OMG UPDATE: Question? Answer.

Updated on Tuesday, January 28


QUESTION: I have no idea how to write a literature review. I've only ever written one and now I have to write one for every one of my projects this term. Are there any tips or helpful hints you guys would be willing to share?


  1. Find and then read a lot of literature on the topic. Write a concise summary of each piece in your review paper. You will use fewer piece of literature than you actually read, because not all of them will actually work in your review (unless they were assigned).

    Be sure to tie each reviewed item together to form a coherent narrative for your piece: you don't need to mention every interesting detail, or every conclusions.

    Give yourself lots of time for the reading, and the writing.

    Highlight the paper, or dot jot down notes as you read to help you later.

  2. Google Scholar is your friend. You can search for literature on your topic, and it also shows you how to cite things properly according to whatever one you're following (MLA, APA etc).

    If you can find one really good paper that relates exactly to what you want to talk about, look at the sources they used in their paper for ideas for other papers/research.

    Read each article and summarize it in a paragraph or two. Look for potentially weaknesses or gaps that they highlighted.

    Hopefully you can find a few papers that fill the gaps the other paper didn't. Being critical and highlighting what research on the topic is still missing or should be looked at would be insightful to include.

  3. Use scopus. (if you're in science or psychology. I don't know how great it is for anything else) It encompasses a bunch of other databases so you'll get the most search results there.

  4. Talk to your prof about his/her expectations. You'll learn as you go along. Go to office hours and get feedback.