How to Write a College Literature Review

By  //  October 28, 2019

When you are at college, it is likely that you will be asked to write many literature review essays. They are an absolutely vital component of your education.

When you are at college, it is likely that you will be asked to write many literature review essays. They are an absolutely vital component of your education.

It is also a great way to give yourself an overview of the subject matter. However, what you must remember is that a literature review is not like a normal type of essay.

There is a lot that needs to be done to get it right. On this page, we are going to give you an overview of how to write a college literature review. Don’t worry. It is easy to write one then you may think!

Understand what a literature review is

You can’t write a literature review unless you know the purpose of a literature review. Most people seem to have the false idea that a literature review is like an essay. It isn’t. A literature review will go into depth on a specific topic, but literally looking at the current, most relevant literature.

There are a variety of ways in which you can produce a literature review. In some cases, it may be part of a dissertation where you talk about how the paper you are writing fits into the literature already produced, and how it differs. On this page, we are mostly going to focus on the idea of writing a standalone paper.

Know the scope of your literature review

You need to start by knowing what your literature review covers. These reviews only work when they are exceedingly narrow in scope. If they are too wide, then your literature review will be unfocused.

If you don’t understand what you are meant to be writing about in your review, then talk to the person that gave you the task. They may be able to provide a bit more information.

Collect your sources

Once you have an idea, it is time to collect sources related to the subject matter. You should try and start with the big studies and expand your research from there. However, do bear in mind that if you tap into the smaller studies, you will need to check their credibility.

You should never put literature into your review which comes from a less-than-credible source. It will only cause issues, and the rest of your work can be disregarded.

Every source you collect needs to be related strongly to your topic. As you are researching, you will want to start writing little bits and pieces that you can incorporate into your literature review.

Obviously, make a note of all sources that you use. Some of them may not be that trivial, like best essay writing service reviews.

Start developing connections between literature

Once the research is done, you can look at the sources you have collected and start to look at links between them. There may be some studies that do not contribute anything extra. Eliminate them. You should be focusing on the main studies and any that add a bit more ‘color’ to your writing.

You will especially wish to focus on any studies which furthered the field you are writing about, or any which have a contrary opinion to the mainstream one.

Choosing the style of review

There are several different routes you can go down here, and the general structure is up to you. Here are some suggestions on the way you can style your literature review:

Cover chronological developments in your field of study. Thematic is where you will split your literature review up into more specific areas of study and write about them there.

The thematic approach is often the best because it means you won’t be tied to simply listing chronological concepts. You can tie concepts together, even if they occurred many years apart.

Writing your review

When it comes to writing your literature review, things will be a bit easier as long as you have collected quality sources beforehand. 

You start by writing the main body of the text. This is where you will be writing about your sources.

As you go through each point, remember to cover the following in this order:

The main points of the source you are using your interpretation and analysis of this information. Link the main source to smaller studies that either confirm or go against the main source.

You should produce the introduction and conclusion last. The introduction is the most important, as this will introduce the reader to the type of information that will be covered in the literature review.


Once you are done with the writing process, leave your review to sit for a couple of days. This will allow you to go back and tackle it with a fresh pair of eyes.

You will be able to see any issues that you have. Don’t forget to be ruthless with editing. Move points around. Cut out points that don’t really make any sense. If you can do that, then you will end up with a far better literature review.

If you follow the information on this page, then we promise you that you have almost all the tools required to write a literature review. It really isn’t that hard if you know what you are doing, and you make sure you do your research.