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How to write a literature review? What do I begin with?

It seems quite obvious, but still, some people are trying to avoid it for some reason.

The easiest trick to begin the literature review is the question you will be trying to answer. This question of yours at the beginning is a sort of an answer to another question your readers might have: «what is this all about?».

For example, you are writing the research about «The Dollhouse» by Henrik Ibsen and you are wondering about the character of Nora, was she right to leave her husband and children? In this case, your literature review could begin like this: «Ibsen`s undoing «Dollhouse». Was Nora too disappointed and too brave to leave her family and go her own way or was she as silly as Torvald always thought she was?…»

What area are you going to be researching?

At the very beginning, you have to contextualize what field of human knowledge will be the area of your literature review. If we go back to the example from the first paragraph, we can take a look at «The Dollhouse» from the psychological, historical and literary points of view. You may think it is weird to write and ask us “How to write a literature review if I do not make my research in the field of literature?” We do not mean that you can write a psychology paper instead of the literature review, this is surely a bad idea, but what is a good one is to combine two concepts of the different fields of human knowledge. Surely we can not choose all of them as there is a word-limit (around 700 —1000 words).

Yet there is one more thing. The main point of any writing is to be interesting for the readers. If we are discussing here the literature review writing, here is the most important thing — the more unexpected angle you present to your readers, the better your literature review paper will be. Yet it does not mean you have to be too hard on yourself.

Do not choose too many sources.

The literature review is a short report on how you have been wondering about something, decided to find out and what you have found out. This kind of structure does not require using a lot of sources to find out the answer to the question.

The ideal literature review is the summary of what one or two relevant sources and you, the author of the review, think of this particular matter you are writing about.

Even though they say that you can not find the truth in one source, as it at least somewhere between the million of them, you can let this go here. Besides, a rather short word limit allows you to use no more than 2 sources.

How to write literature and no to get your arguments messed up.

Imagine you are the seminar. To score the highest mark, you need to give the full extended answer to one of the seminar`s highlighted questions. In the research, everything is pretty much similar. You should write it the way you would tell about it in the class. Your thoughts should be logical and consistent and not contradict one another.

How should it be finished?

The best way to finish your literature review paper is to prove that you have answered the question you had at the very beginning. There is no better way to do it than to answer this question once more, but just a little shorter. However, a good writer always gives the audience a privilege to make up their own opinion on the matter he was talking about. Just like Ibsen did himself, we all have our scenario for Nora after she left.


As it turns out, there is nothing really scary about writing the literature review paper. They have to be short, logical and consistent, even though your topic might be controversial.