How to Organize a Literature Review

Academics can spend months familiarizing themselves with what has been written about their topic.
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Literature reviews are usually prepared for doctoral dissertation work or other academic projects that require broad and intense research. The purpose of the literature review is to give you a sense of the field of inquiry as it has developed over the years before you make your own addition to it. Before you write a literature review, you need to decide how you will organize it. While there are a number of different methods of organization, choose the one that works best for your research topic.

Organize your literature review chronologically or historically. Begin with the earliest articles and books and proceed through time to the most recent. The advantage to this method is that it will give you a broad sense of how the field of research has developed over time.

Organize your literature review thematically. Come up with a number of subheadings or sections that represent the major schools of thought or approaches in your field of study. Within each section, organize your sources chronologically to give you a sense of how each sub-field developed over time. Write a short summary at the beginning of each section.

Organize your literature review on a project-by-project basis, if this applies to your field of study. Have a separate section for each major project or discovery that has taken place in your field and that relates to your own work. Write a short summary of each and list the publications that followed in the wake of each of these major projects.

David Coodin began working as a writer in 2005, and has been published in "The Walrus." He contributes to various websites, writing primarily in the areas of education and art. Coodin holds a Ph.D. in English literature from York University in Toronto.