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Literature Review and the Steps Involved

Literature review help

What to do? This is a question that is common among students faced with the task of writing a literature review. Indeed there are misconceptions about just what is required to produce a good literature review.

Some students believe that writing a literature review is a long and complicated process, while others believe it is merely a summary of resources.

Literature review and the six basic steps

  1. Select the research question(s). A research question is an accurately framed question that provides guidance and direction for the literature review.
  2. Decide on the resources to be reviewed. The resources may include a collection of articles, books, reports, government publications and websites that can provide information needed to answer the research questions. 
  3. Choose the search terms. Search terms are the words and phrases that are utilized to find the most suitable articles, books and reports. Search terms are based on the words and concepts that make up the research questions. The framing of the search phrase determines the result of the resources. It is therefore important for students to reframe the search phrase until the most appropriate resources are found.
  4. Apply practical screening criteria. Initial searches usually produce many resources, some of which are relevant while others are irrelevant. Screening the resources is important to ensure that the most relevant resources are used for the literature review. Screening can be done according to the date of publication, the publisher, and subject among others.
  5. Carry out the review. Critically analyze the selected resources. 
  6. Synthesize the results. Logically group the results from the literature review either according to the authors or subtopics covered in the resources.

Students need not suffer from the writer’s block when faced with the task of writing a literature review. Following the above steps will make it easier for students to embark on and complete their literature reviews.

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