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- How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates
How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates
Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.
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:
- Search for relevant literature
- Evaluate sources
- Identify themes, debates, and gaps
- Outline the structure
- Write your 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, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.
- Quick Run-through
- Step 1 & 2
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:
- Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
- Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
- Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
- Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
- Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.
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.
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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.
- Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
- Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
- Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
- Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)
You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.
Download Word doc Download Google doc
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.
- Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
- Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
- Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth
Search for relevant sources
Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:
- Your university’s library catalogue
- Google Scholar
- Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
- Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
- EconLit (economics)
- Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)
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:
- What question or problem is the author addressing?
- What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
- What are the key theories, models, and methods?
- Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
- What are the results and conclusions of the study?
- How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?
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.
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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:
- Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
- Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
- Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
- Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
- Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?
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.
- Most research has focused on young women.
- There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
- But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.
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:
- Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
- Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
- Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources
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:
- Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
- Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
- Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
- Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts
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.
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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Sampling methods
- Simple random sampling
- Stratified sampling
- Cluster sampling
- Likert scales
- Null hypothesis
- Statistical power
- Probability distribution
- Effect size
- Poisson distribution
- Optimism bias
- Cognitive bias
- Implicit bias
- Hawthorne effect
- Anchoring bias
- Explicit bias
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:
- To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
- To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
- To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
- To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
- To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic
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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A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research ( scholarship ) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.
Where, when, and why would I write a lit review?
There are a number of different situations where you might write a literature review, each with slightly different expectations; different disciplines, too, have field-specific expectations for what a literature review is and does. For instance, in the humanities, authors might include more overt argumentation and interpretation of source material in their literature reviews, whereas in the sciences, authors are more likely to report study designs and results in their literature reviews; these differences reflect these disciplines’ purposes and conventions in scholarship. You should always look at examples from your own discipline and talk to professors or mentors in your field to be sure you understand your discipline’s conventions, for literature reviews as well as for any other genre.
A literature review can be a part of a research paper or scholarly article, usually falling after the introduction and before the research methods sections. In these cases, the lit review just needs to cover scholarship that is important to the issue you are writing about; sometimes it will also cover key sources that informed your research methodology.
Lit reviews can also be standalone pieces, either as assignments in a class or as publications. In a class, a lit review may be assigned to help students familiarize themselves with a topic and with scholarship in their field, get an idea of the other researchers working on the topic they’re interested in, find gaps in existing research in order to propose new projects, and/or develop a theoretical framework and methodology for later research. As a publication, a lit review usually is meant to help make other scholars’ lives easier by collecting and summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing research on a topic. This can be especially helpful for students or scholars getting into a new research area, or for directing an entire community of scholars toward questions that have not yet been answered.
What are the parts of a lit review?
Most lit reviews use a basic introduction-body-conclusion structure; if your lit review is part of a larger paper, the introduction and conclusion pieces may be just a few sentences while you focus most of your attention on the body. If your lit review is a standalone piece, the introduction and conclusion take up more space and give you a place to discuss your goals, research methods, and conclusions separately from where you discuss the literature itself.
- An introductory paragraph that explains what your working topic and thesis is
- A forecast of key topics or texts that will appear in the review
- Potentially, a description of how you found sources and how you analyzed them for inclusion and discussion in the review (more often found in published, standalone literature reviews than in lit review sections in an article or research paper)
- Summarize and synthesize: Give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
- Analyze and interpret: Don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
- Critically Evaluate: Mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
- Write in well-structured paragraphs: Use transition words and topic sentence to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts.
- 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?
Lit reviews can take many different organizational patterns depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the review. Here are some examples:
- Chronological : The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time, which helps familiarize the audience with the topic (for instance if you are introducing something that is not commonly known in your field). If you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze the patterns, turning points, and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred (as mentioned previously, this may not be appropriate in your discipline — check with a teacher or mentor if you’re unsure).
- Thematic : If you have found some recurring central themes that you will continue working with throughout your piece, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about women and religion, key themes can include the role of women in churches and the religious attitude towards women.
- Qualitative versus quantitative research
- Empirical versus theoretical scholarship
- Divide the research by sociological, historical, or cultural sources
- Theoretical : In many humanities articles, the literature review is the foundation for the theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You can argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach or combine various theorical concepts to create a framework for your research.
What are some strategies or tips I can use while writing my lit review?
Any lit review is only as good as the research it discusses; make sure your sources are well-chosen and your research is thorough. Don’t be afraid to do more research if you discover a new thread as you’re writing. More info on the research process is available in our "Conducting Research" resources .
As you’re doing your research, create an annotated bibliography ( see our page on the this type of document ). Much of the information used in an annotated bibliography can be used also in a literature review, so you’ll be not only partially drafting your lit review as you research, but also developing your sense of the larger conversation going on among scholars, professionals, and any other stakeholders in your topic.
Usually you will need to synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This means drawing connections between sources to create a picture of the scholarly conversation on a topic over time. Many student writers struggle to synthesize because they feel they don’t have anything to add to the scholars they are citing; here are some strategies to help you:
- It often helps to remember that the point of these kinds of syntheses is to show your readers how you understand your research, to help them read the rest of your paper.
- Writing teachers often say synthesis is like hosting a dinner party: imagine all your sources are together in a room, discussing your topic. What are they saying to each other?
- Look at the in-text citations in each paragraph. Are you citing just one source for each paragraph? This usually indicates summary only. When you have multiple sources cited in a paragraph, you are more likely to be synthesizing them (not always, but often
- Read more about synthesis here.
The most interesting literature reviews are often written as arguments (again, as mentioned at the beginning of the page, this is discipline-specific and doesn’t work for all situations). Often, the literature review is where you can establish your research as filling a particular gap or as relevant in a particular way. You have some chance to do this in your introduction in an article, but the literature review section gives a more extended opportunity to establish the conversation in the way you would like your readers to see it. You can choose the intellectual lineage you would like to be part of and whose definitions matter most to your thinking (mostly humanities-specific, but this goes for sciences as well). In addressing these points, you argue for your place in the conversation, which tends to make the lit review more compelling than a simple reporting of other sources.
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The top list of academic search engines
Academic search engines have become the number one resource to turn to in order to find research papers and other scholarly sources. While classic academic databases like Web of Science and Scopus are locked behind paywalls, Google Scholar and others can be accessed free of charge. In order to help you get your research done fast, we have compiled the top list of free academic search engines.
- 1. Google Scholar
Google Scholar is the clear number one when it comes to academic search engines. It's the power of Google searches applied to research papers and patents. It not only lets you find research papers for all academic disciplines for free but also often provides links to full-text PDF files.
- Coverage: approx. 200 million articles
- Abstracts: only a snippet of the abstract is available
- Related articles: ✔
- References: ✔
- Cited by: ✔
- Links to full text: ✔
- Export formats: APA, MLA, Chicago, Harvard, Vancouver, RIS, BibTeX
BASE is hosted at Bielefeld University in Germany. That is also where its name stems from (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine).
- Coverage: approx. 136 million articles (contains duplicates)
- Abstracts: ✔
- Related articles: ✘
- References: ✘
- Cited by: ✘
- Export formats: RIS, BibTeX
CORE is an academic search engine dedicated to open-access research papers. For each search result, a link to the full-text PDF or full-text web page is provided.
- Coverage: approx. 136 million articles
- Links to full text: ✔ (all articles in CORE are open access)
- Export formats: BibTeX
- 4. Science.gov
Science.gov is a fantastic resource as it bundles and offers free access to search results from more than 15 U.S. federal agencies. There is no need anymore to query all those resources separately!
- Coverage: approx. 200 million articles and reports
- Links to full text: ✔ (available for some databases)
- Export formats: APA, MLA, RIS, BibTeX (available for some databases)
- 5. Semantic Scholar
Semantic Scholar is the new kid on the block. Its mission is to provide more relevant and impactful search results using AI-powered algorithms that find hidden connections and links between research topics.
- Coverage: approx. 40 million articles
- Export formats: APA, MLA, Chicago, BibTeX
- 6. Baidu Scholar
Although Baidu Scholar's interface is in Chinese, its index contains research papers in English as well as Chinese.
- Coverage: no detailed statistics available, approx. 100 million articles
- Abstracts: only snippets of the abstract are available
- Export formats: APA, MLA, RIS, BibTeX
RefSeek searches more than one billion documents from academic and organizational websites. Its clean interface makes it especially easy to use for students and new researchers.
- Coverage: no detailed statistics available, approx. 1 billion documents
- Abstracts: only snippets of the article are available
- Export formats: not available
- Frequently Asked Questions about academic search engines
Google Scholar is an academic search engine, and it is the clear number one when it comes to academic search engines. It's the power of Google searches applied to research papers and patents. It not only let's you find research papers for all academic disciplines for free, but also often provides links to full text PDF file.
Semantic Scholar is a free, AI-powered research tool for scientific literature developed at the Allen Institute for AI. Sematic Scholar was publicly released in 2015 and uses advances in natural language processing to provide summaries for scholarly papers.
BASE , as its name suggest is an academic search engine. It is hosted at Bielefeld University in Germany and that's where it name stems from (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine).
CORE is an academic search engine dedicated to open access research papers. For each search result a link to the full text PDF or full text web page is provided.
Science.gov is a fantastic resource as it bundles and offers free access to search results from more than 15 U.S. federal agencies. There is no need any more to query all those resources separately!
- Related Articles
- Conducting your search
- Store and organise the literature
- Evaluate and critique the literature
- Different subject areas
Finding literature reviews on your topic
- Run your search in the database
- Limit the results to review or literature review - often found under Document type
If there is no option to limit to reviews try adding the word "review" to your search.
- Go to the Advanced search of the database
- Type review into a search line and change the field option to Title
Note: The results may include book reviews using this method.
Useful databases to find review articles
- Annual reviews online Annual Reviews publishes analytic reviews in focused disciplines within the biomedical, physical, and social sciences. The reviews cover significant developments in the different fields.
- Web of Science Go to the Advanced Search to set the document type to "Review". Web of Science covers the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities.
- Scopus Click on Limit to change the Document type to Review. Scopus is a multidisciplinary abstract and citation database of peer reviewed literature, book reviews and conference proceedings.
- Subject guides These guides list recommended databases useful for your particular subject area.
- << Previous: Different subject areas
- Last Updated: Sep 19, 2023 11:25 AM
- URL: https://guides.library.uq.edu.au/research-techniques/literature-reviews
- UConn Library
- Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide
- Writing Literature Review: Useful Sites
Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide — Writing Literature Review: Useful Sites
- Getting Started
- How to Pick a Topic
- Strategies to Find Sources
- Evaluating Sources & Lit. Reviews
- Tips for Writing Literature Reviews
- Citation Resources
- Other Academic Writings
Literature Reviews: Useful Sites
The majority of these sites focus on literature reviews in the social sciences unless otherwise noted. For systematic literature reviews, we recommend you to contact directly your subject librarian for help.
- [REMOVE] How to Write a Historiography (Literature Review for History) This is an excellent site to learn how to write this particular literature review in History.
Writing Tutorials & Other Resources
- Literature Review Online Tutorial (North Carolina State University Libraries)
- Literature Review Tutorial (CQ University-Australia)
- Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words (OWL Purdue Writing Lab)
- Quoting and Paraphrasing (UW-Madison's Writing Center)
- Synthesize the Literature Review: A Research Journey Presentation from Harvard's Graduate School of Education on synthesizing literature.
Where to Find Stand-Alone Lit. Reviews
Annual Review's journals are journals that specialize to publish stand-alone literature reviews for a particular subject or field. Check out the links below to see example of how literature reviews are written in different fields.
- Annual Review of Anthropology
- Annual Review of Political Science
- Annual Review of Sociology
- Sample Literature Review From Annual Review of Sociology
- [REMOVE] List of eJournals for Annual Reviews in a variety of subject fields List of annual review journals. As you scan the list, notice the ones that listed your specific subject area.
Resources for Writing
Uconn writing center.
- Writing Center: Graduate Student Support Learn what type of services are offered to support graduate students' writing needs
- << Previous: Tips for Writing Literature Reviews
- Next: Citation Resources >>
- Last Updated: Sep 21, 2022 2:16 PM
- URL: https://guides.lib.uconn.edu/literaturereview
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Select phrases or specific sections and explore more research papers related to the core aspects of your selections. Pin the useful ones for future references.
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Keep track of your team's progress by being constantly connected and engaging in active knowledge transfer by requesting full access to relevant papers and drafts.
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- Key guides for students
Where to search when doing a literature review.
- Find examples of literature reviews
- How to write a literature review
- How to search effectively
- Grey literature
Aim to be as comprehensive as possible when conducting a literature review. Knowing exactly where to search for information is important.
Work through the steps to find out the best databases to search for information on your research topic.
1. Start with research databases
Scopus and Web of Science are good databases to start with for any research topic and literature review.
- Scopus Scopus is a large multidisciplinary database covering published material in the humanities and sciences. It also provides citation analysis of authors and subject areas. Searching Scopus tutorial - Includes access to Scival via expanded top menu (Elsevier personal registration required).
- Web of Science - Core Collection The leading citation index' of scholarly literature, chemical reactions and author information. Includes citation databases: Sciences Expanded (1965+), Social Sciences (1965+), Arts & Humanities (1975+). Conference Proceedings (1990+), Emerging Sources Citation (2005+) , Current Chemical Reactions (1985+) and Index Chemicus (1993+) Access InCites benchmarking & analytics tools via the menu bar at the top of the screen.
2. Focus your search with specific databases
Select two or three discipline/specialist databases to conduct your search for comprehensive results.
Our subject guides will help you find databases relevant to major subject areas in each discipline and specific materials relevant to your research.
- Discipline subject guides
- News sources
3. Find books, theses and more
If you're looking for a specific medium (book, thesis, journal, etc.) for your research, try the following:
- Finding Theses Help finding theses at UOW, Australia and around the world and how to access them
- Previous: How to search effectively
- Next: Grey literature
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What this handout is about.
This handout will explain what literature reviews are and offer insights into the form and construction of literature reviews in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.
OK. You’ve got to write a literature review. You dust off a novel and a book of poetry, settle down in your chair, and get ready to issue a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” as you leaf through the pages. “Literature review” done. Right?
Wrong! The “literature” of a literature review refers to any collection of materials on a topic, not necessarily the great literary texts of the world. “Literature” could be anything from a set of government pamphlets on British colonial methods in Africa to scholarly articles on the treatment of a torn ACL. And a review does not necessarily mean that your reader wants you to give your personal opinion on whether or not you liked these sources.
What is a literature review, then?
A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period.
A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant.
But how is a literature review different from an academic research paper?
The main focus of an academic research paper is to develop a new argument, and a research paper is likely to contain a literature review as one of its parts. In a research paper, you use the literature as a foundation and as support for a new insight that you contribute. The focus of a literature review, however, is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others without adding new contributions.
Why do we write literature reviews?
Literature reviews provide you with a handy guide to a particular topic. If you have limited time to conduct research, literature reviews can give you an overview or act as a stepping stone. For professionals, they are useful reports that keep them up to date with what is current in the field. For scholars, the depth and breadth of the literature review emphasizes the credibility of the writer in his or her field. Literature reviews also provide a solid background for a research paper’s investigation. Comprehensive knowledge of the literature of the field is essential to most research papers.
Who writes these things, anyway?
Literature reviews are written occasionally in the humanities, but mostly in the sciences and social sciences; in experiment and lab reports, they constitute a section of the paper. Sometimes a literature review is written as a paper in itself.
Let’s get to it! What should I do before writing the literature review?
If your assignment is not very specific, seek clarification from your instructor:
- Roughly how many sources should you include?
- What types of sources (books, journal articles, websites)?
- Should you summarize, synthesize, or critique your sources by discussing a common theme or issue?
- Should you evaluate your sources?
- Should you provide subheadings and other background information, such as definitions and/or a history?
Look for other literature reviews in your area of interest or in the discipline and read them to get a sense of the types of themes you might want to look for in your own research or ways to organize your final review. You can simply put the word “review” in your search engine along with your other topic terms to find articles of this type on the Internet or in an electronic database. The bibliography or reference section of sources you’ve already read are also excellent entry points into your own research.
Narrow your topic
There are hundreds or even thousands of articles and books on most areas of study. The narrower your topic, the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you need to read in order to get a good survey of the material. Your instructor will probably not expect you to read everything that’s out there on the topic, but you’ll make your job easier if you first limit your scope.
Keep in mind that UNC Libraries have research guides and to databases relevant to many fields of study. You can reach out to the subject librarian for a consultation: https://library.unc.edu/support/consultations/ .
And don’t forget to tap into your professor’s (or other professors’) knowledge in the field. Ask your professor questions such as: “If you had to read only one book from the 90’s on topic X, what would it be?” Questions such as this help you to find and determine quickly the most seminal pieces in the field.
Consider whether your sources are current
Some disciplines require that you use information that is as current as possible. In the sciences, for instance, treatments for medical problems are constantly changing according to the latest studies. Information even two years old could be obsolete. However, if you are writing a review in the humanities, history, or social sciences, a survey of the history of the literature may be what is needed, because what is important is how perspectives have changed through the years or within a certain time period. Try sorting through some other current bibliographies or literature reviews in the field to get a sense of what your discipline expects. You can also use this method to consider what is currently of interest to scholars in this field and what is not.
Strategies for writing the literature review
Find a focus.
A literature review, like a term paper, is usually organized around ideas, not the sources themselves as an annotated bibliography would be organized. This means that you will not just simply list your sources and go into detail about each one of them, one at a time. No. As you read widely but selectively in your topic area, consider instead what themes or issues connect your sources together. Do they present one or different solutions? Is there an aspect of the field that is missing? How well do they present the material and do they portray it according to an appropriate theory? Do they reveal a trend in the field? A raging debate? Pick one of these themes to focus the organization of your review.
Convey it to your reader
A literature review may not have a traditional thesis statement (one that makes an argument), but you do need to tell readers what to expect. Try writing a simple statement that lets the reader know what is your main organizing principle. Here are a couple of examples:
The current trend in treatment for congestive heart failure combines surgery and medicine. More and more cultural studies scholars are accepting popular media as a subject worthy of academic consideration.
You’ve got a focus, and you’ve stated it clearly and directly. Now what is the most effective way of presenting the information? What are the most important topics, subtopics, etc., that your review needs to include? And in what order should you present them? Develop an organization for your review at both a global and local level:
First, cover the basic categories
Just like most academic papers, literature reviews also must contain at least three basic elements: an introduction or background information section; the body of the review containing the discussion of sources; and, finally, a conclusion and/or recommendations section to end the paper. The following provides a brief description of the content of each:
- Introduction: Gives a quick idea of the topic of the literature review, such as the central theme or organizational pattern.
- Body: Contains your discussion of sources and is organized either chronologically, thematically, or methodologically (see below for more information on each).
- Conclusions/Recommendations: Discuss what you have drawn from reviewing literature so far. Where might the discussion proceed?
Organizing the body
Once you have the basic categories in place, then you must consider how you will present the sources themselves within the body of your paper. Create an organizational method to focus this section even further.
To help you come up with an overall organizational framework for your review, consider the following scenario:
You’ve decided to focus your literature review on materials dealing with sperm whales. This is because you’ve just finished reading Moby Dick, and you wonder if that whale’s portrayal is really real. You start with some articles about the physiology of sperm whales in biology journals written in the 1980’s. But these articles refer to some British biological studies performed on whales in the early 18th century. So you check those out. Then you look up a book written in 1968 with information on how sperm whales have been portrayed in other forms of art, such as in Alaskan poetry, in French painting, or on whale bone, as the whale hunters in the late 19th century used to do. This makes you wonder about American whaling methods during the time portrayed in Moby Dick, so you find some academic articles published in the last five years on how accurately Herman Melville portrayed the whaling scene in his novel.
Now consider some typical ways of organizing the sources into a review:
- Chronological: If your review follows the chronological method, you could write about the materials above according to when they were published. For instance, first you would talk about the British biological studies of the 18th century, then about Moby Dick, published in 1851, then the book on sperm whales in other art (1968), and finally the biology articles (1980s) and the recent articles on American whaling of the 19th century. But there is relatively no continuity among subjects here. And notice that even though the sources on sperm whales in other art and on American whaling are written recently, they are about other subjects/objects that were created much earlier. Thus, the review loses its chronological focus.
- By publication: Order your sources by publication chronology, then, only if the order demonstrates a more important trend. For instance, you could order a review of literature on biological studies of sperm whales if the progression revealed a change in dissection practices of the researchers who wrote and/or conducted the studies.
- By trend: A better way to organize the above sources chronologically is to examine the sources under another trend, such as the history of whaling. Then your review would have subsections according to eras within this period. For instance, the review might examine whaling from pre-1600-1699, 1700-1799, and 1800-1899. Under this method, you would combine the recent studies on American whaling in the 19th century with Moby Dick itself in the 1800-1899 category, even though the authors wrote a century apart.
- Thematic: Thematic reviews of literature are organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time. However, progression of time may still be an important factor in a thematic review. For instance, the sperm whale review could focus on the development of the harpoon for whale hunting. While the study focuses on one topic, harpoon technology, it will still be organized chronologically. The only difference here between a “chronological” and a “thematic” approach is what is emphasized the most: the development of the harpoon or the harpoon technology.But more authentic thematic reviews tend to break away from chronological order. For instance, a thematic review of material on sperm whales might examine how they are portrayed as “evil” in cultural documents. The subsections might include how they are personified, how their proportions are exaggerated, and their behaviors misunderstood. A review organized in this manner would shift between time periods within each section according to the point made.
- Methodological: A methodological approach differs from the two above in that the focusing factor usually does not have to do with the content of the material. Instead, it focuses on the “methods” of the researcher or writer. For the sperm whale project, one methodological approach would be to look at cultural differences between the portrayal of whales in American, British, and French art work. Or the review might focus on the economic impact of whaling on a community. A methodological scope will influence either the types of documents in the review or the way in which these documents are discussed. Once you’ve decided on the organizational method for the body of the review, the sections you need to include in the paper should be easy to figure out. They should arise out of your organizational strategy. In other words, a chronological review would have subsections for each vital time period. A thematic review would have subtopics based upon factors that relate to the theme or issue.
Sometimes, though, you might need to add additional sections that are necessary for your study, but do not fit in the organizational strategy of the body. What other sections you include in the body is up to you. Put in only what is necessary. Here are a few other sections you might want to consider:
- Current Situation: Information necessary to understand the topic or focus of the literature review.
- History: The chronological progression of the field, the literature, or an idea that is necessary to understand the literature review, if the body of the literature review is not already a chronology.
- Methods and/or Standards: The criteria you used to select the sources in your literature review or the way in which you present your information. For instance, you might explain that your review includes only peer-reviewed articles and journals.
Questions for Further Research: What questions about the field has the review sparked? How will you further your research as a result of the review?
Once you’ve settled on a general pattern of organization, you’re ready to write each section. There are a few guidelines you should follow during the writing stage as well. Here is a sample paragraph from a literature review about sexism and language to illuminate the following discussion:
However, other studies have shown that even gender-neutral antecedents are more likely to produce masculine images than feminine ones (Gastil, 1990). Hamilton (1988) asked students to complete sentences that required them to fill in pronouns that agreed with gender-neutral antecedents such as “writer,” “pedestrian,” and “persons.” The students were asked to describe any image they had when writing the sentence. Hamilton found that people imagined 3.3 men to each woman in the masculine “generic” condition and 1.5 men per woman in the unbiased condition. Thus, while ambient sexism accounted for some of the masculine bias, sexist language amplified the effect. (Source: Erika Falk and Jordan Mills, “Why Sexist Language Affects Persuasion: The Role of Homophily, Intended Audience, and Offense,” Women and Language19:2).
In the example above, the writers refer to several other sources when making their point. A literature review in this sense is just like any other academic research paper. Your interpretation of the available sources must be backed up with evidence to show that what you are saying is valid.
Select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review. The type of information you choose to mention should relate directly to the review’s focus, whether it is thematic, methodological, or chronological.
Use quotes sparingly
Falk and Mills do not use any direct quotes. That is because the survey nature of the literature review does not allow for in-depth discussion or detailed quotes from the text. Some short quotes here and there are okay, though, if you want to emphasize a point, or if what the author said just cannot be rewritten in your own words. Notice that Falk and Mills do quote certain terms that were coined by the author, not common knowledge, or taken directly from the study. But if you find yourself wanting to put in more quotes, check with your instructor.
Summarize and synthesize
Remember to summarize and synthesize your sources within each paragraph as well as throughout the review. The authors here recapitulate important features of Hamilton’s study, but then synthesize it by rephrasing the study’s significance and relating it to their own work.
Keep your own voice
While the literature review presents others’ ideas, your voice (the writer’s) should remain front and center. Notice that Falk and Mills weave references to other sources into their own text, but they still maintain their own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with their own ideas and their own words. The sources support what Falk and Mills are saying.
Use caution when paraphrasing
When paraphrasing a source that is not your own, be sure to represent the author’s information or opinions accurately and in your own words. In the preceding example, Falk and Mills either directly refer in the text to the author of their source, such as Hamilton, or they provide ample notation in the text when the ideas they are mentioning are not their own, for example, Gastil’s. For more information, please see our handout on plagiarism .
Revise, revise, revise
Draft in hand? Now you’re ready to revise. Spending a lot of time revising is a wise idea, because your main objective is to present the material, not the argument. So check over your review again to make sure it follows the assignment and/or your outline. Then, just as you would for most other academic forms of writing, rewrite or rework the language of your review so that you’ve presented your information in the most concise manner possible. Be sure to use terminology familiar to your audience; get rid of unnecessary jargon or slang. Finally, double check that you’ve documented your sources and formatted the review appropriately for your discipline. For tips on the revising and editing process, see our handout on revising drafts .
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.
Jones, Robert, Patrick Bizzaro, and Cynthia Selfe. 1997. The Harcourt Brace Guide to Writing in the Disciplines . New York: Harcourt Brace.
Lamb, Sandra E. 1998. How to Write It: A Complete Guide to Everything You’ll Ever Write . Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.
Troyka, Lynn Quittman, and Doug Hesse. 2016. Simon and Schuster Handbook for Writers , 11th ed. London: Pearson.
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5 literature review tools to ace your reseach (+2 bonus tools)
Table of Contents
Your literature review is the lore behind your research paper. It comes in two forms, systematic and scoping , both serving the purpose of rounding up previously published works in your research area that led you to write and finish your own.
A literature review is vital as it provides the reader with a critical overview of the existing body of knowledge, your methodology, and an opportunity for research applications.
Some steps to follow while writing your review:
- Pick an accessible topic for your paper
- Do thorough research and gather evidence surrounding your topic
- Read and take notes diligently
- Create a rough structure for your review
- Synthesis your notes and write the first draft
- Edit and proofread your literature review
To make your workload a little lighter, there are many literature review AI tools. These tools can help you find academic articles through AI and answer questions about a research paper.
Best literature review tools to improve research workflow
A literature review is one of the most critical yet tedious stages in composing a research paper. Many students find it an uphill task since it requires extensive reading and careful organization .
Using some of the best literature review tools listed here, you can make your life easier by overcoming some of the existing challenges in literature reviews. From collecting and classifying to analyzing and publishing research outputs, these tools help you with your literature review and improve your productivity without additional effort or expenses.
SciSpace is an AI for academic research that will help find research papers and answer questions about a research paper. You can discover, read, and understand research papers with SciSpace making it an excellent platform for literature review. Featuring a repository with over 270 million research papers, it comes with your AI research assistant called Copilot that offers explanations, summaries, and answers as you read.
Get started now:
Find academic articles through AI
SciSpace has a dedicated literature review tool that finds scientific articles when you search for a question. Based on semantic search, it shows all the research papers relevant for your subject. You can then gather quick insights for all the papers displayed in your search results like methodology, dataset, etc., and figure out all the papers relevant for your research.
Identify relevant articles faster
Abstracts are not always enough to determine whether a paper is relevant to your research question. For starters, you can ask questions to your AI research assistant, SciSpace Copilot to explore the content and better understand the article. Additionally, use the summarize feature to quickly review the methodology and results of a paper and decide if it is worth reading in detail.
Learn in your preferred language
A big barrier non-native English speakers face while conducting a literature review is that a significant portion of scientific literature is published in English. But with SciSpace Copilot, you can review, interact, and learn from research papers in any language you prefer — presently, it supports 75+ languages. The AI will answer questions about a research paper in your mother tongue.
Integrates with Zotero
Many researchers use Zotero to create a library and manage research papers. SciSpace lets you import your scientific articles directly from Zotero into your SciSpace library and use Copilot to comprehend your research papers. You can also highlight key sections, add notes to the PDF as you read, and even turn helpful explanations and answers from Copilot into notes for future review.
Understand math and complex concepts quickly
Come across complex mathematical equations or difficult concepts? Simply highlight the text or select the formula or table, and Copilot will provide an explanation or breakdown of the same in an easy-to-understand manner. You can ask follow-up questions if you need further clarification.
Discover new papers to read without leaving
Highlight phrases or sentences in your research paper to get suggestions for related papers in the field and save time on literature reviews. You can also use the 'Trace' feature to move across and discover connected papers, authors, topics, and more.
SciSpace Copilot is now available as a Chrome extension , allowing you to access its features directly while you browse scientific literature anywhere across the web.
Get citation-backed answers
When you're conducting a literature review, you want credible information with proper references. Copilot ensures that every piece of information provided by SciSpace Copilot is backed by a direct reference, boosting transparency, accuracy, and trustworthiness.
Ask a question related to the paper you're delving into. Every response from Copilot comes with a clickable citation. This citation leads you straight to the section of the PDF from which the answer was extracted.
By seamlessly integrating answers with citations, SciSpace Copilot assures you of the authenticity and relevance of the information you receive.
Mendeley Citation Manager is a free web and desktop application. It helps simplify your citation management workflow significantly. Here are some ways you can speed up your referencing game with Mendeley.
Generate citations and bibliographies
Easily add references from your Mendeley library to your Word document, change your citation style, and create a bibliography, all without leaving your document.
It allows you to access your references quickly. Search for a term, and it will return results by referencing the year, author, or source.
Add sources to your Mendeley library by dragging PDF to Mendeley Reference Manager. Mendeley will automatically remove the PDF(s) metadata and create a library entry.
Read and annotate documents
It helps you highlight and comment across multiple PDFs while keep them all in one place using Mendeley Notebook . Notebook pages are not tied to a reference and let you quote from many PDFs.
A big part of many literature review workflows, Zotero is a free, open-source tool for managing citations that works as a plug-in on your browser. It helps you gather the information you need, cite your sources, lets you attach PDFs, notes, and images to your citations, and create bibliographies.
Import research articles to your database
Search for research articles on a keyword, and add relevant results to your database. Then, select the articles you are most interested in, and import them into Zotero.
Add bibliography in a variety of formats
With Zotero, you don’t have to scramble for different bibliography formats. Simply use the Zotero-Word plug-in to insert in-text citations and generate a bibliography.
Share your research
You can save a paper and sync it with an online library to easily share your research for group projects. Zotero can be used to create your database and decrease the time you spend formatting citations.
Sysrev is an AI too for article review that facilitates screening, collaboration, and data extraction from academic publications, abstracts, and PDF documents using machine learning. The platform is free and supports public and Open Access projects only.
Some of the features of Sysrev include:
Group labels can be a powerful concept for creating database tables from documents. When exported and re-imported, each group label creates a new table. To make labels for a project, go into the manage -> labels section of the project.
Group labels enable project managers to pull table information from documents. It makes it easier to communicate review results for specific articles.
Track reviewer performance
Sysrev's label counting tool provides filtering and visualization options for keeping track of the distribution of labels throughout the project's progress. Project managers can check their projects at any point to track progress and the reviewer's performance.
Tool for concordance
The Sysrev tool for concordance allows project administrators and reviewers to perform analysis on their labels. Concordance is measured by calculating the number of times users agree on the labels they have extracted.
Colandr is a free, open-source, internet-based analysis and screening software used as an AI for academic research. It was designed to ease collaboration across various stages of the systematic review procedure. The tool can be a little complex to use. So, here are the steps involved in working with Colandr.
Create a review
The first step to using Colandr is setting up an organized review project. This is helpful to librarians who are assisting researchers with systematic reviews.
The planning stage is setting the review's objectives along with research queries. Any reviewer can review the details of the planning stage. However, they can only be modified by the author for the review.
In this phase, users can upload their results from database searches. Colandr also offers an automated deduplication system.
The system in Colandr will discover the combination of terms and expressions that are most useful for the reader. If an article is selected, it will be moved to the final step.
Colandr data extraction is more efficient than the manual method. It creates the form fields for data extraction during the planning stage of the review procedure. Users can decide to revisit or modify the form for data extraction after completing the initial screening.
Bonus literature review tools
SRDR+ is a web-based tool for extracting and managing systematic review or meta-analysis data. It is open and has a searchable archive of systematic reviews and their data.
7. Plot Digitizer
Plot Digitizer is an efficient tool for extracting information from graphs and images, equipped with many features that facilitate data extraction. The program comes with a free online application, which is adequate to extract data quickly.
Writing a literature review is not easy. It’s a time-consuming process, which can become tiring at times. The literature review tools mentioned in this blog do an excellent job of maximizing your efforts and helping you write literature reviews much more efficiently. With them, you can breathe a sigh of relief and give more time to your research.
As you dive into your literature review, don’t forget to use SciSpace ResearchGPT to streamline the process. It facilitates your research and helps you explore key findings, summary, and other components of the paper easily.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. what is rrl in research.
RRL stands for Review of Related Literature and sometimes interchanged with ‘Literature Review.’ RRL is a body of studies relevant to the topic being researched. These studies may be in the form of journal articles, books, reports, and other similar documents. Review of related literature is used to support an argument or theory being made by the researcher, as well as to provide information on how others have approached the same topic.
2. What are few softwares and tools available for literature review?
• SciSpace Discover
3. How to generate an online literature review?
The Scispace Discover tool, which offers an excellent repository of millions of peer-reviewed articles and resources, will help you generate or create a literature review easily. You may find relevant information by utilizing the filter option, checking its credibility, tracing related topics and articles, and citing in widely accepted formats with a single click.
4. What does it mean to synthesize literature?
To synthesize literature is to take the main points and ideas from a number of sources and present them in a new way. The goal is to create a new piece of writing that pulls together the most important elements of all the sources you read. Make recommendations based on them, and connect them to the research.
5. Should we write abstract for literature review?
Abstracts, particularly for the literature review section, are not required. However, an abstract for the research paper, on the whole, is useful for summarizing the paper and letting readers know what to expect from it. It can also be used to summarize the main points of the paper so that readers have a better understanding of the paper's content before they read it.
6. How do you evaluate the quality of a literature review?
• Whether it is clear and well-written.
• Whether Information is current and up to date.
• Does it cover all of the relevant sources on the topic.
• Does it provide enough evidence to support its conclusions.
7. Is literature review mandatory?
Yes. Literature review is a mandatory part of any research project. It is a critical step in the process that allows you to establish the scope of your research and provide a background for the rest of your work.
8. What are the sources for a literature review?
• Conference proceedings
• Company reports
• Some government publications
• Articles by professional associations
• Citation indexes
• Statistical data from government websites
9. What is the difference between a systematic review and a literature review?
A systematic review is a form of research that uses a rigorous method to generate knowledge from both published and unpublished data. A literature review, on the other hand, is a critical summary of an area of research within the context of what has already been published.
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Researching for a literature review: Websites
- What is a literature review?
- Test Instruments
Appropriate websites will vary based on the topic, scope, and purpose of a project. Some recommended sites:
Scholarly Organizations - identify the premier organizations associated with the field being researched. Explore their websites for current information and learn about conferences and key scholars in the field to add to your search.
Intute - page of research websites collected and maintained by a consortium of university libraries in the U.K.
Example: Intute listing of Rhetoric websites
Although the Intute site stopped being updated in July 2011, it remains an excellent organized source to find valuable free collections and sources
The U.S. government may fund research in your field!
The government funds research in many areas such as education, health, and medicine. Find additional researchers or sources for information that may not be found in a traditional library catalog or database by searching for your topic and adding "site:.gov" to your search string in a search engine.
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All-in-one Literature Review Software
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MAXQDA The All-in-one Literature Review Software
MAXQDA is the best choice for a comprehensive literature review. It works with a wide range of data types and offers powerful tools for literature review, such as reference management, qualitative, vocabulary, text analysis tools, and more.
As your all-in-one literature review software, MAXQDA can be used to manage your entire research project. Easily import data from texts, interviews, focus groups, PDFs, web pages, spreadsheets, articles, e-books, and even social media data. Connect the reference management system of your choice with MAXQDA to easily import bibliographic data. Organize your data in groups, link relevant quotes to each other, keep track of your literature summaries, and share and compare work with your team members. Your project file stays flexible and you can expand and refine your category system as you go to suit your research.
Developed by and for researchers – since 1989
Having used several qualitative data analysis software programs, there is no doubt in my mind that MAXQDA has advantages over all the others. In addition to its remarkable analytical features for harnessing data, MAXQDA’s stellar customer service, online tutorials, and global learning community make it a user friendly and top-notch product.
Sally S. Cohen – NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing
Literature Review is Faster and Smarter with MAXQDA
Easily import your literature review data
With a literature review software like MAXQDA, you can easily import bibliographic data from reference management programs for your literature review. MAXQDA can work with all reference management programs that can export their databases in RIS-format which is a standard format for bibliographic information. Like MAXQDA, these reference managers use project files, containing all collected bibliographic information, such as author, title, links to websites, keywords, abstracts, and other information. In addition, you can easily import the corresponding full texts. Upon import, all documents will be automatically pre-coded to facilitate your literature review at a later stage.
Capture your ideas while analyzing your literature
Great ideas will often occur to you while you’re doing your literature review. Using MAXQDA as your literature review software, you can create memos to store your ideas, such as research questions and objectives, or you can use memos for paraphrasing passages into your own words. By attaching memos like post-it notes to text passages, texts, document groups, images, audio/video clips, and of course codes, you can easily retrieve them at a later stage. Particularly useful for literature reviews are free memos written during the course of work from which passages can be copied and inserted into the final text.
Find concepts important to your generated literature review
When generating a literature review you might need to analyze a large amount of text. Luckily MAXQDA as the #1 literature review software offers Text Search tools that allow you to explore your documents without reading or coding them first. Automatically search for keywords (or dictionaries of keywords), such as important concepts for your literature review, and automatically code them with just a few clicks. Document variables that were automatically created during the import of your bibliographic information can be used for searching and retrieving certain text segments. MAXQDA’s powerful Coding Query allows you to analyze the combination of activated codes in different ways.
Aggregate your literature review
When conducting a literature review you can easily get lost. But with MAXQDA as your literature review software, you will never lose track of the bigger picture. Among other tools, MAXQDA’s overview and summary tables are especially useful for aggregating your literature review results. MAXQDA offers overview tables for almost everything, codes, memos, coded segments, links, and so on. With MAXQDA literature review tools you can create compressed summaries of sources that can be effectively compared and represented, and with just one click you can easily export your overview and summary tables and integrate them into your literature review report.
Powerful and easy-to-use literature review tools
Quantitative aspects can also be relevant when conducting a literature review analysis. Using MAXQDA as your literature review software enables you to employ a vast range of procedures for the quantitative evaluation of your material. You can sort sources according to document variables, compare amounts with frequency tables and charts, and much more. Make sure you don’t miss the word frequency tools of MAXQDA’s add-on module for quantitative content analysis. Included are tools for visual text exploration, content analysis, vocabulary analysis, dictionary-based analysis, and more that facilitate the quantitative analysis of terms and their semantic contexts.
Visualize your literature review
As an all-in-one literature review software, MAXQDA offers a variety of visual tools that are tailor-made for qualitative research and literature reviews. Create stunning visualizations to analyze your material. Of course, you can export your visualizations in various formats to enrich your literature review analysis report. Work with word clouds to explore the central themes of a text and key terms that are used, create charts to easily compare the occurrences of concepts and important keywords, or make use of the graphical representation possibilities of MAXMaps, which in particular permit the creation of concept maps. Thanks to the interactive connection between your visualizations with your MAXQDA data, you’ll never lose sight of the big picture.
AI Assist: literature review software meets AI
AI Assist – your virtual research assistant – supports your literature review with various tools. AI Assist simplifies your work by automatically analyzing and summarizing elements of your research project and by generating suggestions for subcodes. No matter which AI tool you use – you can customize your results to suit your needs.
Free tutorials and guides on literature review
MAXQDA offers a variety of free learning resources for literature review, making it easy for both beginners and advanced users to learn how to use the software. From free video tutorials and webinars to step-by-step guides and sample projects, these resources provide a wealth of information to help you understand the features and functionality of MAXQDA for literature review. For beginners, the software’s user-friendly interface and comprehensive help center make it easy to get started with your data analysis, while advanced users will appreciate the detailed guides and tutorials that cover more complex features and techniques. Whether you’re just starting out or are an experienced researcher, MAXQDA’s free learning resources will help you get the most out of your literature review.
Free MAXQDA Trial for Windows and Mac
Get your maxqda license, compare the features of maxqda and maxqda analytics pro, faq: literature review software.
Literature review software is a tool designed to help researchers efficiently manage and analyze the existing body of literature relevant to their research topic. MAXQDA, a versatile qualitative data analysis tool, can be instrumental in this process.
Literature review software, like MAXQDA, typically includes features such as data import and organization, coding and categorization, advanced search capabilities, data visualization tools, and collaboration features. These features facilitate the systematic review and analysis of relevant literature.
Literature review software, including MAXQDA, can assist in qualitative data interpretation by enabling researchers to organize, code, and categorize relevant literature. This organized data can then be analyzed to identify trends, patterns, and themes, helping researchers draw meaningful insights from the literature they’ve reviewed.
Yes, literature review software like MAXQDA is suitable for researchers of all levels of experience. It offers user-friendly interfaces and extensive support resources, making it accessible to beginners while providing advanced features that cater to the needs of experienced researchers.
Getting started with literature review software, such as MAXQDA, typically involves downloading and installing the software, importing your relevant literature, and exploring the available features. Many software providers offer tutorials and documentation to help users get started quickly.
For students, MAXQDA can be an excellent literature review software choice. Its user-friendly interface, comprehensive feature set, and educational discounts make it a valuable tool for students conducting literature reviews as part of their academic research.
MAXQDA is available for both Windows and Mac users, making it a suitable choice for Mac users looking for literature review software. It offers a consistent and feature-rich experience on Mac operating systems.
When it comes to literature review software, MAXQDA is widely regarded as one of the best choices. Its robust feature set, user-friendly interface, and versatility make it a top pick for researchers conducting literature reviews.
Yes, literature reviews can be conducted without software. However, using literature review software like MAXQDA can significantly streamline and enhance the process by providing tools for efficient data management, analysis, and visualization.
7 open source tools to make literature reviews easy
A good literature review is critical for academic research in any field, whether it is for a research article, a critical review for coursework, or a dissertation. In a recent article, I presented detailed steps for doing a literature review using open source software .
The following is a brief summary of seven free and open source software tools described in that article that will make your next literature review much easier.
1. GNU Linux
Most literature reviews are accomplished by graduate students working in research labs in universities. For absurd reasons, graduate students often have the worst computers on campus. They are often old, slow, and clunky Windows machines that have been discarded and recycled from the undergraduate computer labs. Installing a flavor of GNU Linux will breathe new life into these outdated PCs. There are more than 100 distributions , all of which can be downloaded and installed for free on computers. Most popular Linux distributions come with a "try-before-you-buy" feature. For example, with Ubuntu you can make a bootable USB stick that allows you to test-run the Ubuntu desktop experience without interfering in any way with your PC configuration. If you like the experience, you can use the stick to install Ubuntu on your machine permanently.
Linux distributions generally come with a free web browser, and the most popular is Firefox . Two Firefox plugins that are particularly useful for literature reviews are Unpaywall and Zotero. Keep reading to learn why.
Often one of the hardest parts of a literature review is gaining access to the papers you want to read for your review. The unintended consequence of copyright restrictions and paywalls is it has narrowed access to the peer-reviewed literature to the point that even Harvard University is challenged to pay for it. Fortunately, there are a lot of open access articles—about a third of the literature is free (and the percentage is growing). Unpaywall is a Firefox plugin that enables researchers to click a green tab on the side of the browser and skip the paywall on millions of peer-reviewed journal articles. This makes finding accessible copies of articles much faster that searching each database individually. Unpaywall is fast, free, and legal, as it accesses many of the open access sites that I covered in my paper on using open source in lit reviews .
Formatting references is the most tedious of academic tasks. Zotero can save you from ever doing it again. It operates as an Android app, desktop program, and a Firefox plugin (which I recommend). It is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share research. It replaces the functionality of proprietary packages such as RefWorks, Endnote, and Papers for zero cost. Zotero can auto-add bibliographic information directly from websites. In addition, it can scrape bibliographic data from PDF files. Notes can be easily added on each reference. Finally, and most importantly, it can import and export the bibliography databases in all publishers' various formats. With this feature, you can export bibliographic information to paste into a document editor for a paper or thesis—or even to a wiki for dynamic collaborative literature reviews (see tool #7 for more on the value of wikis in lit reviews).
Your thesis or academic article can be written conventionally with the free office suite LibreOffice , which operates similarly to Microsoft's Office products but respects your freedom. Zotero has a word processor plugin to integrate directly with LibreOffice. LibreOffice is more than adequate for the vast majority of academic paper writing.
If LibreOffice is not enough for your layout needs, you can take your paper writing one step further with LaTeX , a high-quality typesetting system specifically designed for producing technical and scientific documentation. LaTeX is particularly useful if your writing has a lot of equations in it. Also, Zotero libraries can be directly exported to BibTeX files for use with LaTeX.
If you want to leverage the open source way to get help with your literature review, you can facilitate a dynamic collaborative literature review . A wiki is a website that allows anyone to add, delete, or revise content directly using a web browser. MediaWiki is free software that enables you to set up your own wikis.
Researchers can (in decreasing order of complexity): 1) set up their own research group wiki with MediaWiki, 2) utilize wikis already established at their universities (e.g., Aalto University ), or 3) use wikis dedicated to areas that they research. For example, several university research groups that focus on sustainability (including mine ) use Appropedia , which is set up for collaborative solutions on sustainability, appropriate technology, poverty reduction, and permaculture.
Using a wiki makes it easy for anyone in the group to keep track of the status of and update literature reviews (both current and older or from other researchers). It also enables multiple members of the group to easily collaborate on a literature review asynchronously. Most importantly, it enables people outside the research group to help make a literature review more complete, accurate, and up-to-date.
Free and open source software can cover the entire lit review toolchain, meaning there's no need for anyone to use proprietary solutions. Do you use other libre tools for making literature reviews or other academic work easier? Please let us know your favorites in the comments.
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
- Understanding the “ why “
- Finding the relevant literature
- Cataloguing and synthesising the information
- Outlining & writing up your literature review
- Example of a literature review
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:
- For you to gain an understanding (and demonstrate this understanding) of where the research is at currently, what the key arguments and disagreements are.
- For you to identify the gap(s) in the literature and then use this as justification for your own research topic.
- To help you build a conceptual framework for empirical testing (if applicable to your research topic).
- To inform your methodological choices and help you source tried and tested questionnaires (for interviews ) and measurement instruments (for surveys ).
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:
- 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. 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.
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:
- Open Access Theses & Dissertations
- Stanford SearchWorks
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.
Need a helping hand?
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:
- Logging reference information
- Building an organised catalogue
- Distilling and synthesising the information
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):
- Author, date, title – Start with three columns containing this core information. This will make it easy for you to search for titles with certain words, order research by date, or group by author.
- Categories or keywords – You can either create multiple columns, one for each category/theme and then tick the relevant categories, or you can have one column with keywords.
- Key arguments/points – Use this column to succinctly convey the essence of the article, the key arguments and implications thereof for your research.
- Context – Note the socioeconomic context in which the research was undertaken. For example, US-based, respondents aged 25-35, lower- income, etc. This will be useful for making an argument about gaps in the research.
- Methodology – Note which methodology was used and why. Also, note any issues you feel arise due to the methodology. Again, you can use this to make an argument about gaps in the research.
- Quotations – Note down any quoteworthy lines you feel might be useful later.
- Notes – Make notes about anything not already covered. For example, linkages to or disagreements with other theories, questions raised but unanswered, shortcomings or limitations, and so forth.
If you’d like, you can try out our free catalog template here (see screenshot below).
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:
- What answers does the existing research provide to my own research questions ?
- Which points do the researchers agree (and disagree) on?
- How has the research developed over time?
- Where do the gaps in the current research lie?
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.
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.
Once you’ve got a full first draft (however rough it may be), step away from it for a day or two (longer if you can) and then come back at it with fresh eyes. Pay particular attention to the flow and narrative – does it fall fit together and flow from one section to another smoothly? Now’s the time to try to improve the linkage from each section to the next, tighten up the writing to be more concise, trim down word count and sand it down into a more digestible read.
Once you’ve done that, give your writing to a friend or colleague who is not a subject matter expert and ask them if they understand the overall discussion. The best way to assess this is to ask them to explain the chapter back to you. This technique will give you a strong indication of which points were clearly communicated and which weren’t. If you’re working with Grad Coach, this is a good time to have your Research Specialist review your chapter.
Finally, tighten it up and send it off to your supervisor for comment. Some might argue that you should be sending your work to your supervisor sooner than this (indeed your university might formally require this), but in my experience, supervisors are extremely short on time (and often patience), so, the more refined your chapter is, the less time they’ll waste on addressing basic issues (which you know about already) and the more time they’ll spend on valuable feedback that will increase your mark-earning potential.
Literature Review Example
In the video below, we unpack an actual literature review so that you can see how all the core components come together in reality.
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:
- It is essential to understand the WHY of the literature review before you read or write anything. Make sure you understand the 4 core functions of the process.
- The first step is to hunt down the relevant literature . You can do this using Google Scholar, your university database, the snowballing technique and by reviewing other dissertations and theses.
- Next, you need to log all the articles in your reference manager , build your own catalogue of literature and synthesise all the research.
- Following that, you need to develop a detailed outline of your entire chapter – the more detail the better. Don’t start writing without a clear outline (on paper, not in your head!)
- Write up your first draft in rough form – don’t aim for perfection. Remember, done beats perfect.
- Refine your second draft and get a layman’s perspective on it . Then tighten it up and submit it to your supervisor.
Psst… there’s more!
This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Literature Review Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .
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Thank you very much. This page is an eye opener and easy to comprehend.
This is awesome!
I wish I come across GradCoach earlier enough.
But all the same I’ll make use of this opportunity to the fullest.
Thank you for this good job.
Keep it up!
You’re welcome, Yinka. Thank you for the kind words. All the best writing your literature review.
Thank you for a very useful literature review session. Although I am doing most of the steps…it being my first masters an Mphil is a self study and one not sure you are on the right track. I have an amazing supervisor but one also knows they are super busy. So not wanting to bother on the minutae. Thank you.
You’re most welcome, Renee. Good luck with your literature review 🙂
This has been really helpful. Will make full use of it. 🙂
Thank you Gradcoach.
Really agreed. Admirable effort
thank you for this beautiful well explained recap.
Thank you so much for your guide of video and other instructions for the dissertation writing.
It is instrumental. It encouraged me to write a dissertation now.
Thank you the video was great – from someone that knows nothing thankyou
an amazing and very constructive way of presetting a topic, very useful, thanks for the effort,
It is timely
It is very good video of guidance for writing a research proposal and a dissertation. Since I have been watching and reading instructions, I have started my research proposal to write. I appreciate to Mr Jansen hugely.
I learn a lot from your videos. Very comprehensive and detailed.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge. As a research student, you learn better with your learning tips in research
I was really stuck in reading and gathering information but after watching these things are cleared thanks, it is so helpful.
Really helpful, Thank you for the effort in showing such information
This is super helpful thank you very much.
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 🙂
Thank you Coach, you have greatly enriched and improved my knowledge
Great piece, so enriching and it is going to help me a great lot in my project and thesis, thanks so much
This is THE BEST site for ANYONE doing a masters or doctorate! Thank you for the sound advice and templates. You rock!
Thanks, Stephanie 🙂
This is mind blowing, the detailed explanation and simplicity is perfect.
I am doing two papers on my final year thesis, and I must stay I feel very confident to face both headlong after reading this article.
thank you so much.
if anyone is to get a paper done on time and in the best way possible, GRADCOACH is certainly the go to area!
This is very good video which is well explained with detailed explanation
Thank you excellent piece of work and great mentoring
Thanks, it was useful
Thank you very much. the video and the information were very helpful.
Good morning scholar. I’m delighted coming to know you even before the commencement of my dissertation which hopefully is expected in not more than six months from now. I would love to engage my study under your guidance from the beginning to the end. I love to know how to do good job
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
Like the name of your YouTube implies you are GRAD (great,resource person, about dissertation). In short you are smart enough in coaching research work.
This is a very well thought out webpage. Very informative and a great read.
Very comprehensive and eye opener for me as beginner in postgraduate study. Well explained and easy to understand. Appreciate and good reference in guiding me in my research journey. Thank you
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Top 20 Literary Websites to Help You Choose Your Next Book
Check out these 20 literary websites, and bookmark them so you can find your next great reading selection.
For readers, the world of the Internet has made finding book reviews and recommendations easier than ever. Literary websites can give readers insight into the thoughts and intentions of writers through exclusive interviews, while podcasts and book blogs provide reviews that will help guide you toward the next great read. In addition, many bookstores, literary magazines, and more have websites you can use to make informed reading decisions.
Yet how can you decide which websites are worth visiting? With so many options out there, you need to narrow your reading to focus on the most valuable ones. Here are 20 recommended literary websites that provide good insights into the world of literature. Put them on your reading list so you can see what is up and coming in the world of literature.
1. The Millions
2. book riot, 3. the los angeles review of books, 4. page-turner, 5. goodreads, 6. electric literature, 7. the bookrageous podcast, 8. guernica, 9. the nervous breakdown, 10. literary kicks, 11. the public domain review, 12. new york times book reviews, 13. literary hub, 14. brad listi, 15. the paris review daily, 16. the rumpus, 17. project gutenberg, 18. the new inquiry, 19. the american reader.
The Millions has been around for 10 years, making it practically ancient in terms of literary websites. Nevertheless, it receives a top spot on this list because of its rich library and steady stream of reviews, essays, and reading lists.
Book Riot has a quirky tone, but it is a great place to learn about books in a less upscale tone. Its tagline is “All Books, Never Boring,” which is true of how it pokes fun at books while also bringing site visitors the information they need to make informed reading decisions.
The Los Angeles Review of Books started on Tumblr, but since then, it has grown into an extensive website with excellent, trusted content producers. Some have said it is the West Coast’s primary literary scene. You will find online literary arts journal entries that are thoughtful and insightful.
Page-Turner is the book blog of The New Yorker. It has a monthly podcast, daily news roundup, essays, and reviews. With so many resources and the trustworthy parent magazine behind it, this website is ideal for those who love books.
Goodreads is a favorite website for readers because it posts reviews from regular readers, not paid editors. You can see what other people like you thought of a book before you decide to invest the time to read it. This website also helps readers find similar books when they finish one they loved, which is a great feature to tap when you are looking for a new book or book series to read.
When it launched, it portrayed itself as the primary literary journal for the Internet era. It was a print literary magazine at first, but it continued online when the magazine ceased publication. The Electric Literature Recommended Reading list is an excellent resource for book lovers looking for new reading ideas.
The Bookrageous Podcast celebrates all things related to books. The hosts are avid readers and take time to talk about their favorite books on the podcast. Their insights will help you find a new reading suggestion if you are stuck without something to read.
Guernica calls itself “A Magazine of Art and Politics, and it has regular interviews with excellent authors. This website also posts original fiction, so those who are looking for a great short story to read will find it here. Finally, it has a poetry section to round out its literary offerings.
One of the unique features of The Nervous Breakdown is its self-interviews, which are part of the podcast. This feature allows an author to ask themselves questions other interviewers are not willing to ask. This gives an exciting insight into the thoughts and intentions of some of your favorite authors.
Literary Kicks has been around since 1994, so it has a rich archive that is interesting to tap. This website is by Levi Asher, and though it lacks consistent daily posts, it has fascinating insights into the world of literature. Readers can tap into the archive to get ideas for new books to read.
The Public Domain Review is a non-profit that focuses on out-of-print works. This makes its book reviews intriguing because instead f reviewing new books, they review old ones that are hard to find. It also has collections of essays on topics of interest to those who enjoy literature.
The New York Times is no stranger to literature and literature reviews. You can check out their book review section to get ideas for what you should read next. The editors are well-known for understanding literature and what makes a great read.
Lit Hub posts daily and focuses its articles and essays on modern literature. If you are looking for ideas for new literary fiction or nonfiction to read, this resource will help. It also brings in literary content from partner websites, making it a hub that readers can tap to find what they are looking for in one convenient location.
Brad Listi’s website is an author website, but it has an interesting reading log and podcast that are helpful as you look for more reading suggestions. This combination earns it a spot on the top literary websites because readers can turn to Brad to learn more about the books he finds attractive.
The Paris Review i s a highly respected literary journal, but it only puts out a paper published a few times each year. The Paris Review Daily provides an online source for many of the same reviews and reports found in the print version. This resource is highly respected in the literary world.
The Rumpus has excellent contributors that share daily content. It has interviews, reviews, and essays for people who want to learn about books. It also has a section for poetry and a service where young readers can subscribe to get letters in the mail from well-known authors.
Project Gutenberg is not a literary blog or review website. Instead, it is a resource that distributes free eBooks to interested readers. It deserves a spot on the list because it has a rich library of books that readers can read, even though it does not focus on literary criticism.
The New Inquiry not only discusses and reviews books but also spends time talking about politics and pop culture. This makes it an engaging read and relevant for the modern reader. You will likely find it highly entertaining as well as informative. It does have a paid membership option, but you can read articles for free.
The American Reader is a monthly print journal, but it also has a website. Here you will see fiction and poetry publications and letters from well-known names in literature. While it is a young website, it has the potential to be an important one.
In the world of English literature, Granta is one of the essential magazine publications. Its website is rich with information and posts. This website needs to be on your list if you are looking for informative content about the world of literature.
Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best books for fiction writers !
Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.
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Last updated on Feb 07, 2023
The 50+ Best Writing Websites of 2023
The Internet is full of writing websites and blogs to help people reach their creative goals . If you’ve always dreamt of writing your own book, but don’t know how to get there — or if you’re in the process of writing, but feel unsure about what to do next — then it’s your lucky day! Here we have all the best writing websites of 2023 in one single place for your convenience. They’re also organized by category, and alphabetically within each of those categories, to make each one easier to find. Enjoy!
Best writing websites for writing craft and inspiration
1. Almost an Author
Offering up new content every day, Almost an Author covers a grand scope of writing topics. From genre-specific advice to emotional support on your writing journey, there's tons of useful info here for beginner and veteran writers alike.
2. Association of Writer & Writing Programs
Having just marked their 50th anniversary, AWP is one of the premier authorities on writing. The AWP website provides resources and ample opportunities for authors, teachers, and students at every point in their career. Here you’ll be able to find information about writing programs, career options, and conferences all over the world. Keep in mind, though, that access to some of these features is restricted to members only.
3. Creativity Portal
This is a wonderful hub for creative resources that has been around for a whopping nineteen years! Here you can find writing prompts , creative coaching, printable writing templates, and interviews with authors that will help nourish the right side of your brain.
4. Daily Writing Tips
As the name suggests, this site offers daily writing tips ranging from open-ended prompts and exercises to grammar, spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary. It also covers all writing levels and professions, so it doesn't matter how far along you are in your writing career — DWT is sure to help you out.
Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a master’s degree, you can get your own "DIY MFA" right here! This site (founded by Gabriela Pereira ) aims to cover everything you would learn in a graduate program, while giving you the freedom to choose your own areas of concentration and allocate your time as you please.
6. Electric Literature
While not exactly a craft-focused website — so no straight-up writing advice or prompts — this nonprofit digital publisher showcases literature-related essays, criticism, and recommended readings. If you're looking to brush up on both literary theory and recent literary trends, Electric Lit is the place for you.
7. Fiction University
This virtual university, run by award-winning author Janice Hardy, contains tons of advice and concrete examples to help authors build a strong writing foundation. It's full of blog posts by professionals who share their own processes and techniques, providing tips not just on what you should do as a writer, but on how to make it happen.
8. Helping Writers Become Authors
Longtime author K.M. Weiland offers writing advice that ranges from outlining and structuring to characterization and dialogue — plus all the little details in between. She updates her blog faithfully with topical posts that would pique any writer's (or non-writer's) interest.
9. Insecure Writer's Support Group
Writing is intimidating for everyone , whether you're a multi-published author or you're just starting out. That's why getting support, guidance, and motivation throughout the process is vital! On IWSG, you'll discover a wealth of information on writing, publishing, marketing, and anything else you might need to ultimately overcome your insecurities.
10. Literary Hub
LitHub boasts a superb selection of content for all things literary. Here you can get all the latest book-related news, posts on design and the craft, your daily dose of fiction, and sparkling reviews of new works. One of this site's best features is its section on literature in translation — a great resource for those who want to read books and authors from around the world.
The LitReactor blog consists of writing classes, workshops, and a myriad of posts on writing and books ( some of which are even written by us! ). There’s also an online magazine that includes interviews, criticism and analysis, and seasonally appropriate reads and recommendations.
An unfortunate occupational hazard of with writing is rejection. This is where a site like LitRejections comes into play! It offers personal stories to help discouraged writers persevere through rejection, and maintain hope and motivation as they move forward in their careers.
13. Live Write Thrive
In this website by professional writer and editor C.S. Lakin, you’ll find plenty of nuanced writing anecdotes and tips. Lakin also supplies annotated critiques that can help you prep your book for publication.
Besides serving as the official information hub for NaNoWriMo , this site also lends constant support for those struggling to "win" National Novel Writing Month. Make sure to check out the NaNoWriMo forums, which are chock-full of other people's personal writing tips and strategies to get you through November — and every other month of the year — as a writer.
15. Now Novel
This comprehensive website, founded by author Bridget McNulty , is a go-to for just about every writing-related question you might have. Here you'll also find advice, courses, and even an author dashboard where you can keep track of your own writing progress.
16. Positive Writer
If you often feel uncertain about your creative abilities, this is the site for you. Bryan Hutchinson created Positive Writer to encourage and inspire all those who want to write, no matter how much experience or confidence they have.
ProWritingAid offers a fantastic manuscript editing software that analyzes your writing and creates reports for you to learn from! This tool also includes a thesaurus, grammar checks, style suggestions, and more — you can learn all about it on the ProWritingAid blog, or in our review of the app !
18. She Writes
A well-established writing website with a feminist bent, She Writes is "the largest online community and content site for women writers... all around the world." The site features thoughtful posts and resources to help writers on their journeys, as well as a personal She Writes blog page for every user who signs up.
Here you can find recent articles, workbooks, tutorials, and fascinating discussions on writing. Kristine Kieffer has an extensive archive of posts as well, where you can procure information on just about any topic related to books and writing.
20. The Write Practice
Fulfilling the promise of their name, every single post on this site emphasizes putting theory into practice! There's simply no better way to become a writer than by creating a routine, and that’s exactly what The Write Practice helps facilitate.
21. Writer’s Digest
Writer's Digest is one of the most encyclopedic writing websites out there — after all, the print magazine has been around for almost a century now! Here you’ll find genre and vocation-organized articles, events and competitions, webinars, templates, tutorials, and so much more.
22. Writer Unboxed
Writer Unboxed features articles by authors and industry professionals, focused specifically on the craft and business of fiction writing.
23. The Writing Cooperative
Plain and simple, this is a group of people who want to help each other become better writers. On Writing Cooperative, you will find articles that cover just about every aspect of the writing life. They also have monthly writing challenges to keep you incentivized, and there’s even a space where you can submit your own article to the blog!
This is an absolutely all-inclusive community for writers . It’s open to all levels and provides a creative, supportive environment for all members, as well as portfolios to store and display their writing. Like most writing websites, it also includes a plethora of writing tools , contests, and rewards.
25. Catapult: Don’t Write Alone
Don’t Write Alone is a blog written by the Catapult team dedicated to helping writers grow their skills. As a publisher and magazine founded in 2005, Catapult has seen a lot of works and now they’re spilling all the details. From interviews, to craft essays, to writer lifestyle essays, Catapult covers it all.
26. Kirkus Review’s Writers’ Center
Kirkus Review is known for its prestigious $50,000 dollar annual prize and its bi-monthly issues where they critique hundreds of recently published books. But, did you know they also have a section of their website devoted to helping emerging writers grow their skills and navigate the publishing industry? They’re always up to date on the latest trends — if they aren’t creating new trends themselves.
27. Writers Write
An invaluable resource for creative writers, business writers, or bloggers, Writers Write offers over 1400 articles, courses, and workbooks to help you take your writing practice to the next level. Alongside their educational content, they offer book reviews, trivia on famous authors, and prompts. Sign up for their inspirational newsletters for regular hits of motivation that will keep you writing.
28. The Narrative Arc
Beginning as a home to Andie R. Cranford’s writing journey, The Narrative Arc is now a treasure trove of practical tips and prompts to inspire your creativity. Breakdowns of popular books are particularly handy for the budding author — but whether exploring writing for the first time or tightening the bolts on your Franken-novel, the site's ideas on craft are elegant and inspiring.
Best writing websites in the publishing industry
29. Agent Query
This database allows authors to perform in-depth searches for literary agents . You can narrow your search by genre and keywords, view agents’ full profiles, and see if they are currently accepting queries — all for free!
30. The Creative Penn
Besides being a bestselling author on various topics, Joanna Penn is also a leading voice in self-publishing . On her punnily named site, you’ll find abundant information related to writing, self-publishing, marketing, and everything else you mind need to make a living as a writer.
31. Digital Pubbing
Digital Pubbing provides industry news, interviews with indie authors, and resources for learning all about ebooks and the publishing industry. In accordance with the name, this is the perfect site for any author hoping to absorb some serious digital knowledge.
32. The Independent Publishing Magazine
We know it might seem like we're repeating ourselves, but this website really is all about publishing (both independent and traditional, despite what the name indicates). Whatever info you need about self-publishing, trad pub, or hybrid publishing , you’ll definitely be able to find it here.
33. Publishers Weekly
And if you have a specific question about the publishing world, you’ll most likely find the answer here. This weekly magazine is packed full of news, reviews, announcements, and many other resources on the industry. It has been dubbed as "the Bible of the book business" and with its extensive archive, it’s easy to see why.
34. Publishing Perspectives
Publishing Perspectives is another leading source of publishing info, specializing in industry news and topical articles. Aimed at publishers, agents , and authors alike, it features a variety of posts that cover book fairs, distribution, education, and much more.
35. Query Shark
Not sure where your query letter is up to snuff? Query Shark offers the opportunity to have your query critiqued, and to read detailed query critiques of other authors' letters, so you can get the best possible results for your book. Be warned, though, that this sharp-toothed feedback isn't for the weak of heart.
36. Writer Beware
This amazingly thorough site compiles information on schemes and scams that affect authors , especially those run through email and the Internet. It’s sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, but obviously applies to authors everywhere. If you're a fresh-faced author trying to get published, definitely check it out — it could save you from losing thousands of dollars in an elaborate scam.
37. The Darling Axe
When the industry professionals at The Darling Axe aren’t working on manuscripts, they flock to the internet to share their hot takes on the publishing industry. They also host writing contests throughout the year to build a writing community and give unpublished authors the chance to get feedback from professionals.
Best writing websites for marketing and design
38. David Gaughran
An experienced author of historical adventures, short stories, and popular books for writers , David Gaughran is one of the definitive writing experts out there. His eponymous blog contains plenty of info on marketing and self-publishing, plus workshops to help aspiring authors. And similar to Writer Beware, he's the noble opposition of online publishing scams and scammers — so if you're frustrated by these issues, you'll discover a blissfully sympathetic voice on his blog.
Focused specifically on marketing, Kikolani offers tips and strategies for bloggers who want to grow their presence and attract more readers. Here you’ll find information on brand development , social media, customer retention, and other useful tips that you can put to good use as a blogger. (If you're just getting started, though, we'd recommend this course .)
Dave Chesson is — in his own words — a “digital marketing nut.” His blog has all the information you could ever need about Kindle book publishing , how to write to market, increasing your rankings on Amazon, and lots more practical tips and advice.
Storiad is a marketing platform that helps authors and publishers sell books. Go here for essential information on writing apps , databases, tools, and budgeting to help you run your own publishing campaign from start to finish.
42. Writers & Artists
Part of the distinguished Bloomsbury, Writers & Artists has quite a few articles on writing and the self-publishing process. They also offer editorial services and events on many different topics, like genre-specific writing courses and how to get connected with agents .
43. Your Writer Platform
Naturally, this site is dedicated to building your very own writer platform. There are tons of tips, resources, tools, how-tos, and even individual consulting services to help you build the platform that works best for you and your marketing needs.
Best writing blogs by industry professionals
44. Goins, Writer
Bestselling author Jeff Goins created this blog to share his thoughts on writing and to inspire others to chase their creative dreams. He's especially good at breaking complex topics down into digestible bits — new writers, go here for your primers.
45. Jane Friedman
With copious experience in the publishing industry, Jane Friedman offers online classes and articles on the entire process of book publishing. She's a real goldmine of business knowledge, so keep her in mind for when you're ready to publish your book.
46. Nail Your Novel
As a bestselling former ghostwriter who now publishes under her own name, Roz Morris provides advice about writing, self-publishing, and of course, ghostwriting . If you're interested in becoming a ghostwriter, be sure to check out her courses!
47. Nathan Bransford
Nathan Bransford is a former literary agent who posts all about the inner workings of publishing, as well and information on agents and self-publishing. He also does consultations, edits, and critiques .
48. Rachelle Gardner
Skillful agent Rachelle Gardner has negotiated over 200 contracts with over twenty publishers and helped more than 100 authors fulfill their dreams of publishing. On her blog, she offers writing, publishing, and social media coaching, along with general writing and publishing tips.
49. Kris Writes
For regular insights from a New York Times bestselling author, look no further than Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog. On Mondays, she posts free short stories for authors to find inspiration in, and Wednesdays she posts in her “Business Musings” collection where she breaks down news from the publishing industry and offers her inside opinions.
50. The Marginalian
Maria Popova describes her site as “a record of my own becoming as a person — intellectually, creatively, spiritually, poetically — drawn from my extended marginalia on the search for meaning across literature, science, art, philosophy, and the various other tendrils of human thought and feeling.” She sends out a Sunday newsletter with thoughtful deconstruction of the week’s best liberal arts goings-on to help broaden her readers’ appreciation of the creative world.
51. John August
For all the screenwriters out there, John August co-hosts a weekly podcast with fellow screenwriter Craig Mazin discussing both the craft and business of screenwriting while breaking down popular movies. To help screenwriters really get a feel for the process of working with a studio, John has posted multiple versions of scripts from different stages in the production process on films and series he’s written, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , Big Fish , and Chernobyl .
What are some of your favorite writing websites? Let us know in the comments below!
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The 9 Best Literary Websites For Readers And Writers | Writer’s Relief
by Writer's Relief Staff | Interesting News for Writers | 2 comments
Review Board is now open! Submit your Short Prose, Poetry, and Book today!
Deadline: thursday, october 19th.
If you’re like the book geeks here at Writer’s Relief, you spend your time online searching for the latest literary news to learn more about writing, reading, and even upcoming releases from your favorite authors. In this article on Bustle.com, we found our new favorite websites geared toward writers and readers, including:
To see the complete list and learn more about these websites, click here .
Thanks for the article! I didn’t know a couple of those places so I will make sure to visit them.
I’m so excited to read this one. It’s wonderful!!
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Can You Name These Famous Short Stories Based on Their Descriptions?
By J. D. Biersdorfer Nov. 20, 2023
Welcome to Lit Trivia, the Book Review’s multiple-choice quiz designed to test your knowledge of literature. This week’s installment asks you to identify the titles and authors of memorable short stories and novellas — based on a simple plot description. The answer section reveals a bit more about the work from articles in the Times archive. After the last question, you’ll find links to the novellas or story collections themselves if you’d like to read (or reread) them.
A lawyer with a busy office on Wall Street hires a promising staff member to help copy and proofread legal documents, but the new employee soon begins to reject requested tasks with the same reply: “I would prefer not to.”
“The Duplicity of Hargraves,” by O. Henry
“Arrangement in Black and White,” by Dorothy Parker
“Bartleby, the Scrivener,” by Herman Melville
“A Worn Path,” by Eudora Welty
In 1950s Harlem, an algebra teacher reflects upon his rocky relationship with his brother, a jazz musician who battled drug addiction on the way to recovery.
“The Weary Blues,” by Langston Hughes
“Sonny’s Blues,” by James Baldwin
“Cane,” by Jean Toomer
“Sweat,” by Zora Neale Hurston
A girl listens to her mother’s instructions for living in a very short story that is composed in one continuous sentence of about 650 words.
“Just Different,” by Malika Moustadraf
“A Flawless Silence,” by Yiyun Li
“The Possibility of Evil,” by Shirley Jackson
“Girl,” by Jamaica Kincaid
During World War I, a Chinese agent named Yu Tsun — who is secretly working for imperial Germany and on the run from a British intelligence officer — stumbles into his ancestor’s literary-labyrinth project in which personal choices create different futures in multiple timelines.
“The Garden of Forking Paths,” by Jorge Luis Borges
“Diary of a Madman,” by Lu Xun
“Happy Endings,” by Margaret Atwood
“The Story of an Hour,” by Kate Chopin
A woman — who has recently lost her husband and two sons in a plane crash — narrates the personal experience of the event and her interactions with government social workers in reaction to the tragedy.
“A Temporary Matter,” by Jhumpa Lahiri
“In Shock,” by Joyce Carol Oates
“The Management of Grief,” by Bharati Mukherjee
“Shiloh,” by Bobbie Ann Mason
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Rebecca Yarros drew on her experience with chronic illness and life in a military family to write “Fourth Wing,” a huge best seller that spawned a spicy fantasy series .
Do you want to be a better reader? Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .
Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .
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