The Literature Review: Writing up


The structure of the narrative literature review is important in allowing the reader to follow your train of thought and decide how the review of literature will contribute towards future research.

Remember that a literature review is not simply a list of the items you have read and evaluated, you will need to analyse the information you have identified.

A literature review is like any other paper which you will write at university - an introduction, a main body and a conclusion are required.


Please note, for systematic literature reviews you can find guidelines and published reviews via the Systematic Reviews tab of this guide.

Format of the literature review

In the Introduction

  • define the topic, providing an appropriate context for reviewing the literature
  • establish writer's reasons (point of view) for reviewing the literature
  • explain the organisation of the review (sequence)
  • state what literature is and is not included (scope) 

In the Body

  • group the literature according to common themes
  • provide insight into relationship between central topic and a larger area (i.e. discipline)
  • proceed from the general, wider view of the research under review to the specific problem

 In the Conclusion

  • summarise major contributions of the literature
  • evaluate the current "state of the art" literature reviewed
  • point out any major flaws, or gaps in research
  • outline issues pertinent to future study


The basic idea of the review is to tell your readers:

  • What you are writing about, why it is important and how you found the literature reviewed.
  • In the body, group the articles by common theme and discuss how the papers examine and resolve the issues you are researching.
  • Look at how your research relates to the overall subject area you are researching, i.e. how the specifics of your personal literature review relate to the overall subject area. This is where you can talk about the specific problem you are addressing and analyse the issues.
  • In the conclusion, tell your reader what the literature showed; point out gaps in the research and tell your reader how your review will help future studies.