Literature review writing is the most important section or chapter in research exercise (Noko, 2017). This is important when we consider the fact that literature review provides the researcher with information with regards to what has been done and what is left undone in the concept under investigation. Literature review provides the researcher with scales, insight on the research method. Literature review writing in thesis or dissertation entails making a critical evaluation of books, theories, journals,  scholarly articles, lectures, Seminar presentations, etc. which relates to the topic, problem or scope of the problem under investigation. A literature review surveys the existing works in the field under study to find out the extent of research which has been conducted in the field, the level of impacts those researches have made in the problem area, the gap that exists in the problem area which the researcher intend to close through his current research work.

Meanwhile, learn how write a thesis. t a good thesis should have quality research problem statement which will provide lead to literature review. Also, a good research method is necessary using Saunders research onion is a good start.


  • It brings to the fore the level of the scholarly or academic write-up in the problem area including debates and theories.
  • It brings to the knowledge of the researcher, the previous researches and findings which are relevant to the field.
  • Literature review enables a researcher to provide a solution to contradictions that may have been existing in the problem area or field of research.
  • It reconciles earlier research interpretations with the recent ones in other to give solution to the identified problem under research.
  • It helps the researcher to know his/her position in the field or problem area under research and makes him align his research in the context appropriately.
  • The conclusion of the literature review always contains the gap which exists in research on the problem area which the researcher intends to close through his/her research.


  1. Choosing the research topic. The first thing to do as a researcher is choosing a researchable topic. A research topic should represent a development in research which has a link with a particular research question placed under the synthetic analysis of the researcher. When choosing a research question the student should make sure that:
  • The research topic is not too narrow or too broad. A too broad topic can make the topic un-researchable and a too narrow topic can make the research too myopic and imperfect.
  • Discuss the topic with an academic researcher or your supervisor.
  • Meditate on the expected things in the research question and write them down including the related terms to be used.
  1. Identify and state the scope of the research. The scope contains the things, and areas which should be considered in the research. The topic should not be too broadly such that it involves every area of the discipline under study. It includes the span of years the research should cover. This should not be too narrow (say 1 or 2 years) such that the outcome of the research cannot make any significant impact.
  2. Identify and select the required database for the research. Before engaging in the literature review, the researcher has to identify the websites and libraries where he is going to get the required literature required for his literature review work. Schools, State’s and National libraries could be of help including online databases such as:
    1. Find Databases by Subject.
    2. Find Databases via Research Guides
  3. Search for the related literature and keep them with their sources. To avoid losing track of your literature and their sources, RefWorks can help your keep and track them and as soon as you get any relevant material, write them down and state their sources.
  4. Start the literature review.


A literature review is structured in three parts namely the introduction, the main body, and the conclusion. Below are the parts and what each part should contain in every academic project writing, thesis or dissertation.


This is the first part of the work which provides the topic with the reason for choosing the topic. The introduction showcases how the review work is organized and presented for a comprehensive understanding. The introduction of a literature review brings to the notice of the reader all the inclusions and exclusions of the researcher in the review work with the scope of the research. It spells out the research parameters and shows the need intended to be met through the research exercise or the importance of the research which called the interest of the researcher. Its length should be commensurate with the entire paper unless otherwise stated. For instance, a 15-page paper should have at the most 3-page introduction.

Main body.

The main body of the literature review presents the synthesized summary of previous literature. The main work of the literature review is presented at the main body. Theories and scholarly articles on the research area are looked into critically. The literature which relates to the problem under research is compared and contrasted with the views of the researcher in every case presented under the main body of the work. The main body revolves around the research topic and its scope and presents the literature according to their themes. Critical analyses of the theories are taken in the context of the research topic. The main body contains the major part of the review.


The conclusion is the final stage of the review exercise which contains the summary of the entire review work stating the gap which exists in the problem area. The conclusion provides a summary of all the literature used in the review and presents the identified shortfall of the previous research in the field. Under conclusion, the researcher links his research to the existing literature and recommends to the future researcher the areas they should pay attention in their future research.


  • Are there conflicting submissions in the previous works that related to the topic and what are the possible cause(s) for the conflict(s)?
  • What is the academic value of the authors whose works are been reviewed?
  • What are the previous interpretations given to the works cited by the researcher?
  • What are the variables, the depth of the researches, samples, methodologies, results, and conclusions of the previous researches in the field and the gap which they created?
  • Who are the persons or things that influenced the previous researches conducted, and can their influence affect the outcome of the research?


For research to have a well-organized structure, the researcher should apply a known research strategy. Research work can be organized through one or more of the below-discussed structures.  For instance, research work can have a thematic structure but each of the themes can be organized in a chronological style.


Thematic Structure/ Concepts analysis.

In this type of structure, the review is organized under different subheadings which discuss and address different areas of the research topic. Under thematic structure issues and concepts that relate to the topic are addressed in themes/ subheadings and mostly in sequential order. E.g. If you are reviewing the standard of living of the rural populace, the themes would be; availability of social amenities, level of education, availability of employment opportunities, availability of financial institutions and markets, etc.


Theoretical Structure.

This structure is applied in the discussion or analysis of theoretical frameworks. It is a strategy which can be used to combine different concepts, models, and theories in research work or analyze a particular theory in line with the topic under review.

Chronological Structure.

This structure entails detailing the review in their sequence of occurrence and development over the years. While organizing the literature review in chronological order, key debates that are of great relevance to the topic are critically analyzed. The causes of the possible changes as time progresses should be identified and analyzed with the reasons for the changes stated.

Methodological structure.

This structure organizes the review according to the methodologies used in addressing the issues. This is done when different methods are applied in the research such as quantitative versus qualitative methods and the results of the research are to be used in the conclusion. This strategy divides the literature into different sources such as cultural, historical, sociological sources and analyzes the previous works according to the ways they have been approached previously.


It is worthy of mention that before a researcher should engage in the review of related literature for his/her project, thesis or dissertation, he should identify and state the type of his literature review with his reason for choosing such type. A type of literature review to be chosen should depend on the topic under research and the research method intended to be used by the researcher to give a solution to the identified problem. 

A literature review is of different types but the following are popular in business-related courses:

  • Theoretical literature review: this type of literature review dwell in the analysis and interpretation of many theories, concepts, constructs, and phenomena put forward to bring a solution to the topic under investigation. The researcher through this type of review examines the relationship between preexisting theories and identifies the gap which they did not address and through his current research addresses the identified gap.
  • Systematic literature review: this is the type of review that involves a deep and thorough review of previous works in the area under research through a well-defined research approach. In this type of review, several findings of previous research are taken note of and critically analyzed through a statistical procedure called meta-analysis. To conduct a meta-analysis, the deductive research approach is usually applied.  It also involves the use of the non-statistical method in the analysis. Qualitative findings of previous research are interpreted critically for the purpose of achieving the desired result of the current findings. This is done through inductive research approach. This means that the systematic literature review is all-encompassing and requires a detailed careful and systematic review of the literature.
  • Argumentative literature Review: this type of literature review is done for the purpose of argument. Through this type of review, one gets the scholarly opinions for the purpose of supporting or opposing an augment. The major shortfall of this type of literature review is that it is prone to biased submissions.
  • Integrative literature review. When research does not involve the collection and use of primary data, the option left for the researcher is the integrated literature review. This type of review tries to generate a different new framework through or research view on the topic under investigation through synthesizing and integrating secondary data.
  • Narrative literature Review: this type of review needs substantial research questions targeted at finding the solution to the research problem. Narrative review analyzes, summarizes, and identifies the previous researches under the topic area.

The diagram below shows a summary of the major flows of a literature review. The flow goes thus.

  1. Select the topic to be reviewed
  2. Identify the type of literature review it requires
  3. Write the introduction.
  4. In the main body of the review, identify and structure the literature review based on the best structure requires according to the problem area.
  5. Draws the conclusion.

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