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Citation Information Quick Links

Need a quick way to find out how to create a particular type of citation?  These online resources have loads of examples for all types of citations, and include examples in all the major citation styles, including APA, MLA, and the Chicago Manual of Style.  As always, if you are unsure of how to create a particular citation, the University Writing Center is available as is Ask-a-Librarian.    


Things to Consider

The Senior Seminar in History allows students the opportunity to learn how to choose an appropriate historical topic, identify relevant primary and secondary sources as well as evaluate them, conduct research, and write an original work of history.  

This LibGuide is designed to assist students in finding appropriate resources for their final assignment.  These resource lists are by no means exhaustive, and at any point in the research process reference librarians are available to help further refine your search process.

**SPECIAL NOTE**  There are several sub-pages and resources on this guide that are specifically dedicated to the scholarship of Modern China, one of the topic areas taught on a rotating basis for this course.   

Additional resources available on campus include the University Writing Center (call 503-5883 for an appointment) where students can have papers reviewed for unintended plagiarism, review documentation styles, and check for patterns of grammatical error.  The University Writing Center does NOT proofread papers.

Other Helpful Library Guides

USC Upstate librarians have created several Library Guides to help educate you about plagiarism and how to avoid it, and how to properly cite the work of others in your papers and projects.  Please visit the links below to learn more about how to properly cite and credit your work.

What to Avoid

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Honors Writing Seminar

About the Literature Review

"Literature review" is a fancy term for what's, practically speaking, the kind of paper you're already most accustomed to: the kind where you pick a topic, research some sources to develop a position, and then weave them all together into a cohesive essay. Literature reviews, more formally, provide an overview of the literature in a field -- what's the common knowledge and consensus on a topic, and where are there gaps.

It provides a review of the literature: a survey of what experts in the field are saying and have said about your topic. It can also identify knowledge gaps and possibilities for future research. You are not presenting an argument yet.

Simple illustration with article pages representing 4 different sources. Pieces of fruit are placed on each: green apples, red apples, grapes, and a pumpkin. The red apples are circled as stand-ins for a pattern.

You're summarizing the big ideas (not the sources themselves) to the end goal of synthesizing all your research , with your citations sprinkled in throughout to indicate that yes, people are saying these things and look how it overlaps!

Organize by ideas/concepts, not by sources of information. Don't simply summarize one source after another. Look for patterns across your sources.

If we use fruits to stand in for ideas, when you talk about "red apples," you should be pulling in all articles that mention something about red apples. At the very least, those articles should all be used in the same paragraph , but you want to aim for some sentences using more than one , as well. Then (ideally), some of those articles also support the "green apple" idea and the "pumpkin" idea. Sometimes an article will serve one, very specific purpose in your research, and that's fine, too, but they should be the exception and not the rule in your lit review.

Ways to Organize Ideas

Professional Example:

Take a look at this professionally published example (link goes to databases; barcode required) : notice how sources are frequently integrated and discussed. This one is a more formal lit review and gets into how the authors organized their search; it's also a standalone paper. Of note:

Example of a sentence in a lit review -- 3 citations, one sentence!

Single citation intro to a paragraph exploring it more specifically

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literature review format for seminar report

How to Write a Literature Review: Six Steps to Get You from Start to Finish


Tanya Golash-Boza, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California

February 03, 2022

Writing a literature review is often the most daunting part of writing an article, book, thesis, or dissertation. “The literature” seems (and often is) massive. I have found it helpful to be as systematic as possible when completing this gargantuan task.

Sonja Foss and William Walters* describe an efficient and effective way of writing a literature review. Their system provides an excellent guide for getting through the massive amounts of literature for any purpose: in a dissertation, an M.A. thesis, or preparing a research article for publication  in any field of study. Below is a  summary of the steps they outline as well as a step-by-step method for writing a literature review.

How to Write a Literature Review

Step One: Decide on your areas of research:

Before you begin to search for articles or books, decide beforehand what areas you are going to research. Make sure that you only get articles and books in those areas, even if you come across fascinating books in other areas. A literature review I am currently working on, for example, explores barriers to higher education for undocumented students.

Step Two: Search for the literature:

Conduct a comprehensive bibliographic search of books and articles in your area. Read the abstracts online and download and/or print those articles that pertain to your area of research. Find books in the library that are relevant and check them out. Set a specific time frame for how long you will search. It should not take more than two or three dedicated sessions.

Step Three: Find relevant excerpts in your books and articles:

Skim the contents of each book and article and look specifically for these five things:

1. Claims, conclusions, and findings about the constructs you are investigating

2. Definitions of terms

3. Calls for follow-up studies relevant to your project

4. Gaps you notice in the literature

5. Disagreement about the constructs you are investigating

When you find any of these five things, type the relevant excerpt directly into a Word document. Don’t summarize, as summarizing takes longer than simply typing the excerpt. Make sure to note the name of the author and the page number following each excerpt. Do this for each article and book that you have in your stack of literature. When you are done, print out your excerpts.

Step Four: Code the literature:

Get out a pair of scissors and cut each excerpt out. Now, sort the pieces of paper into similar topics. Figure out what the main themes are. Place each excerpt into a themed pile. Make sure each note goes into a pile. If there are excerpts that you can’t figure out where they belong, separate those and go over them again at the end to see if you need new categories. When you finish, place each stack of notes into an envelope labeled with the name of the theme.

Step Five: Create Your Conceptual Schema:

Type, in large font, the name of each of your coded themes. Print this out, and cut the titles into individual slips of paper. Take the slips of paper to a table or large workspace and figure out the best way to organize them. Are there ideas that go together or that are in dialogue with each other? Are there ideas that contradict each other? Move around the slips of paper until you come up with a way of organizing the codes that makes sense. Write the conceptual schema down before you forget or someone cleans up your slips of paper.

Step Six: Begin to Write Your Literature Review:

Choose any section of your conceptual schema to begin with. You can begin anywhere, because you already know the order. Find the envelope with the excerpts in them and lay them on the table in front of you. Figure out a mini-conceptual schema based on that theme by grouping together those excerpts that say the same thing. Use that mini-conceptual schema to write up your literature review based on the excerpts that you have in front of you. Don’t forget to include the citations as you write, so as not to lose track of who said what. Repeat this for each section of your literature review.

Once you complete these six steps, you will have a complete draft of your literature review. The great thing about this process is that it breaks down into manageable steps something that seems enormous: writing a literature review.

I think that Foss and Walter’s system for writing the literature review is ideal for a dissertation, because a Ph.D. candidate has already read widely in his or her field through graduate seminars and comprehensive exams.

It may be more challenging for M.A. students, unless you are already familiar with the literature. It is always hard to figure out how much you need to read for deep meaning, and how much you just need to know what others have said. That balance will depend on how much you already know.

For people writing literature reviews for articles or books, this system also could work, especially when you are writing in a field with which you are already familiar. The mere fact of having a system can make the literature review seem much less daunting, so I recommend this system for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the prospect of writing a literature review.

*Destination Dissertation: A Traveler's Guide to a Done Dissertation

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Literature review in under 5 minutes - mindmap, writing a literature review, communication research methods.

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How to write a literature review

On this page, what is a literature review, purpose of the literature review, components of the literature review, steps in the literature review process, evaluating sources, examples of a published literature review, additional sources on writing literature reviews.

The literature review is a written overview of major writings and other sources on a selected topic. Sources covered in the review may include scholarly journal articles, books, government reports, Web sites, etc. The literature review provides a description, summary and evaluation of each source. It is usually presented as a distinct section of a graduate thesis or dissertation.

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The purpose of the literature review is to provide a critical written account of the current state of research on a selected topic:

The literature review should include the following:

Preparation of a literature review may be divided into four steps:

In assessing each source, consideration should be given to:

Literature reviews are often published as scholarly articles, books, and reports. Here is an example of a recent literature review published as a scholarly journal article:

Ledesma, M. C., & Calderón, D. (2015). Critical race theory in education: A review of past literature and a look to the future. Qualitative Inquiry, 21(3), 206-222. Link to the article

Further information on the literature review process may be found below:

Adapted with permission and thanks from How to Write a Literature Review originally created by Kenneth Lyons, McHenry Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Enago Academy

Literature Review Tips for the Introduction and Discussion Sections

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A literature review is a summary of studies related to a particular area of research. It identifies and summarizes all the relevant research conducted on a particular topic. It is important that your literature review is focused . Therefore, you should choose a limited number of studies that are central to your topic rather than trying to collect a wide range of studies that might not be closely connected.

Literature reviews help you accomplish the following:

literature review format for seminar report

Presenting Literature Review in the Introduction and Discussion Sections

There are many benefits to presenting literature reviews in the introduction and discussion sections of your manuscripts . However, there are differences in how you can present literature reviews in each section.

What Should be Included in the Literature Review of the Introduction Section?

The literature reviewed in the introduction should:

As you can see, literature review plays a significant role in the introduction section. However, there are some things that you should avoid doing in this section. These include:

It is important to know how to integrate the literature review into the introduction in an effective way. Although you can mention other studies, they should not be the focus. Instead, focus on using the literature review to aid in setting a foundation for the manuscript.

peer review

What Goes in the Literature Review of the Discussion Section?

Literature reviews play an important role in the discussion section of a manuscript . In this section, your findings should be the focus, rather than those of other researchers. Therefore, you should only use the studies mentioned in the literature review as support and evidence for your study.

There are three ways in which you can use literature reviews in the discussion section:

However, there are three common mistakes that researchers make when including literature reviews in the discussion section. First, they mention all sorts of studies, some of which are not even relevant to the topic under investigation. Second, instead of citing the original article, they cite a related article that mentions the original article. Lastly, some authors cite previous work solely based on the abstract, without even going through the entire paper.

We hope this article helps you effectively present your literature review in both the introduction as well as the discussion section of your manuscript. You can also mention any other tips that will add to this article in the comments section below.




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BADM Senior Seminar: Literature Review

Literature Reviews

Literature Reviews are a specific kind of writing assignment that uses critical thinking and analytical skills to create connections between different sources. They are not a simple review of a piece of literature, but rather a comprehensive overview of the research currently available on a topic. Literature Reviews examine several types of sources, though your instructor may have their own requirements regarding the sources you should use. 

Research is a conversation

Web of sources in the literature.

"Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students" by  N SCU Libraries is licensed under CC Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 | Image adapted from original  video.

It can be overwhelming to think about all of the various points of view, approaches, and research represented in the literature. Think about the literature as an on-going conversation. Your job in a literature review is to document this conversation so that you can explain it to someone else who may not have a background in your research area. When reading the literature, make note of concepts, theories, and names of people who occur often- this usually means these are key concepts or players in the conversation you're studying. Visually, this conversation can look like a web, where you have major ideas and scholars who write works that are then responded to by other researchers. You'll start to notice relationships, similarities, differences, and gaps in knowledge among these researchers. Those connections are what your literature review is all about.

Parts of a Literature Review

1. Establish your topic and scope.

Limit your topic to a specific area in order to make it easier to research. Remember, broad topics are harder to research and write about. Will you limit your topic by time period? By region? By company? By industry? By trend?

2. Find the research.

Make a plan for your research and start! Your plan could be a simple sheet of paper with ideas for various sources. Think about looking in the research databases for journal articles, the library and the consortium for books, professional associations for white papers, etc.

3. Organize your discoveries.

Keep notes as you read about the works individually and the relationships between them, then organize them to help with writing later. Use a source tracker chart or a concept map to help with this. Save your sources in an easily accessible manner, such as with Google Drive, a memory stick, or with a research account like Zotero. Keep a document of citations for your sources correctly formatted in APA to use in your paper, and just in case you need to find your articles again. 

What is the literature?

The literature refers to the body of research that exists on any given topic. Several sources make up the literature, and can include: 

Keeping your research organized

Use the Research Tracker provided by your professor to help keep all of your information and sources straight. This will help you when you're ready to write.

Concept maps may also help, especially if you're a visual learner. This example shows a simplified concept map that maps out the sources for a single concept related to the research.

Social Networks Themes by jrhode, on Flickr

A Literature Review is More Than a Summary  by  UCLA Library is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0


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How to Write a Literature Review in Research (RRL Example)

literature review format for seminar report

What is a literature review in research?

A literature review (or “relevant review of the literature”) is an objective, concise, critical summary of published research literature relevant to a topic being researched in an article.

A good review of the literature does NOT:

A literature review does not simply reference and list all of the material you have cited in your paper.

A good review of the literature DOES:

How long is a literature review for a research paper?

The length of a review of the literature depends on its purpose and target readership and can vary significantly in scope and depth. In a dissertation, thesis, or standalone review of literature, it is usually a full chapter of the text (at least 20 pages). Whereas, a standard research article or school assignment literature review section could only be a few paragraphs in the Introduction section .

Building Your Literature Review Bookshelf

One way to conceive of a literature review is to think about writing it as you would build a bookshelf. You don’t need to cut each piece by yourself from scratch. Rather, you can take the pieces that other researchers have cut out and put them together to build a framework on which to hang your own “books”—that is, your own study methods, results, and conclusions.

literature review format for seminar report

What Makes a Good Literature Review?

The contents of a literature review are determined by many factors, including its precise purpose in the article, the degree of consensus with a given theory or tension between competing theories, the length of the article, the number of previous studies existing in the given field, etc. The following are some of the most important elements that a literature review provides.

Historical background for your research

Analyze what has been written about your field of research to highlight what is new and significant in your study—or how the analysis itself contributes to the understanding of this field, even in a small way. Providing a historical background also demonstrates to other researchers and journal editors your competency in discussing theoretical concepts. You should also make sure to understand how to paraphrase scientific literature to avoid plagiarism in your work.

The current context of your research

Discuss central (or peripheral) questions, issues, and debates in the field. Because a field is constantly being updated by new work, you can show where your research fits into this context and explain developments and trends in research.

A discussion of relevant theories and concepts

Theories and concepts should provide the foundation for your research. For example, if you are researching the relationship between ecological environments and human populations, provide models and theories that focus on specific aspects of this connection to contextualize your study. If your study asks a question concerning sustainability, mention a theory or model that underpins this concept. If it concerns invasive species, choose material that is focused in this direction.

Definitions of relevant terminology

In the natural sciences, the meaning of terms is relatively straightforward and consistent. But if you present a term that is obscure or context-specific, you should define the meaning of the term in the Introduction section (if you are introducing a study) or in the summary of the literature being reviewed.

Description of related relevant research

Include a description of related research that shows how your work expands or challenges earlier studies or fills in gaps in previous work. You can use your literature review as evidence of what works, what doesn’t, and what is missing in the field.

Supporting evidence for a practical problem or issue your research is addressing that demonstrates its importance: Referencing related research establishes your area of research as reputable and shows you are building upon previous work that other researchers have deemed significant.

Types of Literature Reviews

Literature reviews can differ in structure, length, amount, and breadth of content included. They can range from selective (a very narrow area of research or only a single work) to comprehensive (a larger amount or range of works). They can also be part of a larger work or stand on their own.

literature review format for seminar report

Literature Reviews Found in Academic Journals

The two types of literature reviews commonly found in journals are those introducing research articles (studies and surveys) and stand-alone literature analyses. They can differ in their scope, length, and specific purpose.

Literature reviews introducing research articles

The literature review found at the beginning of a journal article is used to introduce research related to the specific study and is found in the Introduction section, usually near the end. It is shorter than a stand-alone review because it must be limited to very specific studies and theories that are directly relevant to the current study. Its purpose is to set research precedence and provide support for the study’s theory, methods, results, and/or conclusions. Not all research articles contain an explicit review of the literature, but most do, whether it is a discrete section or indistinguishable from the rest of the Introduction.

How to structure a literature review for an article

When writing a literature review as part of an introduction to a study, simply follow the structure of the Introduction and move from the general to the specific—presenting the broadest background information about a topic first and then moving to specific studies that support your rationale , finally leading to your hypothesis statement. Such a literature review is often indistinguishable from the Introduction itself—the literature is INTRODUCING the background and defining the gaps your study aims to fill.

The stand-alone literature review

The literature review published as a stand-alone article presents and analyzes as many of the important publications in an area of study as possible to provide background information and context for a current area of research or a study. Stand-alone reviews are an excellent resource for researchers when they are first searching for the most relevant information on an area of study.

Such literature reviews are generally a bit broader in scope and can extend further back in time. This means that sometimes a scientific literature review can be highly theoretical, in addition to focusing on specific methods and outcomes of previous studies. In addition, all sections of such a “review article” refer to existing literature rather than describing the results of the authors’ own study.

In addition, this type of literature review is usually much longer than the literature review introducing a study. At the end of the review follows a conclusion that once again explicitly ties all of the cited works together to show how this analysis is itself a contribution to the literature. While not absolutely necessary, such articles often include the terms “Literature Review” or “Review of the Literature” in the title. Whether or not that is necessary or appropriate can also depend on the specific author instructions of the target journal. Have a look at this article for more input on how to compile a stand-alone review article that is insightful and helpful for other researchers in your field.

literature review format for seminar report

How to Write a Literature Review in 6 Steps

So how do authors turn a network of articles into a coherent review of relevant literature?

Writing a literature review is not usually a linear process—authors often go back and check the literature while reformulating their ideas or making adjustments to their study. Sometimes new findings are published before a study is completed and need to be incorporated into the current work. This also means you will not be writing the literature review at any one time, but constantly working on it before, during, and after your study is complete.

Here are some steps that will help you begin and follow through on your literature review.

Step 1: Choose a topic to write about—focus on and explore this topic.

Choose a topic that you are familiar with and highly interested in analyzing; a topic your intended readers and researchers will find interesting and useful; and a topic that is current, well-established in the field, and about which there has been sufficient research conducted for a review. This will help you find the “sweet spot” for what to focus on.

Step 2: Research and collect all the scholarly information on the topic that might be pertinent to your study.

This includes scholarly articles, books, conventions, conferences, dissertations, and theses—these and any other academic work related to your area of study is called “the literature.”

Step 3: Analyze the network of information that extends or responds to the major works in your area; select the material that is most useful.

Use thought maps and charts to identify intersections in the research and to outline important categories; select the material that will be most useful to your review.

Step 4: Describe and summarize each article—provide the essential information of the article that pertains to your study.

Determine 2-3 important concepts (depending on the length of your article) that are discussed in the literature; take notes about all of the important aspects of this study relevant to the topic being reviewed.

For example, in a given study, perhaps some of the main concepts are X, Y, and Z. Note these concepts and then write a brief summary about how the article incorporates them. In reviews that introduce a study, these can be relatively short. In stand-alone reviews, there may be significantly more texts and more concepts.

Step 5: Demonstrate how these concepts in the literature relate to what you discovered in your study or how the literature connects the concepts or topics being discussed.

In a literature review intro for an article, this information might include a summary of the results or methods of previous studies that correspond to and/or confirm those sections in your own study. For a stand-alone literature review, this may mean highlighting the concepts in each article and showing how they strengthen a hypothesis or show a pattern.

Discuss unaddressed issues in previous studies. These studies that are missing something you address are important to include in your literature review. In addition, those works whose theories and conclusions directly support your findings will be valuable to review here.

Step 6: Identify relationships in the literature and develop and connect your own ideas to them.

This is essentially the same as step 5 but focused on the connections between the literature and the current study or guiding concepts or arguments of the paper, not only on the connections between the works themselves.

Your hypothesis, argument, or guiding concept is the “golden thread” that will ultimately tie the works together and provide readers with specific insights they didn’t have before reading your literature review. Make sure you know where to put the research question , hypothesis, or statement of the problem in your research paper so that you guide your readers logically and naturally from your introduction of earlier work and evidence to the conclusions you want them to draw from the bigger picture.

Your literature review will not only cover publications on your topics but will include your own ideas and contributions. By following these steps you will be telling the specific story that sets the background and shows the significance of your research and you can turn a network of related works into a focused review of the literature.

Literature Review Examples

Because creating sample literature reviews would take too long and not properly capture the nuances and detailed information needed for a good review, we have included some links to different types of literature reviews below. You can find links to more literature reviews in these categories by visiting the TUS Library’s website . Sample literature reviews as part of an article, dissertation, or thesis:

Sample stand-alone literature reviews

Additional Literature Review Format Guidelines

In addition to the content guidelines above, authors also need to check which style guidelines to use ( APA , Chicago, MLA, etc.) and what specific rules the target journal might have for how to structure such articles or how many studies to include—such information can usually be found on the journals’ “Guide for Authors” pages. Additionally, use one of the four Wordvice citation generators below, choosing the citation style needed for your paper:

Wordvice Writing and Editing Resources

Finally, after you have finished drafting your literature review, be sure to receive professional proofreading services , including paper editing for your academic work. A competent proofreader who understands academic writing conventions and the specific style guides used by academic journals will ensure that your paper is ready for publication in your target journal.

See our academic resources for further advice on references in your paper , how to write an abstract , how to write a research paper title, how to impress the editor of your target journal with a perfect cover letter , and dozens of other research writing and publication topics.


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  1. HIST 500

    Elements · The objective of the literature review - Clearly describe the purpose of the paper and state your objectives in completing the literature review.

  2. Literature reviews

    Not to be confused with a book review, a literature review surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources (e.g. dissertations

  3. Literature Review

    It provides a review of the literature: a survey of what experts in the field are saying and have said about your topic. It can also identify knowledge gaps and

  4. How to Write a Literature Review: Six Steps to Get You from Start to

    Get out a pair of scissors and cut each excerpt out. Now, sort the pieces of paper into similar topics. Figure out what the main themes are.

  5. Literature Review Guides

    From the University of Wisconsin, Writing Center. Sections include: What is a review of literature?; Writing the introduction; Writing the

  6. How to write a literature review · Help & how-to

    Objective of the literature review · Overview of the subject under consideration. · Clear categorization of sources selected into those in support

  7. What is a literature survey in a seminar report?

    You should read the abstract, introduction, and the conclusion of the paper of interest. You may utilize Mendeley pdf viewer to underline and take notes on the

  8. Literature Review Tips for the Introduction and Discussion Sections

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  9. BADM Senior Seminar: Literature Review

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