A Comprehensive Guide on How to Organise the Literature Review

A Comprehensive Guide on How to Organise the Literature Review


Literature reviews are an essential part of research papers, synthesizing and organizing relevant information to gain a better understanding of the chosen topic. Whether you’re a student in school or an academic researcher, knowing how to effectively organize your literature review is crucial in producing a well-written and valid piece of work.

One of the most common ways to structure a literature review is by using the RRS (Related, Relevant, Specific) system proposed by Wilson and Wilson. This system helps you organize the papers you’ve found while researching and categorize them according to their relevance and importance to your research question.

Next, move on to the body of your literature review, where you’ll group the papers into related themes or topics. This could be based on different theories, methodologies, or any other relevant factors. Make sure to use clear headings and subheadings to guide your readers and improve the overall readability of your review.

To further enhance the structure of your literature review, you can also consider using a worksheet or a systematic approach, such as the APA style. These tools help you organize and sort the information you’ve gathered, making it easier to identify key findings, differences between studies, and gaps in the existing research.

While organizing your literature review, don’t forget to include quotes or citations from the papers you’ve studied. These references not only support your arguments but also add credibility and accuracy to your review. Be sure to properly cite and format your references according to the chosen citation style, such as APA or MLA.

As you write your literature review, pay attention to the length and flow of your paragraphs. Aim for a good balance between introducing new ideas and explaining them in detail. Avoid a monotone writing style by varying sentence structures and using strong and impactful language where appropriate.

Understanding the Importance of Literature Review in Academic Research

Why is a Literature Review Important in Academic Research?

A literature review is an essential part of any academic research for several reasons:

  1. Validity and Accuracy: Conducting a literature review ensures that the research being conducted is valid and accurate. By reviewing existing literature, researchers can validate their research questions and hypotheses while avoiding duplication of relevant studies that have already been done.
  2. Understanding the Existing Knowledge: A literature review helps researchers gain an understanding of the existing knowledge and current state of research in a particular field or topic. This understanding is crucial for identifying research gaps and proposing new ideas that can contribute to the advancement of knowledge.
  3. Identifying the Theoretical Framework: Literature reviews enable researchers to identify and understand the theoretical and conceptual foundations upon which their own research is built. This helps in providing a solid theoretical grounding and justification for the research, making it more reliable and credible.
  4. Guide for the Research: A literature review acts as a guide for research design and methodology. It helps researchers identify the most appropriate research methods, tools, and techniques that have been utilized in previous studies. This ensures that the research is well-informed and follows established best practices.
  5. Outlining the Structure: By analyzing and synthesizing different literature sources, researchers can gain insights into the structure and organization of their own research. A well-structured literature review helps in organizing and presenting their findings in a coherent and logical manner.
  6. Improving the Researcher’s Voice: A literature review allows researchers to review and analyze different writing styles and approaches. It helps researchers develop their own voice and style of writing while avoiding monotone or repetitive writing.
  7. Explaining the Research’s Significance: By critically analyzing and summarizing relevant literature, researchers can explain the significance and potential impact of their research. This is important for justifying the research’s relevance within the academic community.
  8. Getting Assistance and Tips: Literature reviews provide researchers with valuable tips and guidance for conducting research, writing research papers, and following specific academic standards, such as APA formatting. It also helps in answering frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding literature review writing.
  9. Discovering Different Perspectives: A literature review exposes researchers to different perspectives, opinions, and debates within their research field. This exposure can help researchers broaden their understanding and consider multiple viewpoints when formulating their own research questions and hypotheses.
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Step-by-Step Guide: How to Organise the Literature Review?

Step 1: Determine the Purpose and Scope

  • Define the specific research question or topic that the literature review will address.
  • Identify the main objectives and goals of the literature review.
  • Determine the scope and limitations of the review, such as the time period, geographical area, or specific disciplines.

Step 2: Conduct a Systematic Search for Literature

  • Research different sources to find relevant literature, including academic databases, online journals, books, and conference proceedings.
  • Use keywords and search terms related to your topic to narrow down the search results.
  • Create a comprehensive list of references or citations to include in your literature review.

Step 3: Read and Analyse the Literature

  • Read the selected literature thoroughly to gain a deep understanding of the topic.
  • Take notes and highlight the key findings, arguments, and theories.
  • Identify the main themes and patterns emerging from the literature.
  • Create an annotated bibliography or summary of each source for easy referencing.

Step 4: Organise the Literature Review

  • Group the literature based on different themes, theories, or methodologies.
  • Create a logical structure for the literature review, such as a chronological, thematic, or theoretical approach.
  • Move from general to specific, providing a comprehensive overview of the existing literature.
  • Use headings and subheadings to organise the main ideas and sections of the literature review.

Step 5: Write and Revise the Literature Review

  • Start writing the literature review using a clear and concise writing style.
  • Critically analyse and evaluate the literature, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses.
  • Provide evidence and examples to support your arguments and claims.
  • Include relevant quotes, data, and statistics from the literature.
  • Ensure accuracy and validity of the information by cross-referencing multiple sources.
  • Revise and edit the literature review to improve clarity, structure, and coherence.

Step 6: Visualisation and Finalisation

  • Consider using visualisation techniques, such as tables, charts, or diagrams, to present complex information.
  • Include recommendations and suggestions for future research in the field.
  • Cross-check your references and ensure they are correctly cited using a consistent style.
  • Proofread the literature review for any grammatical or spelling errors.

By following these steps, you can organise your literature review effectively and provide valuable insights to your research study. Remember to consult with your academic advisor or mentor for further assistance and guidance.

Tips for Writing a Strong and Effective Literature Review

1. Define the Purpose and Scope

Before you begin your literature review, it is important to clearly define the purpose and scope of your review. Are you looking to gain a theoretical understanding of the topic or are you aiming to provide a synthesis of existing research findings? Knowing the purpose will help you structure your review in a systematic and organized manner.

2. Research and Gather Relevant Literature

Start by researching and gathering relevant literature on your topic. Use academic databases, libraries, and online resources to find scholarly papers and articles that are well-known within your field of study. Make sure to also include recent publications to ensure your literature review is up-to-date.

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3. Use a Worksheet to Organize and Sort Information

To keep track of the literature you have found, use a worksheet or a spreadsheet to organize and sort the information. Include important details such as authors, publication dates, key findings, and any quotes or examples that you find relevant to your research.

4. Follow a Consistent Structure and Style

When writing your literature review, it is important to follow a consistent structure and style. Use the APA style guide or any other academic writing style that is commonly used in your field. This will ensure that your review is well-organized and easy to follow for readers.

5. Highlight the Differences and Similarities

As you review the literature, make sure to highlight the differences and similarities between the studies you have reviewed. Identify any gaps or inconsistencies in the existing literature and discuss how your research aims to fill those gaps.

6. Provide a Critical Analysis

In addition to summarizing the main points of the reviewed literature, it is also important to provide a critical analysis of the literature. Evaluate the validity and accuracy of the studies you have reviewed and discuss any limitations or biases that may affect the findings.

7. Use a Clear and Concise Writing Style

When writing your literature review, make sure to use a clear and concise writing style. Use appropriate transitions between paragraphs and sections to ensure a smooth flow of ideas. Avoid using long quotes and instead paraphrase the relevant information in your own words.

8. Find your own Voice

While it is important to review and summarize the work of others, it is equally important to find your own voice within the literature review. Add your own thoughts and insights to the discussion and make sure to relate the findings of the reviewed studies to your own research objectives.

9. Do not Ignore Contradictory Findings

10. Edit and Revise

Finally, after completing your literature review, make sure to edit and revise your work. Check for any grammatical or spelling errors, and ensure that your arguments are clear and well-supported by the literature. A well-edited literature review will enhance the overall quality and credibility of your research study.

By following these tips, you will be able to write a strong and effective literature review that adds value to your research study and contributes to the existing body of knowledge within your field.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Literature Review

1. Ignoring the purpose of the literature review

One common mistake is failing to understand the purpose of the literature review. It is not simply a summary of existing studies but rather a critical analysis and synthesis of the relevant literature. Understand the objectives and scope of your literature review to make it more effective.

2. Failing to organize the review

A disorganized literature review can make it difficult for readers to navigate through your work and understand your arguments. Create a clear structure and outline for your review, grouping related papers and organizing them within different sections or themes.

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3. Focusing only on the most well-known studies

While it is important to include seminal and well-known studies in your review, don’t neglect the less popular or recent research. Be comprehensive in your search and include a variety of sources, ensuring that your review is up-to-date and reflects the current state of knowledge in the field.

4. Not synthesizing the findings

A literature review should go beyond a mere summary of studies. It should critically analyze and synthesize the findings to identify patterns, themes, and gaps in the existing literature. This synthesis helps readers understand the current knowledge and how your research fits into the larger academic conversation.

5. Poor referencing and citation accuracy

Accurate referencing is essential for giving credit to the original authors and ensuring the validity of your literature review. Follow the APA or a specific referencing style consistently throughout your review, paying attention to the format and details of the citations.

6. Lack of originality in writing style

A literature review should be written in an academic tone, but that doesn’t mean it should be dry and monotonous. Avoid simply summarizing each paper and instead, provide a critical analysis and your own voice in interpreting the literature. Use examples and vivid language to make your review engaging and informative.

7. Not seeking advice or assistance

Writing a literature review can be challenging, especially for students or those new to research. Don’t hesitate to seek advice or assistance from your supervisor, peers, or academic support services. They can provide valuable guidance on how to improve your review and avoid common mistakes.


What is the purpose of a literature review?

The purpose of a literature review is to summarize and evaluate the existing research on a particular topic, in order to provide a comprehensive overview and analyze the gaps in the current knowledge.

What is the difference between a RRL and a RRS?

A RRL (Related Literature Review) is a section in a research paper that discusses and analyzes the previously published literature that is directly related to the research topic. On the other hand, a RRS (Related Research Studies) is a section that focuses on the actual studies that have been conducted on the topic, including the methods, findings, and conclusions.

How should I organize my literature review?

There are several ways to organize a literature review, but a common approach is to divide it into sections based on the main themes or topics that emerge from the studies. You can also organize it chronologically, by grouping the studies based on the time they were conducted or the order in which they were published.

What are some tips for writing a literature review?

When writing a literature review, it is important to clearly define your research question and objectives, and to identify the key concepts and search terms that will guide your search for relevant studies. It is also important to critically evaluate the quality of the studies you include, and to synthesize and analyze the findings in a clear and coherent manner.

How can a literature review contribute to my research?

A literature review can provide a theoretical framework for your research, by highlighting the current state of knowledge on the topic and identifying the gaps in the literature that your research aims to address. It can also help you refine your research question and methodology, by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of previous studies and suggesting ways to build on their findings.

What is the difference between RRL and RRS in the context of a literature review?

RRL stands for “Review of Related Literature” and refers to the section in a research paper where the author examines and summarizes previous studies and research related to the topic at hand. RRS, on the other hand, stands for “Review of Related Studies” and is a similar section where the author discusses and analyzes previous studies and research that are directly related to their own research question or hypothesis.

Are RRL and RRS considered to be the same thing in a literature review?

No, RRL and RRS are not considered to be the same thing in a literature review. RRL focuses on the broader background and contextual information related to the research topic, while RRS specifically looks at and analyzes previous studies and research that are directly relevant to the research question or hypothesis being investigated in the current study.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.