Literature Review Structure: Helpful Guide to Keep at Hand

IV. Structuring a Literature Review

After assessing and synthesizing the material gathered from the sources pertinent to your subject, you have to think how to structure a literature review. You need to present your data in a way that will illustrate your stand on the issue and attract readers' attention.

Note that it is of utmost importance to structure your literature review properly. You need to develop your arguments logically, as readers' understanding of the matter depends on it. It is necessary to build a logical connection between the provided pieces of evidence. That is why you are required to determine precisely the facts that will be imparted in the first turn and the succeeding ones. You should follow such a direction until you illustrate the amount of data about your topic that can be considered appropriate for its proper assessment. Remember to express your ideas clearly so that readers can see your viewpoint on the addressed matter. If you categorize the notions you are discussing in your literature review, it will be easier for readers to analyze the presented material.

A literature review can be organized thematically and chronologically.

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Chronological Principle

If you arrange your literature review chronologically, you will need to divide the sources into groups and analyze them according to the publication date. Additionally, you should state what alterations in the respective research area and your topic in particular have been made. It is worth establishing such a literature review structure if you aim to show how the issue has been developing within a certain period of time. For instance, when writing a literature review on a particular disease, you may start analyzing the sources with describing the first methods of medical treatment and end with discussing the latest ones. Such kind of review is called a descriptive one that is characterized by presenting the topic in the order determined by other scholars. Mind that both chronological and descriptive kinds of reviews are often criticized for being based on the organizational criteria established by other academicians and not those of your own.

Thematic Principle

When choosing this organizational mode, it is required to group the sources into the categories according to the subtopics, theories, and other issues which you consider essential for proper understanding of your subject. It is thought that such type of structure is more rigid than the one discussed above, as you identify the groups and concepts that contribute to your study namely. In case you have applied a specific type of synthesis matrix (discussed previously), you will not have any questions about how to organize a literature review by themes. When dealing with such kind of review, you are to state the reasons for which specific data are examined as a unity. You need to begin with exploring general themes and end with the narrow ones.

For example, if you explore such an issue as philanthropy, you may create the chapters giving the definition of philanthropy, presenting the concepts of philanthropy, the advantages of philanthropy, etc. At the end, you may synthesize the material collected from the resources your research is based on. Additionally, you may highlight the unknown aspects of philanthropy which you will explore in your work.

No matter the chosen type of structure, mind to maintain coherence between the sections of your thesis literature review. If your sentences and paragraphs are connected logically, those reading your work will easily understand its every point. They will not need to guess how the presented arguments correlate with each other and what your position on the explored issue is. Owing to smooth transitions, your readers will not need to surmise why you have provided particular quotes. As it seen, transitions play a great role in achieving paper consistency.

When arranging your literature review, keep in mind that your goal is not just to make a summary of the main points of your subject (it has already been done by other scholars). Your piece of writing has to prove that you know how to critically evaluate and analyze the material available on your topic and present it to readers attractively. Remember that readers are interested in the way you see the issue and not other academicians.

In the next section we will explain how to present the concepts and ideas expressed by other scholars.

V. Paraphrasing and Quoting - which One to Apply?

It is very important for the writer to know how to introduce the ideas and opinions of other authors in a literature review. We will help you understand when it is appropriate to make direct quotations and when it is more efficient to reword statements.

It goes without saying that your own ideas, thoughts, and concepts should constitute the biggest part of your literature review. Your work has to be focused on your view about the discussed matter. However, it is also required to present the position of other authors on the issue. That is why it is essential to know when to quote or paraphrase ideas. Being aware of this matter, you will show readers that you know:

  • how to pick the quotations that are the most suitable for your topic;

  • scrutinize the data in terms of your arguments;

  • incorporate appropriate quotations into your literature review;

  • concentrate on the way the quotations are written in.

Paraphrase or Quote?

You should paraphrase literary definition or idea if you intend to

  • stress the very idea and not the means it is expressed through;

  • present the core statement of the source.

Make quotations if you

  • see that the author presents their ideas in an unusual manner;

  • think that author's words will communicate the meaning of some notions more precisely.

For instance, when producing dissertations literature reviews, you will take quotations right from the source to prove your theories.

In summary, make paraphrasing if you desire to covey the meaning of a specific concept. Make quotations if you want to accent the way the idea is expressed in.

Good advice on how to paraphrase texts:

  1. Read the required piece a few times to fully comprehend it. In case you do not get its main idea, there is no need to refer to this piece in your work.

  2. Imagine that you are retelling the excerpt to your friend who is not knowledgeable about the subject. Thus, it will be easier for you to define paraphrase in literature you need to make.

  3. Reword the passage by outlining the points that will help you form your opinion.

  4. Compare your paraphrase with the original text to ensure you have conveyed the meaning of the author's idea accurately.

  5. Provide direct quotations from the text throughout your paraphrase if it is vital to express the matter in the source language. Remember to cite the sources even after rephrasing information.

Useful Hints on Making Quotations

First, make certain it is worth quoting the material you are dealing with. Second, quote the information that is pertinent to your topic.

Your task is to help readers understand what your paper is aimed at. That is why you need to integrate the picked quotations into your review properly. By reading your piece of writing that includes certain quotations, readers should define their role in your text at once.

If you need more information on how to format quotes, feel free to access

Last, not matter whether you quote or rephrase material, it has to be presented well so that readers do not have any questions about the subject.

How to Combine Your Ideas with Those Expressed by Other Authors

When quoting or paraphrasing facts, mind the following:

  • Connect your quotation or paraphrase with the author and refer to his/her work;

  • A quotation or paraphrase should be followed by a clear explanation so that readers understand why you have presented it. Avoid ending paragraphs with author's ideas. Remember that readers expect to see your viewpoint on the subject.

Bear in mind that your duty is to make your paper easy to follow. Therefore, do not forget to state what role author's ideas play in developing your argument.

Now you know how to write a literature review for a dissertation by using quotations and paraphrasing ideas with the aim of upholding your opinion.

It is worth reminding that it is of crucial importance to make proper citations whether you quote or rephrase material. Note that the way your citations are made may influence your grade. Therefore, strive to organize everything correctly.

The next aspect we are going to discuss is the way the sources should be cited in and why it is essential to meet the laid down specifications.

VI. Why Is It Important to Cite Your Sources according to the Established Rules?

Everyone who needs to write a literature review should realize the importance of citing sources appropriately. It is essential to know what style to apply to make correct citations. You need to closely follow the directions given by your professor in order to create a paper up to standard.

The citations you provide within your text will help you make it reasonable and credible. You need to make sure that the sources you are referring to are authoritative and relevant to your subject. Even if you come across the authors whose ideas are opposing to yours, mention them in your paper as well.

Always remember that the way your citations are organized matter a lot. You do not want to get your paper back just because you have formatted your citations improperly, do you? That is why you need to be fully aware of the rules applied to arranging citations.

Instructions on Citing Academic Sources

When working on your literature review, remember to acknowledge the authors of the sources you are referring to. By making proper citations, you will not only give credit to the resources you are using but also help readers find the required material quickly, if needed.

Tips on how to Select a Suitable Citation Style

A citation style is the set of rules and guidelines used for citing sources. Papers written in different subjects require using different citation styles. Thus, it is essential to know what specific style you are to apply to formatting sources in your literature review.

In order to choose a proper citation style, you need to know what type of studies your discipline belongs to, i.e. humanities or sciences. If you are creating a work in humanities, you will need to use the MLA style. In case you are producing a paper in social sciences, you will be required to use the APA style.

The mentioned styles differ from each other. Take a look at the examples given below to know how to cite sources in each of the styles:


Amanda, Victoria T., Jason B. Martin, and Kenneth Silver. "Leadership as an essential skill for students." Journal of Formal Education 25 (2015): 25-56. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.


Amanda, V. T., Martin, J. B., & Silver, K. (2015). Leadership as an essential skill for students. Journal of Formal Education, 25, 25-56. doi:11.1207/07534248352096479

When formatting citations, you have to pay close attention to such details as punctuation, use of italics, capitalization, etc.

In order to organize citations correctly and make proper references, you should use the latest edition of the manual on the specific style. In addition, you can find a large number of useful guides on the Internet.

Now, when you are aware of all fundamental rules for synthesizing material, quoting, paraphrasing, and citing sources, you may begin creating your literature review. You should consider your review as a way of confirming the validity of your study. When preparing it, you should concentrate on assessing the research projects of other scholars rather than on outlining their chief points. Use the most effective methods for analyzing data and choose the most suitable structure for your review. Rephrase the statements made by other scholars and provide quotations where necessary. By taking the described steps, you will manage to create a solid work.

A literature review is as important as any other chapter of your dissertation project. A literature review demonstrates how the research is done, what its objective is, and how the problems are discussed. It provides a glimpse of how efficiently you have done the entire project. A literature review could be very decisive since it heavily influences the thinking of the reader. Unlike an itemized list of contents, a dissertation literature review requires a specific description of the entire dissertation. It also requires good skills, diligent work and solid understanding of the essence of the paper. Moreover, whatever you say in the literature review should have a scientific proof and must be supported by facts.

When it comes to dissertation literature review writing, many students find such tasks as cross referencing, indexing, etc., very confusing and tiresome. At this point, instead of wondering about what to do and how to do, why not seek professional help? It would make your life easy, relieve your tension and pave the way to success.

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