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Literature Review: Conducting & Writing

  • Sample Literature Reviews
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  • Finding "The Literature"
  • Organizing/Writing
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Literature Review

  • Steps for Conducting a Lit Review
  • Finding "The Literature"
  • Organizing/Writing
  • Sample Literature Reviews
  • FAMU Writing Center

Sample Lit Reviews from Communication Arts

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  • Literature Review Sample 2
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  • Organizing Your Literature Review
  • Sample Papers & Other APA Resources

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Commonly referred to as a “Lit Review”, a literature review is a critical, analytical summary and synthesis of the current knowledge of a topic.

  • Have a particular focus or theme to organize the review.
  • Discuss the significant academic literature important for that focus.
  • Compare, relate, and contrast different theories and findings.
  • Reflect trends over time.
  • Be written in a legible academic style, leading logically from idea to idea.
  • Remember to use parenthetical references in the text, for example: ...describe recent trends in supervision (Diaz, 2006; Stacey & Holmes, 2004).

Keep in mind that if your literature review stands alone—distinct from a thesis, study or dissertation—it should include a brief introduction and conclusion.

  • Scholarly journals (a.k.a. "peer-reviewed" & "academic")
  • Professional journals
  • Academic books & e-books
  • Research reports
  • Conference proceedings
  • Doctoral dissertations

A 10-minute overview of what a literature review is and its purpose.

You can search for literature reviews in our databases by searching your topic and adding "literature reviews" as a search term.

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  • Steps in Conducting a Literature Review

What is a literature review?

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

  • Explains the background of research on a topic.
  • Demonstrates why a topic is significant to a subject area.
  • Discovers relationships between research studies/ideas.
  • Identifies major themes, concepts, and researchers on a topic.
  • Identifies critical gaps and points of disagreement.
  • Discusses further research questions that logically come out of the previous studies.

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1. Choose a topic. Define your research question.

Your literature review should be guided by your central research question.  The literature represents background and research developments related to a specific research question, interpreted and analyzed by you in a synthesized way.

  • Make sure your research question is not too broad or too narrow.  Is it manageable?
  • Begin writing down terms that are related to your question. These will be useful for searches later.
  • If you have the opportunity, discuss your topic with your professor and your class mates.

2. Decide on the scope of your review

How many studies do you need to look at? How comprehensive should it be? How many years should it cover? 

  • This may depend on your assignment.  How many sources does the assignment require?

3. Select the databases you will use to conduct your searches.

Make a list of the databases you will search. 

Where to find databases:

  • use the tabs on this guide
  • Find other databases in the Nursing Information Resources web page
  • More on the Medical Library web page
  • ... and more on the Yale University Library web page

4. Conduct your searches to find the evidence. Keep track of your searches.

  • Use the key words in your question, as well as synonyms for those words, as terms in your search. Use the database tutorials for help.
  • Save the searches in the databases. This saves time when you want to redo, or modify, the searches. It is also helpful to use as a guide is the searches are not finding any useful results.
  • Review the abstracts of research studies carefully. This will save you time.
  • Use the bibliographies and references of research studies you find to locate others.
  • Check with your professor, or a subject expert in the field, if you are missing any key works in the field.
  • Ask your librarian for help at any time.
  • Use a citation manager, such as EndNote as the repository for your citations. See the EndNote tutorials for help.

Review the literature

Some questions to help you analyze the research:

  • What was the research question of the study you are reviewing? What were the authors trying to discover?
  • Was the research funded by a source that could influence the findings?
  • What were the research methodologies? Analyze its literature review, the samples and variables used, the results, and the conclusions.
  • Does the research seem to be complete? Could it have been conducted more soundly? What further questions does it raise?
  • If there are conflicting studies, why do you think that is?
  • How are the authors viewed in the field? Has this study been cited? If so, how has it been analyzed?

Tips: 

  • Review the abstracts carefully.  
  • Keep careful notes so that you may track your thought processes during the research process.
  • Create a matrix of the studies for easy analysis, and synthesis, across all of the studies.
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How to Write a Literature Review: Writing a Literature Review in APA Format

  • Writing a Literature Review in APA Format
  • Chicago/Turabian Citation Style
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Writing a Literature Review in APA

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IND5937: Special Topics: Literature Review

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APA 7th Edition

  • In-Text Citations
  • Books/Book Chapters
  • Social Media/Apps/Websites
  • Video/TV/Podcasts
  • Presentations/Dissertations
  • Data/Unpublished Works
  • Visual Works
  • Legal Materials

This guide will provide information on how to cite your sources in-text and in your reference list using APA style & formatting. Click the tabs for an example of each. 

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sample of apa literature review

Examples of Reference Lists & In-text Citations

Additional resources:.

  • Sample APA Papers from APA Style Download the Word Document and use the template for your APA papers.
  • Sample Student Paper using APA from OWL Includes notes to explain the details. From APA Style. Use this sample paper as a guide for headings, in-text citations, references, & more.

sample of apa literature review

The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) APA Guide

  • No Date : if there isn't a date, the reference starts with the author. 

Lucas, T. (n.d.). Mother nature revolts.  U.S. News & World

Report.   https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2020-04-17/why-you-still-havent-gotten-your-coronavirus-stimulus-check

The in-text citation will look like this:

According to Lucas,  ... (n.d.).

It is hypothesized that Coronavirus was the planet's way of making a point (Lucas, n.d.).

  • No Author : if there isn't an author, the reference starts with the title. 

Mother nature revolts. (2020, March 29). U.S. News & World

"Mother nature revolts" ... (2020).

It is hypothesized that Coronavirus was the planet's way of making a point ("Mother nature revolts", 2020).

  • Exact quotes:  page numbers (or paragraph numbers) must be included for exact quotes: 

It was hypothesized that, "Coronavirus was the planet's way of making a point" (Lucas, 2017, p. 5.).

It was  hypothesized that, "Coronavirus w as the planet's way of making a point" (Lucas, 2017,  para . 5.).

  • ​ ​ DOI = Digital Object Identifier.   If an item has a DOI, it must be included in the reference.  Not all articles and e-books will have a DOI.
  • The research ... (Gonzalez & Perez., 2020).
  • According to Perez, .... (2020).

If there are 2 authors, include both of them every time in the in-text citations.

  • The research ... (Gonzalez et al., 2020).
  • According to Gonzalez et al. .... (2020).
  • Up to 20 Authors : names and initials for all 20 authors must be provided in the reference list. It will look like this:

undefined

The in-text citation will look like this: 

According to Smith et al. ... (2020). 

The research .... (Smith, et al., 2020).

  • 21+ Authors : for sources with more than 20 authors, the first 19 are included in the reference list followed by an ellipses and the final author. It looks like this:

undefined

  • Citing Multiple Works :  when referring to multiple works in-text, place the citations in alphabetical order, separating them with semicolons.

(Edwards, 2012; Flygare et al., 2019; Steba, 2015).

  • Citing Multiple Works by the same author(s) in the same year:  when multiple references have identical author (or authors) and publication year, include a lowercase letter after the year. The year–letter combination is used in both the in-text citation and the reference list entry. Use only the year with a letter in the in-text citation, even if the reference list entry contains a more specific date.

Smith, J. & Ortiz, P. (2019a, February). Judge Judy and her impact on society.  Journal of Social Science, 15 (2), 16-25.

http://journsocscience.com

Smith, J. & Ortiz, P. (2019b, March). Judge Judy impacts social justice.  Journal of Social Science, 15 (2), 16-25.

Smith and Ortiz found ... (2019a).

...  (Smith & Ortiz, 2019b).

  • Citing a Source within a Source :

Arpan, L. M., & Raney, A. A. (2003). An experimental investigation of news source and the hostile media effect. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 80 (2), 265-281.

(Gunther, 1992, as cited in Arpan & Raney, 2003);

The in-text citation gives credit to the source used. This is the same one included in the reference list.

  • Citing Personal Communication (for example via email or messenger):

Because readers cannot retrieve the communication, it is not included in the reference list.   The communication is cited in the text of the paper only.  

S. Fernandez (personal communication, April 15, 2020) ...

... (S. Fernandez, personal communication, April 15, 2020). 

  • Organizational Authors with Common Acronyms

If an organization or government entity is commonly known by it's acronym, it can be used in-text but the full name should be spelled out in the reference list.  

The first in-text citation will look like this: 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS, 2020), described ... 

... (The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services [CMS], 2020).

In-text citations that follow can use the acronym:

According to CMS ... (2020).

... (CMS, 2020).

The reference list will always include the spelled out organization (and not the acronym):

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Servic e s. (2020).  ...

If you use Artificial Intelligence generated text such as ChatGPT, it needs to be cited.

However, before you get help from ai, check your syllabus and/or ask your professor whether it is allowed , example to model:.

When prompted “Why is toxic positivity a problem in the workplace,” the ChatGPT-generated text indicated that “toxic positivity can be harmful as it can lead to a dismissive attitude towards the concerns or struggles of employees” (OpenAI, 2023).

OpenAI. (2023).  ChatGPT  (Mar 23 version). [Large language model].  https://chat.openai.com/chat

  • APA Style: How to cite ChatGPT We, the APA Style team, are not robots. We can all pass a CAPTCHA test, and we know our roles in a Turing test. And, like so many nonrobot human beings this year, we’ve spent a fair amount of time reading, learning, and thinking about issues related to large language models, artificial intelligence (AI), AI-generated text, and specifically ChatGPT. We’ve also been gathering opinions and feedback about the use and citation of ChatGPT. Thank you to everyone who has contributed and shared ideas, opinions, research, and feedback.

In-Text Citation Basics:

  • APA uses author-date citation system
  • Informs the reader where the information came from
  • Refers the reader to the source information
  • Use sparingly
  • Page numbers (or paragraph numbers) must be included for exact quotes
  • Only include relevant material
  • Block quotes = 40+ words, no quotation marks, indented

Neu (2015) stated that “healthcare is a right” (p. 6).

In 2017, Smith argued that “healthcare is a privilege” (para. 3) and therefore should not be free.

The notion that healthcare is a right has been debated by many authors (Neu, 2105, p. 6; Smith, 2017, para. 3).

Blockquote:

sample of apa literature review

Avoid Plagiarism

Indicate info. from various sources

Easily identify sources

Adds credibility to your writing

Expands breadth/depth of your writing

Acknowledge the sources that you have borrowed from

  • The reference list starts on a new page with the word References , centered and bold

Double-spaced

Your reference list must match your in-text citations and vice versa

Alphabetical list by author’s last name

Use a hanging indent for every line after the first

For titles of books, articles, & websites in reference lists, capitalize only:

  • the first word
  • the first word after a colon
  • proper nouns

In-Text Citation Examples:

General reference form :.

Author Last Name(s), First Initial, Middle Initial. (Date). Title of article. Title of Source, volume number (issue number), page

numbers. DOI or URL.  

Reference Examples: 

Articles with a doi (digital object identifier):.

McConkey, S.M., & Christiansen, S.J. (2020). Language learning in Miami: A cross-linguistic model of diverse Spanish

dialects. Psychological Review , 128 (8), 25-61. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/rev0000126

Articles without a DOI:

Andersen, J. (2020, March 30). Miami and Coronavirus. New York Times . C1

Pearsong, S., Padron, M., & Ortiz, J. (2020, January 1). What the New Year has in store for the U.S. The New

Yorker.  https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-homemade-insight-of-fetch-the-bolt-cutters

Article with an article number or eLocator

​ Smith, T. C., Castillo, M. J., Jackson, G. L., Simpson, B. B., Lantry, R. S., O'Reilly, S. T., Rosenberg, F., Lee, L. H., Cox,

G.,  Harris, H. L., Kass, P., Gonzalez, W. L., Hughes, W., Carter, D., Campbell, C., Baker, A. B., Flores, T., Gray, W. E., 

Green, G., ... Nelson, T. P. (2020).  Miami and Coronavirus. PLOS ONE, 14 (1), Article

e0209899.  https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0209899  

Reference Examples:

TIP: In the 7th edition, publisher location is no longer required when citing books.

Authored book with a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Example:

Nadler, J.T. & Voyles, E. C. (2020).  Stereotypes: The incidence and impacts of bias.  ABC-CLIO.

http://dx.doi.org/10.3389 /fpsyg.2015.0004

Authored book without a DOI (print or ebook) Example:

Johnson, D.W. (2020). The customer revolution in healthcare: Delivering kinder, smarter, affordable care for all. McGraw-Hill.

Edited book without a DOI Example:

Hacker Hughes, J. (Ed). (2017). Military veteran psychological health and social care: Contemporary approaches. Routledge.

Chapter in an edited book with a DOI Example:

Stone, C. (2020). Stereotypes of veterans. In J. T. Nadler & Voyles, E. C. (Eds.), Stereotypes: The incidence and impacts of

bias . (pp. 213-225). ABC-CLIO. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389 /fpsyg.2015.0004.

Chapter in an edited book without a DOI Example:

Weinstock, R., Leong, G. B., & Silva, J. A. (2003). Defining forensic psychiatry: Roles and responsibilities. In R. Rosner (Ed.),

Principles and practice of forensic psychiatr y (2nd ed., pp. 7-13). CRC Press.

Website Examples:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, January 23). People at high risk of developing flu-related complications.

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm

Martin Lillie, C. M. (2016, December 29). Be kind to yourself: How self-compassion can improve your resiliency. Mayo Clinic.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/health-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/self-compassion-can-improve-your-resiliency/art-20267193

Boddy, J., Neumann, T., Jennings, S., Morron, V., Alderson, P., Rees, R., & Gibson, W. (n.d.). Ethics principles. The

Research Ethics Guidebook: A Resource for Social Scientists. http://www.ethicsguidebook.ac.uk/EthicsPrinciples

.... (Boddy, et al., n.d.).

... ( Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018).

Body et al. ...  (n.d.) ...

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ... (2018).

Tweet Example:

Obama, M. [@MichelleObama] (2020, April 18). Thank you to all the essential workers who are getting up every day and

risking their lives on our behalf. @LauraWBush and I were honored to show our support for their heroic efforts during

tonight's @GlblCtzn’s One World: #TogetherAtHome Special. [video attached] Tweet. Twitter

https://twitter.com/MichelleObama/status/1251695525017137159

.... (Obama, 2020).

Obama (2020) ...

Twitter Profile Example:

Bush, Laura. [@laurawbush]. (n.d.). Tweets . [Twitter profile] Twitter. Retrieved from April 18, 2020 from

https://twitter.com/laurawbush.

.... (Bush, n.d.).

Bush (n.d.) ...  

Facebook Page Example:

Coronavirus (Covid-19) Information Center. (n.d.). Home [Facebook page]. Facebook. Retrieved April 18, 2020, from

https://www.facebook.com/coronavirus_info/

.... ( Coronavirus  ( Covid-19 ) Information Center, n.d. ).

Coronavirus  ( Covid-19 ) Information Center (n.d.) ...

Facebook Post Example:

National institute of mental health. (2018, november 28). suicide affects all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities. check out, these 5 action steps for helping someone in emotional pain [infographic]. facebook. http://bit.ly/321qstq.

.... ( National Institute of Mental Health, 2018 ).

The National Institute of Mental Health ...   (2018) ...

Instagram Video or Photo Example: APA Style [@officialapastyle]. (2018, December 5). Welcome to the official Instagram for #APAStyle! We’re here to help you

With your apa style questions [instagram photograph]. retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/bq-a-dvblih/.

.... (APA Style, 2018).

APA Style ...  (2018) ...

Instagram Profile: Star Wars [@starwars]. (n.d.). Posts [Instagram profile]. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from

Https://www.instagram.com/starwars/.

.... (Star Wars, n.d.).

Star Wars ...  (n.d.) ...

Instagram Highlight: APA Style [@officialapastyle]. (n.d.). FAQs [Instagram highlight]. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from

Https://www.instagram.com/s/aglnagxpz2h0oje3otc2odkwntk5mtc5mty1/.

.... (APA Style, n.d.).

APA Style ...  (n.d.) ...

Blog Post Example:

APA Style. (2020, March 19). What’s new in the seventh edition  Publication  Manual.  APA Style.

https://apastyle.apa.org/blog/ whats-new-7e

.... (APA Style, 2020).

The APA Style (2020) ...

Mobile App Examples:

Actual app:.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/epocrates/id281935788?mt=8  

Entry in the App:

Epocrates. (2019). Interaction check: Aspirin + sertraline. In Epocrates medical references (version 18.12) [Mobile app]. App

Store. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/epocrates/id281935788?mt=8

.... (Epocrates, 2019).

Epocrates ... (2019). 

YouTube Example:

Cutts, S. (2017, November 24). Happiness [Video]. YouTube. ​ https:youtube.com/24455202929

.... (Cutts, 2017).

Cutts (2017) ...

Ted Talk Example:

Kowalski, C. (2017, November). The critical role librarians play in the

opioid  crisis  https ://www.ted.com/talks/chera_kowalski_the_critical_role_librarians_play_in_the_opioid_crisis

.... (Kowalski, 2017).

Kowalski (2017) ...

Film or Video Example:

Forman, M. (Director). (1975). One flew over the cuckoo’s nest [Film]. United Artists.

.... (Forman, 1975).

Forman (1975) ...

TV Example:

Wolf, D. (1999-present). Law & Order: Special Victims Unit  [TV Series].  Wolf Entertainment Productions; NBC.

.... (Wolf , 1999-present ).

Wolf (1999-present) ...

Podcast Example:

Poor, N., Woods, E. & Williams, A. (2016-present). Ear Hustle [Audio podcast]. PRX.   https://www.earhustlesq.com/

.... (Poor et al., 2016-present).

Poor et al. (2016-present) ...

Report Examples:

National Cancer Institute. (2018). Facing forward: Life after cancer treatment (NIH Publication No. 18-2424). U.S. Department

of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/life-after-treatment.pdf

Blackwell, D. L., Lucas, J. W., & Clarke, T. C. (2014). Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview

Survey, 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_260.pdf

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (2017). Agency financial report: Fiscal year 2017.

https://www.sec.gov/files/sec-2017-agency-financial-report.pdf

.... ( National Cancer Institute , 2018).

... (Blackwell, et al., 2014).

... ( U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 2017).

National Cancer Institute (2018) ...

Blackwell, et al. (2014) ...

According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (2017), ...

Presentation Example:

O'Reilly, P., Edwards, C., & Hamil, S. K. (2020, April 1-3).  How to cite properly in APA.  [Paper presentation]. Florida Library Association 100th Annual Conference, Orlando, FL, United States.

*Replace [Paper presentation] with [Conference presentation] or [Poster presentation] as needed. 

.... (O'Reilly, et al., 2020).

O'Reilly et al. (2020) ...

Dissertation Examples:

Unpublished:

Hodges, L. (2018). Instructional design perceptions and practices of faculty [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Florida

International University.

Sanderson, K. R. (2012). Time orientation in organizations: Polychronicity and multitasking (Publication No. 3554209)

[Doctoral dissertation Florida International University]. Proquest Dissertations & Theses.

.... (Hodges, 2018).

Sanderson (2012) ...

Unpublished Manuscript Example:

Yen, J., Chen, Y., Rigotti, A., & Deckard C. (2016). Linking good customer services to increased sales: An observational study

[Unpublished manuscript]. College of Business, Florida International University.

Include the department and institution where the work was published if possible. 

....  (Yen et al., 2016).

Yen, et al. (2016) ...

Data Set Examples:

Published Data:

Pew Research Center (2018).  Core Trend Survey  [Data set]. 

https ://www.pewresearch.org/internet/dataset/core-trends - survey/

Unpublished Unnamed Raw Data Set :

Baer,  R. A. (2015). [Unpublished raw data on the correlations between the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and the

Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills]. University of Kentucky.

.... (Pew Research Center, 2018).

Baer (2015) ...

Infographic Example:

Florida Library Association. (2020, February). Federal funds in Florida  [Infographic]. https://www.flalib.org/advocacy ​

.... (Florida Library Association [FLA], 2020).

Florida Library Association [FLA] (2020) ...

Map Example:

Florida International University GIS Center. (2015). BIKE – Bicycle Knowledge Explorer (Palm Beach)  [Map].

https://maps.fiu.edu/gis/research/projects/255/bike-%E2%80%93-bicycle-knowledge-explorer-palm-beach

.... ( Florida International  University  GIS Center , 2015).

Florida International  University  GIS Center  (2015) ...

Photograph Example:

McCurry, S. (1985). Afghan girl [Photograph]. National Geographic.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/national-geographic-magazine-50-years-of-covers/#/ngm-1985-jun-714.jpg

.... (McCurry, 1985).

McCurry (1985) ...

PowerPoint or Lecture Notes Example:

Cana, E., & Vasilev, J. (2019, May 22). [Lecture notes on resource allocation]. Department of Management Control and

Information Systems, University of Chile. https://uchilefau.academia.edu/ElseZCanan

.... (Mack & Spake, 2018).

Cana and Vasiley (2019) ...

Museum Example:

Wood, G. (1930). American gothic [Painting]. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, United States. https://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/6565

.... (Wood, 1930).

Wood (1930) ...

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  • Research Guides

Writing Literature Reviews

  • Literature Review Overview
  • Organizing Your Lit Review
  • Tips for Writing Your Lit Review

Need Assistance?

Find your librarian, schedule a research appointment, today's hours : , what is a literature review.

A literature review ought to be a clear, concise synthesis of relevant information. A literature review should introduce the study it precedes and show how that study fits into topically related studies that already exist. Structurally, a literature review ought to be something like a funnel: start by addressing the topic broadly and gradually narrow as the review progresses.

from Literature Reviews by CU Writing Center

Why review the literature?

Reference to prior literature is a defining feature of academic and research writing. Why review the literature?

  • To help you understand a research topic
  • To establish the importance of a topic
  • To help develop your own ideas
  • To make sure you are not simply replicating research that others have already successfully completed
  • To demonstrate knowledge and show how your current work is situated within, builds on, or departs from earlier publications

from Literature Review Basics from University of La Verne

Tips & Tricks

Before writing your own literature review, take a look at these resources which share helpful tips and tricks:

Lectures & Slides

  • Literature Reviews | CU Writing Center
  • Writing a Literature Review | CU Writing Center
  • Revising a Literature Review | CU Writing Center
  • Literature Reviews: How to Find and Do Them
  • Literature Reviews: An Overview

How-To Guides

  • Literature Reviews | Purdue OWL
  • Literature Reviews | University of North Carolina
  • Learn How to Write a Review of Literature | University of Wisconsin
  • Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide | University of Connecticut
  • Literature Reviews | Florida A & M
  • Conduct a Literature Review | SUNY
  • Literature Review Basics | University of LaVerne

Sample Literature Reviews

  • Sample Literature Reviews | University of West Florida
  • Sample APA Papers: Literature Review | Purdue OWL
  • Next: Organizing Your Lit Review >>
  • Last Updated: Apr 24, 2020 3:12 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.cedarville.edu/c.php?g=969394

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Note: The APA Publication Manual, 7 th Edition specifies different formatting conventions for student  and  professional  papers (i.e., papers written for credit in a course and papers intended for scholarly publication). These differences mostly extend to the title page and running head. Crucially, citation practices do not differ between the two styles of paper.

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Note: For accessibility purposes, we have used "Track Changes" to make comments along the margins of these samples. Those authored by [AF] denote explanations of formatting and [AWC] denote directions for writing and citing in APA 7. 

APA 7 Student Paper:

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Writing Research Papers

  • Writing a Literature Review

When writing a research paper on a specific topic, you will often need to include an overview of any prior research that has been conducted on that topic.  For example, if your research paper is describing an experiment on fear conditioning, then you will probably need to provide an overview of prior research on fear conditioning.  That overview is typically known as a literature review.  

Please note that a full-length literature review article may be suitable for fulfilling the requirements for the Psychology B.S. Degree Research Paper .  For further details, please check with your faculty advisor.

Different Types of Literature Reviews

Literature reviews come in many forms.  They can be part of a research paper, for example as part of the Introduction section.  They can be one chapter of a doctoral dissertation.  Literature reviews can also “stand alone” as separate articles by themselves.  For instance, some journals such as Annual Review of Psychology , Psychological Bulletin , and others typically publish full-length review articles.  Similarly, in courses at UCSD, you may be asked to write a research paper that is itself a literature review (such as, with an instructor’s permission, in fulfillment of the B.S. Degree Research Paper requirement). Alternatively, you may be expected to include a literature review as part of a larger research paper (such as part of an Honors Thesis). 

Literature reviews can be written using a variety of different styles.  These may differ in the way prior research is reviewed as well as the way in which the literature review is organized.  Examples of stylistic variations in literature reviews include: 

  • Summarization of prior work vs. critical evaluation. In some cases, prior research is simply described and summarized; in other cases, the writer compares, contrasts, and may even critique prior research (for example, discusses their strengths and weaknesses).
  • Chronological vs. categorical and other types of organization. In some cases, the literature review begins with the oldest research and advances until it concludes with the latest research.  In other cases, research is discussed by category (such as in groupings of closely related studies) without regard for chronological order.  In yet other cases, research is discussed in terms of opposing views (such as when different research studies or researchers disagree with one another).

Overall, all literature reviews, whether they are written as a part of a larger work or as separate articles unto themselves, have a common feature: they do not present new research; rather, they provide an overview of prior research on a specific topic . 

How to Write a Literature Review

When writing a literature review, it can be helpful to rely on the following steps.  Please note that these procedures are not necessarily only for writing a literature review that becomes part of a larger article; they can also be used for writing a full-length article that is itself a literature review (although such reviews are typically more detailed and exhaustive; for more information please refer to the Further Resources section of this page).

Steps for Writing a Literature Review

1. Identify and define the topic that you will be reviewing.

The topic, which is commonly a research question (or problem) of some kind, needs to be identified and defined as clearly as possible.  You need to have an idea of what you will be reviewing in order to effectively search for references and to write a coherent summary of the research on it.  At this stage it can be helpful to write down a description of the research question, area, or topic that you will be reviewing, as well as to identify any keywords that you will be using to search for relevant research.

2. Conduct a literature search.

Use a range of keywords to search databases such as PsycINFO and any others that may contain relevant articles.  You should focus on peer-reviewed, scholarly articles.  Published books may also be helpful, but keep in mind that peer-reviewed articles are widely considered to be the “gold standard” of scientific research.  Read through titles and abstracts, select and obtain articles (that is, download, copy, or print them out), and save your searches as needed.  For more information about this step, please see the Using Databases and Finding Scholarly References section of this website.

3. Read through the research that you have found and take notes.

Absorb as much information as you can.  Read through the articles and books that you have found, and as you do, take notes.  The notes should include anything that will be helpful in advancing your own thinking about the topic and in helping you write the literature review (such as key points, ideas, or even page numbers that index key information).  Some references may turn out to be more helpful than others; you may notice patterns or striking contrasts between different sources ; and some sources may refer to yet other sources of potential interest.  This is often the most time-consuming part of the review process.  However, it is also where you get to learn about the topic in great detail.  For more details about taking notes, please see the “Reading Sources and Taking Notes” section of the Finding Scholarly References page of this website.

4. Organize your notes and thoughts; create an outline.

At this stage, you are close to writing the review itself.  However, it is often helpful to first reflect on all the reading that you have done.  What patterns stand out?  Do the different sources converge on a consensus?  Or not?  What unresolved questions still remain?  You should look over your notes (it may also be helpful to reorganize them), and as you do, to think about how you will present this research in your literature review.  Are you going to summarize or critically evaluate?  Are you going to use a chronological or other type of organizational structure?  It can also be helpful to create an outline of how your literature review will be structured.

5. Write the literature review itself and edit and revise as needed.

The final stage involves writing.  When writing, keep in mind that literature reviews are generally characterized by a summary style in which prior research is described sufficiently to explain critical findings but does not include a high level of detail (if readers want to learn about all the specific details of a study, then they can look up the references that you cite and read the original articles themselves).  However, the degree of emphasis that is given to individual studies may vary (more or less detail may be warranted depending on how critical or unique a given study was).   After you have written a first draft, you should read it carefully and then edit and revise as needed.  You may need to repeat this process more than once.  It may be helpful to have another person read through your draft(s) and provide feedback.

6. Incorporate the literature review into your research paper draft.

After the literature review is complete, you should incorporate it into your research paper (if you are writing the review as one component of a larger paper).  Depending on the stage at which your paper is at, this may involve merging your literature review into a partially complete Introduction section, writing the rest of the paper around the literature review, or other processes.

Further Tips for Writing a Literature Review

Full-length literature reviews

  • Many full-length literature review articles use a three-part structure: Introduction (where the topic is identified and any trends or major problems in the literature are introduced), Body (where the studies that comprise the literature on that topic are discussed), and Discussion or Conclusion (where major patterns and points are discussed and the general state of what is known about the topic is summarized)

Literature reviews as part of a larger paper

  • An “express method” of writing a literature review for a research paper is as follows: first, write a one paragraph description of each article that you read. Second, choose how you will order all the paragraphs and combine them in one document.  Third, add transitions between the paragraphs, as well as an introductory and concluding paragraph. 1
  • A literature review that is part of a larger research paper typically does not have to be exhaustive. Rather, it should contain most or all of the significant studies about a research topic but not tangential or loosely related ones. 2   Generally, literature reviews should be sufficient for the reader to understand the major issues and key findings about a research topic.  You may however need to confer with your instructor or editor to determine how comprehensive you need to be.

Benefits of Literature Reviews

By summarizing prior research on a topic, literature reviews have multiple benefits.  These include:

  • Literature reviews help readers understand what is known about a topic without having to find and read through multiple sources.
  • Literature reviews help “set the stage” for later reading about new research on a given topic (such as if they are placed in the Introduction of a larger research paper). In other words, they provide helpful background and context.
  • Literature reviews can also help the writer learn about a given topic while in the process of preparing the review itself. In the act of research and writing the literature review, the writer gains expertise on the topic .

Downloadable Resources

  • How to Write APA Style Research Papers (a comprehensive guide) [ PDF ]
  • Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers (a brief summary) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – literature review) [ PDF ]

Further Resources

How-To Videos     

  • Writing Research Paper Videos
  • UCSD Library Psychology Research Guide: Literature Reviews

External Resources

  • Developing and Writing a Literature Review from N Carolina A&T State University
  • Example of a Short Literature Review from York College CUNY
  • How to Write a Review of Literature from UW-Madison
  • Writing a Literature Review from UC Santa Cruz  
  • Pautasso, M. (2013). Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review. PLoS Computational Biology, 9 (7), e1003149. doi : 1371/journal.pcbi.1003149

1 Ashton, W. Writing a short literature review . [PDF]     

2 carver, l. (2014).  writing the research paper [workshop]. , prepared by s. c. pan for ucsd psychology.

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Literature Review Examples

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APA Headings and Subheadings | With Sample Paper

Published on November 7, 2020 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on October 24, 2022.

Headings and subheadings provide structure to a document. They signal what each section is about and allow for easy navigation of the document.

APA headings have five possible levels. Each heading level is formatted differently.

APA headings (7th edition)

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Table of contents

Additional guidelines for apa headings, how many heading levels should you use, when to use which apa heading level, section labels vs headings, sample paper with apa headings, using heading styles in word or google docs.

As well as the heading styles, there are some other guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Double-space all text, including the headings.
  • Use the same font for headings and body text (e.g., Times New Roman 12pt.).
  • Don’t label headings with numbers or letters.
  • Don’t add extra “enters” above or below headings.

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sample of apa literature review

Depending on the length and complexity of your paper, you may not use all five heading levels. In fact, shorter student papers may have no headings at all.

It’s also perfectly fine for some sections in your paper to go as deep as five levels, where others use only heading level 1.

Heading level 1 is used for main sections like “ Methods ”, “ Results ”, and “ Discussion ”. There is no “ Introduction ” heading at the beginning of your paper because the first paragraphs are understood to be introductory.

Heading level 2 is used for subsections under level 1. For example, under “Methods” (level 1) you may have subsections for “Sampling Method” and “Data Analysis” (level 2). This continues all the way down to heading level 5.

Always use at least two subheadings or none at all. If there is just one subheading, the top-level heading is sufficient.

In addition to regular headings, APA works with “section labels” for specific parts of the paper. They’re similar to headings but are formatted differently. Section labels are placed on a separate line at the top of a new page in bold and centered.

Use section labels for the following sections in an APA formatted paper :

  • Author note
  • Paper title
  • Reference page

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Instead of formatting every heading individually, you can use the “Styles” feature in Word or Google Docs. This allows you to save the styling and apply it with just a click.

The first time you use APA Style, you need to update the default heading styles to reflect the APA heading guidelines. Click here for the instructions for Microsoft Word and Google Docs .

An added benefit of using the “Styles” feature is that you can automatically generate a table of contents .

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IMAGES

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  1. Sample Literature Reviews

    Sample Lit Reviews from Communication Arts Literature Review Sample 1 Literature Review Sample 2 Literature Review Sample 3 Have an exemplary literature review? Have you written a stellar literature review you care to share for teaching purposes?

  2. Writing a Literature Review

    A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays).

  3. Sample papers

    This page contains sample papers formatted in seventh edition APA Style for different types of papers, such as literature reviews, professional papers, and student papers. You can download the Word files to use as templates and edit them as needed. The sample papers also show the format and content guidelines from the Publication Manual.

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  5. How to Write a Literature Review

    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 Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions Introduction Quick Run-through Step 1 & 2 Step 3 Step 4 Step 5

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    " Key takeaways from the Psi Chi webinar So You Need to Write a Literature Review via APA Style.org Examples of Literature Reviews Financial socialization: A decade in review (2021) The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the development of anxiety disorders - a literature review (2021)

  7. Literature Review

    It should: Have a particular focus or theme to organize the review. Discuss the significant academic literature important for that focus. Compare, relate, and contrast different theories and findings. Reflect trends over time. Be written in a legible academic style, leading logically from idea to idea. Paraphrases your findings.

  8. Literature Reviews

    Literature Reviews. The literature of a literature review is not made up of novels and short stories and poetry—but is the collection of writing and research that has been produced on a particular topic. The purpose of the literature review is to give you an overview of a particular topic. Your job is to discover the research that has been ...

  9. PDF Conducting Your Literature Review

    3 A literature reviewis an overview of the available research for a specific scientific topic. Literature reviews summarize existing research to answer a review question, provide the context for new research, or identify important gaps in the existing body of literature.

  10. Steps in Conducting a Literature Review

    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. ... Seventh Edition is the official source for APA Style. APA Style Blog - for those harder to find answers . 1. Choose a topic. Define your research question.

  11. PDF APA Literature Review

    A literature review is a typical type of assignment given to students in courses that fall under APA guidelines (usually the sciences or social sciences) because it shows you have familiarized yourself with current research on a topic you are exploring. Beyond simply reporting the findings of others, the literature review requires you to make ...

  12. Writing a Literature Review in APA Format

    This page is designed to assist you in writing an annotated bibliography

  13. PDF Literature Review APA 7th Edition

    Commented [A7]: A literature review includes a References page in APA format that includes a reference for every source cited in the literature review. preventing readmissions. Journal of Healthcare Financial Management, 65(12), 1-6.

  14. APA 7th Edition

    Use this sample paper as a guide for headings, in-text citations, references, & more. The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) APA Guide Perhaps the best known APA resource outside of the actual manual and website.

  15. PDF APA 7 Student Sample Paper

    APA 7 Student Sample Paper Branching Paths: A Novel Teacher Evaluation Model for Faculty Development James P. Bavis and Ahn G. Nu Department of English, Purdue University ENGL 101: First Year Writing Dr. Richard Teeth January 30, 2020

  16. PDF B.S. Research Paper Example (Literature Review)

    This example was written by a student who is reviewing literature that they researched as part of the PSYC 199 course. It is a full-length literature review article. For further information about the BS paper requirement, please visit: http://www.psychology.ucsd.edu/undergraduate-program/majors-effective-fall-2015/research-paper-guidelines.html

  17. Literature Review Overview

    A literature review should introduce the study it precedes and show how that study fits into topically related studies that already exist. Structurally, a literature review ought to be something like a funnel: start by addressing the topic broadly and gradually narrow as the review progresses. ... Sample APA Papers: Literature Review | Purdue ...

  18. APA Sample Paper

    Note: This page reflects the latest version of the APA Publication Manual (i.e., APA 7), which released in October 2019. The equivalent resource for the older APA 6 style can be found here. Media Files: APA Sample Student Paper , APA Sample Professional Paper This resource is enhanced by Acrobat PDF files. Download the free Acrobat Reader

  19. Writing a Literature Review

    An "express method" of writing a literature review for a research paper is as follows: first, write a one paragraph description of each article that you read. Second, choose how you will order all the paragraphs and combine them in one document. Third, add transitions between the paragraphs, as well as an introductory and concluding ...

  20. Literature Review Example / APA Examples & Tools

    Literature Review Example / APA Examples & Tools; Writing Center - Book an appointment This link opens in a new window; Literature Review Examples. Literature Review Example Paper. STRATEGIES FOR WRITING THE LITERATURE REVIEW. Writing a Literature Review. APA 6th Template. Academic Writer.

  21. Literature review guidelines

    Browse the latest updates from APA, informed by psychological science. Support psychology. Improve lives. Guidelines for writing literature reviews for Psychology of Men & Masculinities, including general considerations, essential elements, and standard sections.

  22. Writing Abstracts for a Literature Review in APA Format

    These examples of abstracts in APA tell you whether the piece is worth your time to read. Abstracts vary by type but should include: research questions, problems, and/or a hypothesis research methods study results and conclusions Recommendations and implications critical points of a literature review

  23. APA Headings and Subheadings

    Headings and subheadings provide structure to a document. They signal what each section. is about and allow for easy navigation of the document. APA headings have five possible levels. Each heading level is formatted differently. Note: Title case simply means that you should capitalize the first word, words with four or more letters, and all ...