Skip to Main Content

How to Write a Literature Review

What it is, the purpose, strategies, guidelines, and resources to help you to get started.

Take Notes

Your note taking should reflect your reading questions. Summaries have their uses, but they aren't the building blocks of a good literature review. Taking notes and making critical comments is more useful.

  • When you take notes try splitting your notes page in two.

  • Write your summary of the authors conclusions and evidence in one of the columns.

  • In the other column, note your reactions to what you have read.

  • Comment on the methodology used.

  • Make connections between your project and what you are reading.

  • Compare and contrast the views of other authors.

  • Make a note of what you think about the material.

  • Even "These arguments are confusing" or "I don't understand this" may be useful when you are criticising the work.

This two column system has several advantages:

  • It keeps you thinking about the major issues and ideas.

  • You will be able to differentiate between your views and the work of others, thus reducing the risk of plagiarism.

An alternative to the two columns is to use two colours of pen - one for your ideas and the other for quotes and paraphrases. If you prefer writing your notes on file cards, this may be a better choice.

It doesn't really matter how you organize and write notes as long as you:

  • Keep track of the difference between your ideas and those of other authors

  • Make sure your notes are legible

  • Provide clear references for all resources you work with, including page numbers, so you can find it again or cite it in the review.

Image source: Trounce. GFDL. Wikimedia Commons. 2008.