Writing the Perfect Literature Review Outline

A literature review is a section that comes after your research paper’s introduction, right before your theoretical framework. Understanding the proper literature review outline is, therefore, elementary.

how to write a literature review

This article is for you if you are currently in your academic years and tasked with writing a dissertation or a thesis. This guide contains everything you will need for an outline. It also includes a sample literature review outline. Read on!

What Is the Outline of a Literature Review?

Before we delve into the outline, what is a literature review?

A literature review explores existing concepts on a specific topic. Here the main goal is to give an outlook on the subject matter. It also provides an overall analysis of the theoretical methodology.

Generally, the main idea around a literature review can be summed up in five steps.

  1. Source for credible literature.
  2. Analyze the sources.
  3. Evaluate the main themes, concepts, and arguments and find gaps.
  4. Create a literature review outline.
  5. Write your literature review.

A literature review is an essential and inescapable part of an academic project. It accounts for nearly 20% of your final research. So, to avoid last-minute anxiety when writing your research paper or thesis, here are the five main parts of a literature review.

What Are 5 Parts of Literature Review?

The standard sections of academic papers consist of an introductory paragraph, the body, and a conclusion. However, for a literature review outline, there are two critical sections—a section that provides the reader with background information and a recommendation section.

Here is how to write a literature review.


Any academic paper should always start with an introduction. A literature review is no different. Start your paper with an attention grabber to hook your readers.

So, begin with a hook, then give an overview of the intended research question. Keep your descriptions relevant and concise. 

Remember, from the get-go, you should give your readers an overview of your intentions. Are you finding gaps in existing literature or adding to them? Use a statement like “recent studies have focused on the issue of capitalism which the present study aims to discuss” when adding to existing literature. On the other hand, “while there has been extensive research on capitalism, few researchers have centered on the role patriarchy plays” can be used when filling gaps.

Background Information

In this part of the literature review, outline, describe, and identify the history of the research problem. The background information section should also include the scope, problem, and extent to which existing literature contributes. Analyze how previous studies have investigated the problem and note the gaps your study proposes to address. So, this section places your research problem in a better context by referencing existing literature.

Here is how to place your research problem in context depending on the topic.

  • Economic – relate your problem to management and production of wealth or business activities.
  • Philosophical – clarify the nature of being or phenomena. Additionally, it should include its relation to the research problem.
  • Political – indicate how the research problem fits into the public agenda.
  • Social – relate the research problem to the environment and how people use or interpret a concept.
  • Cultural – place the research problem in the context of people’s behavior.

Body paragraphs

The body paragraphs are the central part and comprise a considerable chunk of your literature review. Here, give a descriptive explanation of the existing knowledge relevant to the research problem.

This section should be easy since you are analyzing and interpreting existing literature. However, most students need to improve at this part due to plagiarism. Understand that even though you are examining written research papers, you should keep your descriptions original. Do not just copy directly.

Also, EssayAxe experts recommend that you develop a system to keep your work organised. Structure your body paragraphs either alphabetically, chronologically, thematically, or theoretically. The structure you choose depends on the nature of your paper.

In addition to the body paragraphs, below is an outline literature review example.

  • Overview of the primary literature sections
  • Consider the research problem in the literature.
  • Methods, concepts, gaps
  • The outcomes


The conclusion section of the literature review outline should be brief. Here, you are wrapping up, so stick to only the fundamental points. Indicate the strength of the existing literature. Point out the significance of your literature.


The recommendation section of your literature review is an essential part. Therefore, give your reader precise strategies and interventions to address the problem statement. In this section, you must respond directly to the key findings that you have through your analysis and data collection. Also, remember to only draw your recommendations from the body section of the literature review outline.

What Is an Outline in Literature?

An outline in literature is a tool to logically arrange ideas on a specific concept. Outlines help stay organized by having core topics and subtopics in categories. As a student, it is essential always to have an outline laid out regardless of the assignment.

Here is a basic sample literature review outline from the above.

  • Introduction 
  • Background information
  • Body
  • Conclusion
  • Recommendations

How Do You Organize an Outline for a Literature Review?

We are getting closer to perfecting your literature review and ensuring a winning research paper grade. Let us look at a few steps to help you stay organized when planning your literature review outline.

Step 1: Pick a Topic

Take time to dig around to find that perfect engaging topic. Then conduct research in credible and trusted sources from scholarly databases. Then create a logical connection between your research problem and the existing literature.

Step 2: Find a Scope.

Define the boundaries of your research and make them narrow. When conducting research, your topic will contain broad perspectives. So, ensure that you have a scope of study to avoid confusing the reader with irrelevant information.

Step 3: Learn How to Cite and Analyze the Literature to Avoid Plagiarism.

You can avoid plagiarism in a number of ways when citing your literature review. Foremost, use the right citation style as instructed by the lecturer. Purdue Online Writing Centre offers clear guidelines for style formats.

Step 4: Come Up With a Literature Review Outline.

Look at some literature review outline pdf from a trusted source to get an idea. Investigate different formats and settle on the most appropriate one. If you begin with a quality structure, you increase your chances of attaining an exceptional outcome.

Now that you know how to structure your literature review outline, you are ready to write your research paper. If you need extra help, delegate your essay to our team of qualified writers.

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