Skip to Main Content

Literature Review Guide

Literature Review Process

Choose your topic

As with many other research, you’ll need to decide what you are writing about. Choosing a topic will oftentimes be tied into an assignment or research proposal, and will have to follow some guidelines based on what you are creating it for. Understanding what you are trying to accomplish with this literature review, is important, and can help you decide on a final topic. This topic decision will also help you start writing up your review once you have finished the research process, much as your thesis would help you organize your opening paragraph in a research paper.

Decide and define your scope

You’ll need to ensure that your review is neither too broad, nor too narrow. To do this, the best method is to define the scope of what you are looking for. You want to decide if you are searching for a specific range of studies, years published, type of methodology, or another factor that might be more specific to your research area. Sometimes you will have to re-define your scope, once you begin the research process and you see what research has been done.

Choose databases to search

Once you’ve decided on the scope of the research you are reviewing, you’ll also want to decide which databases or even which individual journals you will want to search. This helps you focus on what is most important to your literature review. 



At this point you’ll want to start doing the actual research. You can use your topic to help you develop keywords. Also, since you’ve defined your scope, that will help you improve your keywords. You can use that to then search the databases you’ve decided upon. 

While you are doing this, remember to keep track of your search terms, so you can recreate any searches you make. You’ll want to be able to recreate the searches in case you lose track of an article you wanted to use.  Use the next tab in this guide, Research, for help with the research process

Write the Review

  • When you begin writing the review, remember that this is formatted like any other APA paper.
  • Ensure you are citing your sources, use your sources to back up your argument, and consider working with an English tutor if you have questions about writing a paper.
  • Write the paper with an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
  • Ensure you have a properly cited reference page, as well.