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Literature Reviews: 5. Writing Your Literature Review

Resources for students and faculty doing literature reviews.

5. Writing Your Literature Review

As you write, it is essential that you synthesize your understanding of the literature on your topic.  It can help to think of your literature review as a report on the scholarly discussion on your topic. You want to point out the main themes in the literature, the main discussion points for each theme, and your take.


*Read UW-Madison's Learn how to write a review of the literature to learn how to structure a literature review.


*Another resource to check out is this open textbook chapter "Writing the Literature Review."


*Be sure to check your assignment guidelines for your professor's specific requirements and directions!


Struggling to make your connections clear in your writing? Check out these sources!

  • This page has some examples of how to integrate multiple sources into a single paragraph of a lit review. 
  • Phrases that begin the work of synthesis is a useful site for seeing what terms to use to connect sources together.
  • Transitional words and phrases has some specific terms you can use to connect sentences together; this is especially helpful if you want to add some variety to your writing. 

1. Remember, a lit review is NOT an annotated bibliography! You are organizing a review of the literature in your own unique way, including your own thoughts and ideas, and showing how your own research will fit into this larger discussion.  (We know we've said this a lot, but it bears repeating!)


2. Organize, organize!--Check out the previous tab for advice on structuring your literature review.   Remember, you generally want to think in terms of themes and concepts, not individual research works.


3. Remember to cite!--You will need to include in-text citations in the literature review.  Summarize your findings and use quotations as appropriate. You will also need to include a bibliography at the end of the assignment.  Check out the Cite Your Sources tab (see next tab) for more guidance!


4. Make sure your writing is of good quality--Make sure you write your review using good grammar and punctuation.  Proofread your paper, and/or submit your paper to