A literature review mainly refers to a critical analysis of public sources, literature or a specific topic. At times, the literature reviews can be a summary of sources. However, the catch is that they tend to have an organizational pattern whereby they seek to combine the summary and a synthesis. The summary functions to provide a recap of the critical information from the source whereas the synthesis is a re-organization of the information based on how the writer has understood it.

They tend to offer an entirely new understanding of some previous content or at times combine both the old and new interpretations. Depending on circumstances, literature reviews, besides evaluating the sources, can also go an extent further and advice the reader on the relevant ideas to look out for.

Read the guidelines below on how to format a literature review.

Excellent Literature Reviews

Usually, an excellent literature review format should be critical of what has been written by pointing out some of the areas that need further research, recognize areas of controversy and raise significant questions. It should not just elaborate other publications in the form of a list of summaries but rather take a discussion form, appreciating the different approaches, arguments, theories and showing insight. The analysis and synthesis of the publications should at all times be linked to rationale and purpose.

An excellent literature review in line with literature analysis should appreciate the following;

  • Bring out clearly how the study relates to earlier works on the same.
  • Check out for gaps in the research
  • Note areas of disagreement
  • Have some methodology critics
  • Group similar conclusions from different authors
  • Try comparing views from different authors
  • Point out how the study relates to the literature in question
  • Contain a comprehensive summary of what the literature says

Where Are Literature Reviews Normally Used?

Literature reviews can be used either in undergraduate or postgraduate levels. At the university level, the student is required to pen down an article review format based on what the student has understood of the literature. For the postgraduate level, review paper format is usually incorporated into a research project, thesis or article. In general, literature reviews are a way of showing your understanding through analysis and synthesis of information to do the following:

  • Identifying controversial evidence
  • Note any gaps in the research
  • Offer brief overviews of the main concept
  • Discover major trends and patterns
  • Determine precisely what has been written on a certain topic

Article Review Format Outline

Just like other essays, a literature review format comes in three main components – Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. What you should keep in mind on how to write a literature review is the fact that they aren’t annotated bibliographies where summaries are listed one by one. The general review paper format structure is dependent on your area of research or thesis.

  1. The Introduction

When writing your introduction, do the following:

  • Define the topic in question and offer appropriate contexts for the review
  • Establish your point of view
  • Give a brief overview of the scope of your literature review

2. The Body

In the introduction, you just mentioned the general view of the literature. In the body, you should now shift your focus and narrow down to specific areas of research done. Provide a relationship between your research and the broader perspective. Then finally organize your literature based on common topics. In the discussion, arrange your points in order of strength.

3. The Conclusion

In this section, the writer should summarize all the essential aspects of the book report and evaluate the current status of the literature. Look out for important gaps in the research and why they are present. Relate your research with the current social status in the world and the sum it up by outlining areas for your future study.

Literature Review Format APA

Before going ahead to tackle the article review format, the writer should be able to understand what is a literature review APA? There are some core elements to look out for in the literature review format APA style. For instance;

  • The running head – This is a shortened title usually covering not more than 50 characters including the spacing. It appears on every page. With the aid of your word-processing program, you can create a header that contains the running head and your paper’s page numbers.
  • Margins – Uniform margins of at least 1inch should be used on the left, right, top and bottom. The header should appear within the top margin and not below it.
  • For your heading levels, use a regular font formatting, bold or italics only for the header, do not have the introduction as your first heading and the number of headings required per paper always varies depending on the subject matter and the paper’s complexity.

The above are some of the literature review format APA guidelines you should review before you begin writing.

Factors to Consider for an Excellent Literature Review

  • Find Focus

Just like doing your end of term paper, writing a literature review normally revolves around ideas and not just the sources only. What this means is that you cannot just put up a list of your sources and go ahead to expound on each one of them. A good writer needs to factor in some of the themes and issues that connect your sources together.

  • Come Up With an Impressive Working Thesis

Once you’ve found your focus, let it help you create a good working thesis statement. The statement usually takes a certain perspective based on the argument of the article.

  • Organization

The topics and subtopics are central in helping you organize your information. The big question is, ‘What order should you consider presenting your information with?’

Other factors to consider:

  • Use evidence always
  • Be selective
  • Quotes should not be misused
  • Keep at your voice
  • Use caution when paraphrasing
  • Summarize and synthesize


Literature reviews writing are often published as books, scholarly articles, and reports. This article on how to format a literature review is here to ensure you publish excellent reviews. Just follow the guidelines, and you’ll be on the right track.

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