Q: How should a literature review be written?
An example could help a lot.
A literature review can be a part of a research paper or it can be a stand-alone paper. If it’s a part of a paper, it comes after the Introduction. In the review, you need to talk about what the relevant literature says about your topic and what gaps you found in the literature that you now seek to explore in your study. Additionally, you may also include some key points from your review in the Introduction itself as a way of setting the context for your research.
For more information on writing the literature review of a paper, you may refer to the following resources:
- How to write the literature review of your research paper
- What a journal editor expects to see in a literature review
A stand-alone literature review (obviously) needs to discuss a lot more literature. For the same reason, you need to consider how to structure it, whether thematically, chronologically, or alphabetically. It stands to reason also that the list of references will be much longer in a stand-alone paper. Also, a stand-alone review can include unpublished literature (also called grey literature), which can sometimes offer as rich insights as a published paper. Finally, a systematic review is another kind of literature review, exploring a specific research question. There are also several types of systematic reviews, such as quantitative review, qualitative review, and meta-analysis.
You may learn more about stand-alone literature reviews through the following resources:
- A young researcher's guide to writing a literature review
- A young researcher's guide to a systematic review
- Secondary research – the basics of narrative reviews, systematic reviews, and meta-analysis
For examples, you may look up open-access (OA) databases such as Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and Hindawi. For now, here are two stand-alone review papers, this one in Hindawi and this one in PubMed. Note that each article has a slightly different style of presenting the literature review, allowing you to see different ways in which the review can be written.
All the best with your review!