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Literature Review Guide: Examples of Literature Reviews

All good quality journal articles will include a small Literature Review after the Introduction paragraph.  It may not be called a Literature Review but gives you an idea of how one is created in miniature.

Sample Literature Reviews as part of a articles or Theses

Links to sample Literature Reviews from other libraries

Standalone Literature Reviews

Irish Theses

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How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes .

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, frequently asked questions, introduction.

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

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examples of thesis literature reviews

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Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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examples of thesis literature reviews

Literature Reviews

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Literature Review: Conducting & Writing

What is a literature review, what is a literature review: a tutorial, literature reviews: an overview for graduate students.

A Literature Review Is Not:

So, what is it then?

A literature review is an integrated analysis-- not just a summary-- of scholarly writings that are related directly to your research question.  That is, it represents the literature that provides background information on your topic and shows a correspondence between those writings and your research question.

A literature review may be a stand alone work or the introduction to a larger research paper, depending on the assignment.  Rely heavily on the guidelines your instructor has given you.

Why is it important?

A literature review is important because it:

Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students (by North Caroline State University Libraries)

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examples of thesis literature reviews

What is a Literature Review?

A Literature Review Is Not:

So, what is it then?

A literature review is an integrated analysis-- not just a summary-- of scholarly writings that are related directly to your research question.  That is, it represents the literature that provides background information on your topic and shows a correspondence between those writings and your research question.

A literature review may be a stand alone work or the introduction to a larger research paper, depending on the assignment.  Rely heavily on the guidelines your instructor has given you.

Why is it important?

A literature review is important because it:

ACAP LIBRARY

ACAP Library Pathfinder: Literature Review

Examples of Literature Reviews

examples of thesis literature reviews

Types of Literature Reviews

Student Examples

There isn't one ideal type of literature review and you may need to employ a range of methods and provide reasons for your choices depending on the research area, problem and methodology. Aveyard (2014) describes a number of ways to approach writing a literature review. Most importantly though, take a close look at your assessment task, the associated marking criteria and access the support material on the first page of this guide. These will guide you towards an application of the fundamental characteristics required in the review.  

Below are some examples of literature reviews written by ACAP students . Use these to gain an understanding of the generic structure and language used when writing your own literature reviews.  

Evidence-Based Practice & Systematic Reviews

As a result of a vast increase in the availability of information, practitioners have an increasing responsibility to provide services based on best practice that has been informed by evidence-based research. Practitioners then, use evidence-based practice (EBP) to make decisions about the care of clients (techniques, strategies, interventions, treatments and so on) based on the most up-to-date and judicious use of systematically researched evidence.

Given the vast amount of information available and the varying quality of research conducted in and around EBP, the need for systematic reviews has emerged in order to provide a way to collect, analyse and draw conclusions, particularly about a field where the research may indicate inconsistencies or contradictory findings.

While you cannot use systematic reviews as a part of the research for your literature reviews, they are extremely valuable sources of information and an essential guide to best practice for professionals. While researching for your literature reviews, use EBPs and systematic reviews to gain an understanding of the issues in and around your topic and employ the citation chaining process to extract research that is usable in your assessment tasks. The tabs below will connect you to some examples of both.

examples of thesis literature reviews

examples of thesis literature reviews

This example shows how a literature review from a PhD thesis can be analysed for its structure, purpose and content.

Three sections of the thesis are analysed to show the:

Access the thesis

Co-witnesses and the effects of discussion on eyewitness memory by Helen M Paterson

Overview of thesis (introduction)

This introductory section is less than two pages long.

The first paragraph:

The other paragraphs describe the content and purpose of each section of the thesis.

Literature review

The literature review is made of up of two chapters.

Chapter 1: Literature review of relevant research

The overall goals of this chapter are to firstly establish the significance of the general field of study, and then identify a place where a new contribution could be made.

The bulk of the chapter critically evaluates the methodologies used in this field to identify the appropriate approach for investigating the research questions.

Chapter 2: Theoretical explanations of memory conformity

Chapter 5, study 3: co-witness contamination.

This chapter has the following structure:

The introduction introduces the particular study to be reported on, and includes a three-and-a-half page literature review.

The literature review in this chapter:

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