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A Complete Guide on How to Write a Literature Review Outline

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Having difficulty in framing an impressive literature review outline? Here you can find a definite way to draft the outline and the elements associated with a literature review paper. Make certain that your paper offers a deep and appealing insight of the literature you have chosen for your work. Unless you create a solid literature review template, it may not grab the eyes of your readers.

A literature review is more of an explanation than a summary!

Literature review is a critical analysis of an authorized and accredited body of knowledge through classifications, summary, evidences, justifications and comparison of prior research studies. While writing, you must not confuse your review paper with an annotated bibliography.

Being a writer, your purpose is to realize the readers that this chapter is informative and targeted but, it still has the scope to answer “Why”, “When”, “What” and “How”. More than just sequence of names, your literature review outline must have solid substances as well.

Before understanding the rudimentary facts about outline template, learn the two major aspects either of which can be followed while designing a literature review outline.

Aspects of a literature review paper

Depending on the university guidelines, you have to choose either of the below mentioned aspects for your review paper. If you follow any of the sample literature essay review, you can observe a clear distinction between the two aspects. No matter which of the two you pick, make certain you justify the original creator’s work in a true sense.

See what the scopes are!

  • An effective summary and synthesis of specific documents on a particular research topic
  • A critical synthesis of prior research studies that logically leads to the queries that you wish to explore in your review paper

A literature review is much like a conversation grounded with academic theory, arguments and reasoning. In order to draft the most incredible literature review outline, you need to comprehend the ways to conduct the conversation. 

How to conduct the conversation?

Conversations in a literature review paper are a three-tier process with each tier having its own trait. Here are the significant stages of the conversation –

  • Intellectual (logos): In this phase, you have to project the location of your question, the problems associated with its wider academic and the other professional contexts relatable with the piece of writing. Apart from this, you also need to enlighten on the status of your study within the discipline, its significance, purpose, meaning and relevance.
  • Social (ethos): Here you need to establish your right to speak with proper arguments and illustrations. You also have to make people realize why they should read your work till the end.
  • Rhetorical: This section is more generic than the other two. Here you have to present your ideas for a specific pattern that information should follow in order to make the content coherent.

A literature review outline entails multiple stages that are concurrent with each other. You have to interlink the stages with a transition phase maintaining their significance.

Stages of literature review outline

A successful literature review outline stands on brainstorming ideas, a collection of relevant data, a solid research and proficient writing. In the subsequent part, you can find an illustration of each phase –

  • Procure innovative ideas to present a literature review:

Unique and captivating stream of thoughts is the spine of a successful literature review paper. You have to present key literatures relatable with your field of research written by accredited authors.

The foremost responsibility is to choose the literature from online databases like Google Scholar, Learning Resource Library Guides, UMD Library and other noteworthy online libraries. You may also seek help from electronic databases (eg. KeyNote).

Besides these search engine results, you may also refer to the bibliographies mentioned in your module handbooks. Course books cover a list of reference textbooks, articles and so on, from where you may get solid sear results.

If you reach a dead loop or get stuck at some point, you must consult with your research guides or professors. Never let internet be your primary source of information.

  • Narrow down your considerations:

In the best literature review outline examples, you can observe a focused writing. After so much of reading, you have to refine your choices. From the general topics, the initial task is to figure out the set of information that you wish to analyze.

Once you are done with the selection, you have to fathom the appropriate information that you can use directly or indirectly. Now, extract all the relevant data from those sources so that later, you can use those facts and figures as evidence.

Literature review paper is not about how much you have read it is more about how much research you have done. You must maintain extreme clarity in your writing.

  • Note taking is crucial to present a perfect literature review:

As you proceed with your research, take note of the crucial points that you need mentions. Do not just highlight a sentence or some specific words, there are several processes of note-taking mentioned below.

  • Summarize any portion that seems relevant
  • Quote from prior researches
  • Paraphrase previous studies in this field
  • List the critical questions that come to your mind
  • Note down any comment that strikes your brain at that moment
  • Keep details of the authors, books, publishers or titles of any other articles, essays and so on

You can paraphrase from the literature that you are going to review and you can also quote other author’s previous comments on that piece of writing.

  • Assess and order your research:

Most of the students and novice writers reach a phase where they have an enormous amount of information but they have no idea about what to do with them. This is the stage where they remain confused about whether or not that much data is sufficient.

The only solution is to assess the data whether they are relevant and concern with your future proceedings. Sort the ones you need and prioritize them to define their order.

One of the vital responsibilities is to identify which of the author’s ideas complement each other and which are the thoughts that disagree.

  • Choose an approach and plan your writing:

Approaches to planning your literature review are multiple but, you need to choose amongst the rest. Depending on your topic and research filed, you have to choose an effective approach that may help you to compose the best literature review.

Mentioned below are the distinct aspects of essay writing a literature review paper.

  • Chronologically
  • Thematically
  • By ‘different schools of thought’

No matter which approach you choose, you must keep a significant relevance between each paragraph. You need to make use of smooth transition sentences in order to keep the flow of writing intact and relatable.

  • Write and re-write unless you feel satisfied:

One of the most laborious stage of literature review writing. Make sure there is no repetition of data in your writing and all the contents are original and apt. While drafting the first copy, you must maintain little or no mistakes so that you don’t have to waste extra hours in proofreading the document.

Focus on the following factors while writing your draft –

  • Avoid global statements even if the problem area is of the broader aspect
  • Identify the importance of reviewing the topic
  • Precisely comment on the timeliness of the topic
  • While citing a landmark or classic study, consider it as such
  • Justify your comments like – “no studies were found”
  • Avoid non-specific referencing
  • If the previous research analysis are inconsistent, cite them separately
  • Provide an overview if your review is long

You need to have utmost language proficiency and in-depth knowledge about the topic in order to ensure high-quality standard. Prior to writing, you must study multiple examples of a literature review paper to gain a profound idea about the exact style of writing.

  • Edit and proofread to assure 100% accuracy:

As you complete drafting the literature review paper, the foremost task is to proofread the copy. You must assure there is absolutely no mistake during submission. While revising the review paper, concentrate on the grammar issues, spelling mistakes, and erroneous wordiness. You must also check for punctuation splices so that the meaning remains intact.

Manual editing is a great way of identifying the mistakes. As you read aloud, you can hear wherever you have written wrongly.

By far, you must have understood the stages a writer has to walk through in order to outline a literature review paper. In the subsequent portion of this blog, you can find the significant elements of a review paper and what are the substances to be entailed in those categories.

Elements to be included in a literature review

In a literature review paper, you have to be very careful so that you do not sound harsh towards any author. Each of your justifications must be authentic and you should present them in a decent way.

Here are the categories and subcategories to mentioned in the review paper –

  • Introduction: This is almost like an overview of the context. Here you need to highlight the following points –
  • Mention about the range of the topic
  • Introduce the name of the author and book
  • Give a brief idea about the theme
  • Orientate the reader with the literature
  • Portray your research in a few sentences
  • Depict the need for this review 
  • Main body part: The most important section of the literature review paper has two distinct sub-categories. Both of them have their own significance and distinct writing approach. 
  1. Critique the piece of work: In this section, a writer needs to discuss the content of the book and arguments depicted by the creator. In the subsequent paragraphs, you have to put forth the negative and positive aspects of the book. If you have liked the work, better to start with the negatives and course into the positive points otherwise, vice-versa. 
  2. Develop your own argument: Here you need to voice your own arguments and their specific explanations. Remember to b strict and precise in your point of view in order to convince the readers. Make sure your illustrations justify your arguments in a true sense. 
  • Conclusion: In the concluding paragraphs, you have to keep relevance with the topic as well as an interconnection with the previous paragraphs. End with a logical statement that sums up your idea more or less. You can also include bits of researches in your concluding section so that readers can relate to the rest of the review paper. 

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Alice Anderson

Hi, I am Alice Anderson, a full-time academic writer at ABC and an essay writing expert at My struggles as a non-native English speaking student taught me the most effective ways to deal with English essays and assignments in the most fruitful ways. Now, as a full-time academic writer, specializing in English essay writing, I help non-native students tackle their English essays like a pro. I am an active blogger who likes sharing his learning and experiences with everyone. I like to spend my free time with my furry friend "Balto". Yes, you guessed that right! I am a die-hard dog-lover!

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