review outline

In the event of a literature review , you will need to fixate on a certain piece of work that you will be working on. In your article, you will have to have a thesis that you will stand behind all the way to the end. You will also find it quite useful if in some fields if you take an approach of using a hypothesis. In this way, you can take a swaying vote to either bring on some more exciting facts that might have been omitted or you can raise an argument against that. This will also mean that while giving your reference you will have to state what you are backing up or going against. This is quite an open field and according to your research or opinion, you can take a side.

Unlike other forms of writing, the APA style of writing seems to be the most appreciated especially by the department of sciences and also the literature department. As a student of sciences and literature you will need to learn how to write APA literature review to get maximum point. The similarity between these two fields being that they are both technical and that they need a high level of professionalism to pass on their ideas without breaking the thought and maintaining the flow. I am by now convinced that the best article means the article with good flow and a comprehensive pack of ideas.

To get a good grasp on this you will need to take your time and study other pieces that have adopted that kind of writing. You should also try converting some of your pieces into this format and practice more and more on this. You will be a pro in this within no time. As a matter of fact, a study from one of the world’s leading universities has shown that in the next couple of years this style will have been integrated into every other field.

Buy Literature Review From Experts Who Know How To Write APA Literature Review

During your college and university learning you will be required to write research papers, dissertation, thesis or capstone project paper. A literature review is a must write section in any of these papers. In case you’re yet to muster how to write APA literature review you will be have to hire a literature review writer. Don’t worry!! most students pay literature review helper due to tight schedules and lack of effective writing skills. At expertwritinghelp.com we assist students write all types of literature reviews that include:

Learning how to write APA literature review is critical if you’re to become a researcher. It is imperative to follow our guide to muster basics of literature review writing.

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APA Sample Paper

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Literature Review: Conducting & Writing

Sample Lit Reviews from Communication Arts

Have an exemplary literature review.

Have you written a stellar literature review you care to share for teaching purposes?

Are you an instructor who has received an exemplary literature review and have permission from the student to post?

Please contact Britt McGowan at [email protected] for inclusion in this guide. All disciplines welcome and encouraged.

How to Write a Stellar Literature Review

Lindsay Kramer

When you’re conducting academic research, a literature review is a survey of the scholarly sources you’ve consulted in your research. Typically, literature reviews are only necessary when you’re doing a significant academic project, such as a dissertation, research paper, or a  thesis . For shorter pieces of academic writing, including essays , your works cited page is sufficient. 

Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing shines? Grammarly can check your spelling and save you from grammar and punctuation mistakes. It even proofreads your text, so your work is extra polished wherever you write.

Your writing, at its best Grammarly helps you communicate confidently Write with Grammarly

When would I write a literature review?

As we mentioned above, writing a literature review is part of writing an academic paper. The purpose of writing a literature review is to present the  sources you’ve used in your research to your work’s readers. By doing this, you’re communicating several things:

Writing a literature review is no small undertaking! But then again, neither is writing your thesis, dissertation, or even a lengthy, comprehensive research paper. 

In many cases, you’re required to write a literature review and submit it to your academic supervisor before getting started on your paper. This gives your supervisor the opportunity to see what you’re researching, how you’re conducting that research, and, if necessary, provide feedback and suggestions to make your research stronger. This could mean suggesting alternative sources or redirecting your research’s scope.

A literature review is not the same thing as an  abstract . Both are critical parts of a research project, but while an abstract summarizes your work, a literature review summarizes the research you conducted to complete your work. In many cases, an abstract’s goal is to engage readers and help researchers and cataloguers determine whether your work is a relevant source for their work and whether it’s a good fit for a specific collection or academic journal. A literature review’s goal is to provide a “behind the scenes” look at how you did your research, underpinning it as a valid piece of scholarly research. 

How to write a literature review

Literature review structure.

A literature review is  structured similarly to an essay . It begins with an introduction that states the research question and explains how you tackled it. Following are body paragraphs that explain your research in further detail. Then, it ends with a conclusion section that reiterates the research question while summarizing the insights you had through your research. 

A literature review’s length depends largely on the type of research it’s being written for. For a short paper, it might only be a few pages long, but for a lengthy work like a thesis or dissertation, it’s often an entire chapter. 

Literature review style

A literature review requires the same style as any other piece of  academic writing . That means no contractions or colloquialisms, concise language, formal tone, and an objective perspective at all times. 

To distinguish between your analysis and prior scholarly work in the field, use the past tense when discussing the previous research conducted on your topic and the present tense when discussing your point of view. For example, you might write that a specific author conducted research or that they had been influenced by earlier researchers in the field, but also that you are exploring different research methods and that you are posing certain questions. 

Writing a literature review, step-by-step

Define your research scope.

If you haven’t yet narrowed your research focus down to a specific, answerable question, do that before you move forward with finding sources. Once you have a clear, specific thesis for your work, write a list of keywords related to that thesis you can use to streamline your source-gathering process. 

Find relevant literature

Using the keywords you listed, search for relevant sources through your university library and/or databases like Google Scholar, JSTOR, EBSCO, and field-specific databases like Project Muse and EconLit. 

As you find potential sources, read their abstracts to determine whether they are within your research’s scope. By reading a quick preview of each source (and taking note of recurring authors, contributors, and citations) you can pare down your list to a collection of works that provide the data, insights, and additional content you need to conduct your research. 

Identify themes, patterns, and gaps within your body of sources

Read your pared-down body of sources. As you conduct your research, take note of the themes present in them and ask questions: 

Examine the research methods each author used in their work. If your sources involve studies or experiments, note whether the results were replicated and where, if at all, the studies’ results varied from each other. 

Write down your key insights and how each source you consult contributes to the existing pool of knowledge on its subject. Explore how the sources challenge and contradict each other and where they agree or expand upon each other. 

Create a literature review outline

Writing an outline is an important part of the writing process . Once you’ve read your sources and you understand their themes, patterns, and connections to each other, it’s time to organize your strategy for writing about how you’ve used them in your research by creating an outline. 

There are a few different ways you can organize your outline. You can organize it chronologically , listing and discussing the oldest sources you’ve consulted and working up to the latest pieces. You can also organize your sources according to their themes , creating a section for each shared theme you encountered and discussing it there. Another way to organize your sources in your outline is to group them according to the research methods used by their authors. 

The best way to organize your literature review often depends on your subject area. In the humanities, presenting your sources chronologically or according to their themes can effectively highlight how existing research on your subject has evolved, whereas in the hard sciences, organizing your sources according to their research methods can enable you to highlight why the current scholarly consensus (if there is one!) is what it is. 

Write your literature review

Once your outline is complete, it’s time to start writing. In nearly all cases, literature reviews are written in the third person. For example, you might discuss a scholarly article by stating “this paper argues . . .” or “in her work, the author elaborates on . . .” However, there are cases where first person is appropriate in a literature review, such as when you’re referencing your own research. For example, if you’re citing an earlier paper you’ve written or data collected from a study you conducted, you may use phrases like “I argue,” “I propose,” and “through my research, I found that . . .”

Remember to follow the style you’re using for your research paper, whether that’s MLA , APA , or Chicago Manual of Style format. Similarly, use the same objective academic tone you’ll use in your research paper. Don’t just list and describe the sources you’ve read; respond to them, interpret them, and critically evaluate them. Keep in mind that you don’t have to agree with every source you use—in fact, exploring where your findings diverge from a source’s findings can be a strong point in your literature review and your research as a whole.  

Don’t forget to write an annotated bibliography of all your sources. Failing to cite your sources correctly can get you in trouble for plagiarism , which can potentially result in having your work discredited or even being expelled from your university. 

Literature review examples

Reading others’ literature reviews, especially literature reviews for research in your academic field, can be a very helpful way for you to understand how they work and see what you need to include in yours. 

Read the literature reviews of the sources you read in your own research. Your university might also have a resources page of literature review examples you can read. University of West Florida is one university that publishes literature review examples online .

Get academic writing just right

Academic writing is a lot different from other types of writing. While you want to strive for spot-on grammar and clear wording in everything you write, these factors are especially important in academic writing. There, you’re establishing yourself as a credible source on the topic you’ve covered—making polished, coherent writing essential. 

That’s also why it’s so important to strike the right tone in your academic writing—and it’s a tone you don’t find in many other kinds of work. Grammarly does more than catch your grammar mistakes and unclear writing; it detects your tone and offers valuable suggestions you can use to polish your writing into its final, submission-ready version. 

how to write a literature review in apa

How to Write a Literature Review in APA Format

To complete a literature review, you must decide on your topic, research academic databases, organize your findings and write your review. The American Psychological Association provides specific guidelines for writing your review, from overall organization to minute details in formatting. Once you have organized and analyzed your findings, use APA style to write your review.

Format Your Document

Before you begin writing, ensure that your document is formatted properly. Set your page margins to 1 inch and double your spacing unless otherwise specified. Your font should be 12 point Times New Roman. Your header will contain a running heading and the page number on every page, including the title page. The page number should always be at the top right corner.

The title page will first introduce the running heading with the tag: "Running Heading: AND THE HEADING IN ALL CAPS." The title page should contain the title, the author, your name and your institution, all doubled-spaced and centered in the middle of the page.

Organize Your Sections

The essential sections for a literature review are the:

An abstract may be included, though it is not required. In your introduction , include a summary of the focus of your review and why it is important. For example, if you are reviewing studies about student motivation, explain that it is important for teachers and parents to be aware of what motivates students to learn, and include if there has been little or a lot of research on the subject.

Organize your body using your main points , with bold, centered headings. For example, after you have researched different studies examining student motivation, organize the body of your review based on motivating factors. In the section about parental approval, discuss studies that measured the effects parental approval had on student motivation. Your final section will be references.

Cite Your Sources

APA style includes specific, detailed instructions for in-text citations . Each time you refer to a study by restating information or findings, include a citation in parentheses. The general format is to list the last name of the author, followed by a comma and the publication year, all enclosed in parentheses. For example:

Fear of failing has been found to motivate some students (Jones, 2010).

If there are two or more authors , list the last names, separated by commas. Include the "&" symbol before the last name. For example, some students reported being afraid of failure (Jones, Smith, & Williams, 2010). If you cite the author in the reference, include only the year. For example: Jones found that some students are motivated by fear of failing (2010). If you are citing multiple studies, list them alphabetically by the first listed author.

Include Your References

Your references should begin on a new piece of paper with a bold, centered heading: References. Organize your studies alphabetically by the last name of the first author. A study by A. Brown and T. Roberts would come before a study by R. Clark and M. Adams, because Brown is alphabetically before Clark. All references are only single-spaced after periods.

The general format is the same for scholarly journals. List the last name, comma and first initial of every author. Put the date the article was published in parentheses. Write the title of the article with only the first word capitalized, followed by a period. Write the publication name in italics, followed by volume number if applicable. Finally, list the page numbers, for example:

Brown, A., & Roberts, T. (2010). Effects of fear of failure on student success in the classroom. Journal of Research, 23, 34-48.

The difference for books is that the title of the book is italicized, and location of the publisher is listed, for example:

Clark, R., & Adams, M.N. (2011). Why children succeed in the classroom. New York: Education Press.

Hannah Richardson has a Master's degree in Special Education from Vanderbilt University and a Bacheor of Arts in English. She has been a writer since 2004 and wrote regularly for the sports and features sections of "The Technician" newspaper, as well as "Coastwach" magazine. Richardson also served as the co-editor-in-chief of "Windhover," an award-winning literary and arts magazine. She is currently teaching at a middle school.

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What is a Literature Review?

What do we mean by "the literature", literature review video tutorial, find sample literature reviews.

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Commonly referred to as a “Lit Review”, a literature review is a critical, analytical summary and synthesis of the current knowledge of a topic.

Keep in mind that if your literature review stands alone—distinct from a thesis, study or dissertation—it should include a brief introduction and conclusion.

A 10-minute overview of what a literature review is and its purpose.

You can search for literature reviews in our databases by searching your topic and adding "literature reviews" as a search term.

how to write a literature review in apa

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Sep 25, 2017

How to Write Your Perfect Literature Review APA Style

People often think a literature review in APA style is like an annotated bibliography, and there’s nothing more wrong than that. It is similar, however, the way both of these tools are developed. While an annotated bibliography talks about the sources of the work in detail, the literature review gives a much more in-depth explanation of not only each one of the sources but all the different concepts that were used in the academic paper.

Additionally, a normal literature review APA needs to go alongside a critical analysis, giving the reader an idea of how all the different concepts and sources are linked together to give the paper more sense. This gives the main theoretical introduction to an academic paper, mostly used in dissertations and research papers.

The Format of a Literature Review in APA Style

Even though a literature review can be used in all the different academic styles available, the most common is APA style. This is due to a more understandable and insightful way of presenting the content, briefer yet really effective for any type of academic paper. This is how you should write a literature review APA style :

Page Formatting

In APA Style format, a normal literature review should be composed of a Body where the main subject is developed, the References at the end with each one of the sources previously mentioned, a double spacing within the document, Times New Roman at 12 points for the font and page number on each page at the top, mostly in the headers.

Quotes and Citations

When making a quote or citation, you should write the last name of the author and the year the source was published i.e. (Zinsser, 1986)

To quote other types of sources where there are more authors, each one of their last names will be written and then the year of publication. When it is needed to state the page, you should include it after the year of publication and if you need to references many sources at the same time, just write the last names of the authors and their years of publication, all between the same brackets, separated by semi colons.

At the end, all literature reviews should come with their own references, yet it all comes down to the type of style you need to use. In APA lit review , you should write your sentences like this:

In alphabetical order, write your sources starting from (Author last name, First Initial (Year of Publication). Title of the Source, Journal Name (if needed), Issue (if needed), Pages from which the information was taken)

Remember that references with one author that also have other sources in the same references list will be listed first the ones which are made by the single author or when just having the same last name.

Those references with more than one author, the names will be shown in alphabetical order. And those with the same authors should be arranged depending on the year of publication, with the newest first.

Some literature reviews also come with an abstract , here you won’t have to do much more than just using the necessary quotes and citations, following the same format of the rest of the pages and that’s it.

Tips to Write a Literature Review APA Style Effectively

To make a really nice literature review in APA style you must know exactly what it’s needed to make it look good. Here’s a list of tips you should always take into account when writing one of these:

- Always make sure your literature review has the name of the sources and year of publications after every quote or citation you make.

- Never forget about the formatting of each page, from the margins to the spacing and the font.

- A title page is also recommended to include, with the title, the name of the writer, class or institution and the date.

- Every literature review should be composed of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Each one should be indicated with Titles.

- References are a must for every literature review. All your references should comply with the previously given, no more and no less.

Need Help with Your APA Lit Review?

A literature review APA is never easy to write, so you should always do it with the right mindset and following the perfect formatting and overall structure to make it look good enough. And this can be a hard task, no matter what’s the subject of your lit review.

But don’t worry, if you need some help, we offer a high-quality academic writing service to help you create formatting to your works, easily and efficiently.

Get in touch with us today and get your literature review APA style to be perfect!

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How To Write An A-Grade Literature Review

3 straightforward steps (with examples) + free template.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | October 2019

Quality research is about building onto the existing work of others , “standing on the shoulders of giants”, as Newton put it. The literature review chapter of your dissertation, thesis or research project is where you synthesise this prior work and lay the theoretical foundation for your own research.

Long story short, this chapter is a pretty big deal, which is why you want to make sure you get it right . In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to write a literature review in three straightforward steps, so you can conquer this vital chapter (the smart way).

Overview: The Literature Review Process

But first, the “why”…

Before we unpack how to write the literature review chapter, we’ve got to look at the why . To put it bluntly, if you don’t understand the function and purpose of the literature review process, there’s no way you can pull it off well. So, what exactly is the purpose of the literature review?

Well, there are (at least) four core functions:

Most students understand the first point but don’t give any thought to the rest. To get the most from the literature review process, you must keep all four points front of mind as you review the literature (more on this shortly), or you’ll land up with a wonky foundation.

Okay – with the why out the way, let’s move on to the how . As mentioned above, writing your literature review is a process, which I’ll break down into three steps:

Importantly, you must complete steps one and two before you start writing up your chapter. I know it’s very tempting, but don’t try to kill two birds with one stone and write as you read. You’ll invariably end up wasting huge amounts of time re-writing and re-shaping, or you’ll just land up with a disjointed, hard-to-digest mess . Instead, you need to read first and distil the information, then plan and execute the writing.

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Step 1: Find the relevant literature

Naturally, the first step in the literature review journey is to hunt down the existing research that’s relevant to your topic. While you probably already have a decent base of this from your research proposal , you need to expand on this substantially in the dissertation or thesis itself.

Essentially, you need to be looking for any existing literature that potentially helps you answer your research question (or develop it, if that’s not yet pinned down). There are numerous ways to find relevant literature, but I’ll cover my top four tactics here. I’d suggest combining all four methods to ensure that nothing slips past you:

Method 1 – Google Scholar Scrubbing

Google’s academic search engine, Google Scholar , is a great starting point as it provides a good high-level view of the relevant journal articles for whatever keyword you throw at it. Most valuably, it tells you how many times each article has been cited, which gives you an idea of how credible (or at least, popular) it is. Some articles will be free to access, while others will require an account, which brings us to the next method.

Method 2 – University Database Scrounging

Generally, universities provide students with access to an online library, which provides access to many (but not all) of the major journals.

So, if you find an article using Google Scholar that requires paid access (which is quite likely), search for that article in your university’s database – if it’s listed there, you’ll have access. Note that, generally, the search engine capabilities of these databases are poor, so make sure you search for the exact article name, or you might not find it.

Method 3 – Journal Article Snowballing

At the end of every academic journal article, you’ll find a list of references. As with any academic writing, these references are the building blocks of the article, so if the article is relevant to your topic, there’s a good chance a portion of the referenced works will be too. Do a quick scan of the titles and see what seems relevant, then search for the relevant ones in your university’s database.

Method 4 – Dissertation Scavenging

Similar to Method 3 above, you can leverage other students’ dissertations. All you have to do is skim through literature review chapters of existing dissertations related to your topic and you’ll find a gold mine of potential literature. Usually, your university will provide you with access to previous students’ dissertations, but you can also find a much larger selection in the following databases:

Keep in mind that dissertations and theses are not as academically sound as published, peer-reviewed journal articles (because they’re written by students, not professionals), so be sure to check the credibility of any sources you find using this method. You can do this by assessing the citation count of any given article in Google Scholar. If you need help with assessing the credibility of any article, or with finding relevant research in general, you can chat with one of our Research Specialists .

Alright – with a good base of literature firmly under your belt, it’s time to move onto the next step.

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how to write a literature review in apa

Step 2: Log, catalogue and synthesise

Once you’ve built a little treasure trove of articles, it’s time to get reading and start digesting the information – what does it all mean?

While I present steps one and two (hunting and digesting) as sequential, in reality, it’s more of a back-and-forth tango – you’ll read a little , then have an idea, spot a new citation, or a new potential variable, and then go back to searching for articles. This is perfectly natural – through the reading process, your thoughts will develop , new avenues might crop up, and directional adjustments might arise. This is, after all, one of the main purposes of the literature review process (i.e. to familiarise yourself with the current state of research in your field).

As you’re working through your treasure chest, it’s essential that you simultaneously start organising the information. There are three aspects to this:

I’ll discuss each of these below:

2.1 – Log the reference information

As you read each article, you should add it to your reference management software. I usually recommend Mendeley for this purpose (see the Mendeley 101 video below), but you can use whichever software you’re comfortable with. Most importantly, make sure you load EVERY article you read into your reference manager, even if it doesn’t seem very relevant at the time.

2.2 – Build an organised catalogue

In the beginning, you might feel confident that you can remember who said what, where, and what their main arguments were. Trust me, you won’t. If you do a thorough review of the relevant literature (as you must!), you’re going to read many, many articles, and it’s simply impossible to remember who said what, when, and in what context . Also, without the bird’s eye view that a catalogue provides, you’ll miss connections between various articles, and have no view of how the research developed over time. Simply put, it’s essential to build your own catalogue of the literature.

I would suggest using Excel to build your catalogue, as it allows you to run filters, colour code and sort – all very useful when your list grows large (which it will). How you lay your spreadsheet out is up to you, but I’d suggest you have the following columns (at minimum):

If you’d like, you can try out our free catalog template here (see screenshot below).

Excel literature review template

2.3 – Digest and synthesise

Most importantly, as you work through the literature and build your catalogue, you need to synthesise all the information in your own mind – how does it all fit together? Look for links between the various articles and try to develop a bigger picture view of the state of the research. Some important questions to ask yourself are:

To help you develop a big-picture view and synthesise all the information, you might find mind mapping software such as Freemind useful. Alternatively, if you’re a fan of physical note-taking, investing in a large whiteboard might work for you.

Mind mapping is a useful way to plan your literature review.

Step 3: Outline and write it up!

Once you’re satisfied that you have digested and distilled all the relevant literature in your mind, it’s time to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard). There are two steps here – outlining and writing:

3.1 – Draw up your outline

Having spent so much time reading, it might be tempting to just start writing up without a clear structure in mind. However, it’s critically important to decide on your structure and develop a detailed outline before you write anything. Your literature review chapter needs to present a clear, logical and an easy to follow narrative – and that requires some planning. Don’t try to wing it!

Naturally, you won’t always follow the plan to the letter, but without a detailed outline, you’re more than likely going to end up with a disjointed pile of waffle , and then you’re going to spend a far greater amount of time re-writing, hacking and patching. The adage, “measure twice, cut once” is very suitable here.

In terms of structure, the first decision you’ll have to make is whether you’ll lay out your review thematically (into themes) or chronologically (by date/period). The right choice depends on your topic, research objectives and research questions, which we discuss in this article .

Once that’s decided, you need to draw up an outline of your entire chapter in bullet point format. Try to get as detailed as possible, so that you know exactly what you’ll cover where, how each section will connect to the next, and how your entire argument will develop throughout the chapter. Also, at this stage, it’s a good idea to allocate rough word count limits for each section, so that you can identify word count problems before you’ve spent weeks or months writing!

PS – check out our free literature review chapter template…

3.2 – Get writing

With a detailed outline at your side, it’s time to start writing up (finally!). At this stage, it’s common to feel a bit of writer’s block and find yourself procrastinating under the pressure of finally having to put something on paper. To help with this, remember that the objective of the first draft is not perfection – it’s simply to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, after which you can refine them. The structure might change a little, the word count allocations might shift and shuffle, and you might add or remove a section – that’s all okay. Don’t worry about all this on your first draft – just get your thoughts down on paper.

start writing

Let’s Recap

In this post, we’ve covered how to research and write up a high-quality literature review chapter. Let’s do a quick recap of the key takeaways:

how to write a literature review in apa

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our research writing mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.

You Might Also Like:

How To Read Journal Articles Quickly & Efficiently For Your Literature Review


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You’re welcome, Yinka. Thank you for the kind words. All the best writing your literature review.

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You’re most welcome, Renee. Good luck with your literature review 🙂

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Thank you for this whole literature writing review.You have simplified the process.


I’m so glad I found GradCoach. Excellent information, Clear explanation, and Easy to follow, Many thanks Derek!

You’re welcome, Maithe. Good luck writing your literature review 🙂


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Thank you so much Derek for such useful information on writing up a good literature review. I am at a stage where I need to start writing my one. My proposal was accepted late last year but I honestly did not know where to start

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how to write a literature review in apa

Literature Review Outline Example

25 Feb 2022

Quick Navigation

❔Elements of Literature Review Outline

✅Steps to Outline a Literature Review

✏️Structure a Literature Review Outline

💡Literature Review Outline: Tips

You've read the literature. You've learned about the field. You know how your research fits into that larger picture. You’re now wondering how to write a literature review outline. Well, it's time to organize all this information in a clear and concise way for your readership. The outline for your literature review will be the foundation for writing your paper. It will help you organize your thoughts and research, and it will ensure that you are considering all possible angles of the topic.

An outline is an essential tool for organizing your thoughts before writing anything else, so use this article as guidance to write a great one.

The Key Elements of the Literature Review Outline

First, let’s define what is a literature review outline. The literature review outline is a crucial component of a research paper. It helps you to develop your ideas, conduct research and discuss the results in an organized way.

The key elements of the outline for literature review are:

There are several different approaches you can base your outline, and they include:

Need help with writing a literature review?

Get your paper written by a professional writer

Steps to Outline Your Literature Review

Writing a good outline for a literature review is important for your research paper. It helps you organize your thoughts and ideas, and gives you a clear direction for the writing process.

An outline is not a formal document, but rather an informal guide to assist you in organizing the information you want to include in your paper. The outline should be written in paragraph form, with each paragraph representing one major idea that will be expanded upon in subsequent paragraphs of the paper.

The main purpose of writing an outline is so that you can organize all of your sources in a way that will help you write a clear, concise essay. You don't want to just throw together quotes and facts without any order or reason. This will make it hard for the reader to follow along with what you are saying and will make it appear as if you have no idea what you're talking about. This can result in a low grade for your paper and can make it difficult for them to understand what exactly is going on within the text.

The process of writing a literature review is not easy, especially if you have never done one before. This article will give you a step-by-step guide on how to write a good literature review that will impress your teacher!

More than just a spell check

Editors on PapersOwl can edit your paper and give recommendations on how to improve your writing:

How to Structure a Literature Review Outline

An outline for literature review is a great tool for organizing your thoughts and ideas. You can use it to plan out your essay or research paper by listing the points you want to cover and how they relate to each other. By using a sample literature review outline, you’ll be able to organize your thoughts in an effective way and you’ll have a clear idea of how long each section should be. In this article, we will discuss how to structure a literature review outline. We will also share some tips for writing a good outline.

It is important that you familiarize yourself with the topic before you begin writing your paper or research paper. So, if you're writing about something that you're not quite familiar with, make sure that you spend enough time learning about it beforehand. This way, once you've finished writing your paper, there won't be any gaps in your research or any information missing from the paper itself.

We recommend that you start by reading through the assignment instructions carefully so that you know exactly what type of information they are looking for in your paper and what format they want it written in (literature review outline template APA style). Make sure that you follow APA literature review outline instructions as closely as possible so that your teacher doesn't get confused.

Catch plagiarism before your teacher does

Check your paper against billions of web pages and publications. Get an accurate plagiarism report in a few seconds. It's fast, easy & free!

Literature Review Outline: Writing Tips

When you're writing a literature review outline, it's important to include all of the information that your assignment requires. Sometimes, instructors will give you specific guidelines for how long your literature review should be and how many sources it needs to include. If they don't, however, you'll need to decide what works best for your situation.

A literature review outline will be the foundation of your paper. It will tell you what information is important and how to write it in a way that is cohesive and logical. When writing, it's important to only include facts backed up by evidence. This means that if you are writing about any kind of research topic, there must be at least one piece of published work that backs up each claim or opinion that you present.

If there isn't a single source supporting what you are writing, then don't put it in because it makes your paper seem like speculation or opinion rather than fact-based knowledge about the issue at hand. Another tip for writers is to write clearly and concisely so that readers can understand what they are reading quickly without having any difficulty following along from one point to another throughout the entire essay (or book).

Readers may get bored very quickly if they feel like they have to struggle through something too much before getting into where things go next; therefore proper grammar usage should also be kept while doing this type as well so there are no mistakes left behind after editing later down line during publishing stage itself.

The following are the most important tips for writing a literature review outline:

Now that you have learned all the elements of an outline for literature review, it is time to start writing your own. An outline of a literature review is important for research papers and can be used in many other areas of writing as well. By following these steps, we hope that your outline will be easy to read and understand so that readers can better understand what research was done before writing their own paper!

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how to write a literature review in apa

American Psychological Association Logo

Conducting Your Literature Review

Out of stock

For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories

This book is a step-by-step guide to writing a literature review, and includes tips for modifying the process as needed depending on your audience, purpose, and goals. The lessons in this book can be applied to writing the background section for a thesis or an original research publication.

Literature reviews are now much more challenging to compile today than they used to be. You need a structured approach to handle the sheer volume of published research available. This book will help you formulate a strategy for making decisions about what to include and not include in your review, and produce a reliable and unbiased summary of the existing research. You will learn skills for defining research questions, using search tools and managing citations.

This book is part of APA's Concise Guides to Conducting Behavioral, Health, and Social Science Research series. Aimed at undergraduate students in research methods courses or others with a lab or research project, each book describes a key stage in the research process. Collectively, these books provide a solid grounding in research from start to finish.

Series Foreword



Further Reading

About the Author

About the Series Editor

Susanne Hempel, PhD, is a psychologist directing the Southern California Evidence-Based Practice Center, a center that produces literature reviews for federal funding agencies. She is a senior behavioral scientist at RAND, a professor of social science at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, a professor of research preventive medicine at the University of Southern California (USC), and a faculty member at the Gehr Center for Health Systems Science at USC.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, teenaged twins, and many animals.

Anyone contemplating or engaged in health-related research should read this book. The first step in research is to learn what came before, a step that is ever more challenging as knowledge expands. Hempel distills methods for carrying out comprehensive, unbiased, and valid literature reviews, and applies them to common review tasks. This book is the best I have seen for introducing readers clearly and succinctly to the discipline of systematic evidence review. —Lisa V. Rubenstein, MD, MSPH, FACP Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Public Health, UCLA, and Senior Scientist, RAND, Los Angeles, CA

This book provides an excellent introduction to different kinds of literature reviews and guides readers through the steps involved in systematic reviews. Practical aspects are illustrated by examples of fictional students working on a literature review. This approach, benefitting from Hempel’s wealth of experience, makes this a highly recommended book for anyone considering to prepare a literature review. —Jos Kleijnen, MD, PhD, Professor of Systematic Reviews in Health Care, Maastricht University, The Netherlands

Contact APA Books

Florida Tech Evans Library Logo

Writing with APA Citation Style

Defining Your Topic

This tutorial from Evans Library's Conducting Research series discusses strategies to help clarify and narrow your topic of interest.

Literature Reviews: An Overview

Watch this tutorial from North Carolina State University (NCSU) to learn more on the literature review process.

Preparing Your Literature Review

Below are some resources to help you organize your approach to preparing a literature review.

Sample Literature Review paper resources

Gianoli: "treatment for comorbid borderline personality disorder and alcohol use disorders: a review of the evidence and future recommendations".


The research paper should be a minimum of six typed pages and formatted in accordance with APA. Topics should be relevant to

The research paper should be a minimum of six typed pages and formatted in accordance with APA. Topics should be relevant to intermodal transportation. The nature of a research paper is to prove or disprove a thesis or hypothesis, not simply produce a report or provide information on topic. For example; a topic may be the impact of security on intermodal transportation. The associated thesis could be; actions taken to improve the security at ports has negatively impacted throughput, increasing costs and reducing the quality of operations. The research and body of the paper argues to prove the thesis statement. *****My academic researchpaper will be on load planning for trains in intermodal transportation.

How to structure a research paper

Structuring a research paper correctly is essential for creating a well-organized and informative paper. Here is the basic structure for a research paper: 1. Introduction: Introduce the topic and provide an overview of the paper. 2. Literature review: Summarize and discuss the literature that is relevant to the topic. 3. Methodology: Explain the methods you used to research the topic. 4. Results: Present the results of your research. 5. Discussion: Discuss your findings in relation to the literature you reviewed. 6. Conclusion: Summarize the key points of the paper and make any suggestions for further research. 7. References: List any sources you used for your paper.


how to write a literature review in apa

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  1. Citing Journal Articles in APA

  2. Library and Research Guide

  3. How to write Literature review in Research?| Important Tips and Examples

  4. How to write Literature Review

  5. How to Write Literature Review, Citation & Referencing with Practical Examples Part II Final

  6. APA Research Essay Information


  1. Writing a Literature Review

    Write in well-structured paragraphs: Use transition words and topic sentence to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts. Conclusion: Summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance Connect it back to your primary research question How should I organize my lit review?

  2. How to Write a Literature Review

    What is the purpose of a literature review? Examples of literature reviews Step 1 - Search for relevant literature Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure Step 5 - Write your literature review Free lecture slides Frequently asked questions Introduction

  3. PDF How to Write a Literature Review

    APA citation style and maintains it throughout the paper. Note: the author doesn't just use quotes and paraphrases, but includes their own ideas, evaluations, and analysis of the topic. How to Write a Literature Review, Summer 2019. 5 of 7 Activity Read the following sources carefully. Then, in a paragraph that summarizes, synthesizes, and ...

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    Literature Review via APA Style.org "a narrative summary and evaluation of the findings or theories within a literature base. Also known as 'narrative literature review'. " Key takeaways from the Psi Chi webinar So You Need to Write a Literature Review via APA Style.org Examples of Literature Reviews

  5. How to Write a Literature Review in APA

    Write the literature review. The final step of the process is writing the actual literature review itself. Start by writing an introductory paragraph that includes a thesis, your research question, and key points about your paper. Are you stressed by a literature review? Worry not!

  6. Writing a Literature Review

    Steps for Writing a Literature Review Expand All 1. Identify and define the topic that you will be reviewing. 2. Conduct a literature search. 3. Read through the research that you have found and take notes. 4. Organize your notes and thoughts; create an outline. 5. Write the literature review itself and edit and revise as needed. 6.

  7. Literature review guidelines

    A good review should summarize the state of knowledge on a well-defined topic in the psychology of men and masculinity in concise and clear ways. This means that the review is written with exceptional clarity, cohesiveness, conciseness, and comprehensiveness.

  8. How to Write a Literature Review: 3 Minute Step-by-step Guide

    Don't know how to write a literature review or where to begin? This video will give you a quick run-through of the 5 steps you need to follow when writing a ...

  9. Writing Abstracts for a Literature Review in APA Format

    On the first line of the page, center the word Abstract in bold. (Do not underline, italicize, or otherwise format the title.) On the second line, start your abstract. (Do not indent.) Use a readable font like Times New Roman 12-point or Calibri 11-point. Write the abstract as a single paragraph.

  10. How To Write APA Literature Review

    Guidelines: How To Write APA Literature Review Writing style You are to make sure that you familiarize yourself with the basic writing styles there is and given that they actually include tonal variation and approach you should use a formal kind of tone in your piece.

  11. APA Sample Paper

    APA Formatting and Style Guide (7th Edition) General Format In-Text Citations: The Basics In-Text Citations: Author/Authors Reference List: Basic Rules Reference List: Author/Authors Reference List: Articles in Periodicals Reference List: Books Reference List: Other Print Sources Reference List: Electronic Sources Reference List: Audiovisual Media

  12. Literature Review: Conducting & Writing

    Steps for Conducting a Lit Review; Finding "The Literature" Organizing/Writing; APA Style; Chicago: Notes Bibliography; MLA Style; Sample Literature Reviews. Sample Lit Reviews from Communication Arts; Have an exemplary literature review? Get Help!

  13. How to Write a Stellar Literature Review

    A literature review is structured similarly to an essay. It begins with an introduction that states the research question and explains how you tackled it. Following are body paragraphs that explain your research in further detail.

  14. How to Conduct a Literature Review and Synthesis for a Presentation

    The final step is to write and revise your literature review and synthesis for your presentation. You should follow the guidelines and format of your presentation style, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago.

  15. How to Write a Literature Review in APA Format

    Once you have organized and analyzed your findings, use APA style to write your review. Format Your Document Before you begin writing, ensure that your document is formatted properly. Set your page margins to 1 inch and double your spacing unless otherwise specified. Your font should be 12 point Times New Roman.

  16. Literature Review

    It should: Have a particular focus or theme to organize the review. Discuss the significant academic literature important for that focus. Compare, relate, and contrast different theories and findings. Reflect trends over time. Be written in a legible academic style, leading logically from idea to idea. Paraphrases your findings.

  17. How to Write Your Perfect Literature Review APA Style

    How to Write Your Perfect Literature Review APA Style | by Morrison James | Medium Write Sign up Sign In 500 Apologies, but something went wrong on our end. Refresh the page, check Medium...

  18. Writing a Literature Review

    Include References/Works Cited List. As you are writing the literature review you will mention the author names and the publication years in your text, but you will still need to compile comprehensive citations for each entry at the end of your review. Follow APA, MLA, or Chicago style guidelines, as your course requires.

  19. How To Write A Literature Review (+ Free Template)

    As mentioned above, writing your literature review is a process, which I'll break down into three steps: Finding the most suitable literature. Understanding, distilling and organising the literature. Planning and writing up your literature review chapter. Importantly, you must complete steps one and two before you start writing up your chapter.

  20. Literature Review Outline [Template]

    The literature review outline is a crucial component of a research paper. It helps you to develop your ideas, conduct research and discuss the results in an organized way. The key elements of the outline for literature review are: Introduction. The introduction should include a brief summary of the literature that is being reviewed, including ...

  21. Conducting Your Literature Review

    This book is a step-by-step guide to writing a literature review, and includes tips for modifying the process as needed depending on your audience, purpose, and goals. The lessons in this book can be applied to writing the background section for a thesis or an original research publication.

  22. Literature Review

    Writing with APA Citation Style. This guide provides links to library and web resources for outlining, formatting, and citing research papers using the American Psychological Association (APA) citation style. ... This research guide from St. Leo University discusses the literature review process in great detail. Types of Student Papers; Sample ...

  23. The research paper should be a minimum of six typed pages and formatted

    2. Literature review: Summarize and discuss the literature that is relevant to the topic. 3. Methodology: Explain the methods you used to research the topic. 4. Results: Present the results of your research. 5. Discussion: Discuss your findings in relation to the literature you reviewed. 6.

  24. Read Book How To Write A Literature Review Paper Apa Style

    students through the process of writing a literature review and determining research questions for a research project. Students will learn how to discover a researchable topic that is interesting to them, examine scholarly literature, and write a literature review. This text is currently in the pilot stage Fall 2019 with an