How To Format A Literature Review Excellently in 2019

How To Format A Literature Review

A literature review is a type of writing that examines published literature within a given topic.

As such, a literature review will require you to read and analyze different sources.

After that, you are required to present your understanding of the literature.

In essence, you are supposed to summarize different sources and write your synthesis.

Also, you are required to present the information in a specific order, and follow a specific format when presenting the assignment.

In this article you will find useful information on how to format a literature review.

What is the significance of a literature review?

The main purpose of a literature review is to summarize and organize the ideas from previous publications.

A literature review should be objective and should not add information that is not published.

But, it is not just supposed to summarize sources – a writer should connect the sources by looking for common ideas or trends.

Structure and Format A Literature Review

Like most academic papers, a literature review should have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

But the content of these sections is different in literature reviews.


The introduction of a literature review should clearly indicate the main organizing principle.

The first thing you need to do is to introduce the general topic (for example, reproductive rights of women).

Then, inform the reader the main criterion used to select the sources, which in the case of the example above could be chronological history.

Finalize the introduction by linking the main organizing principle to your sources.


The body of a literature review provides a summary and synthesis of each source.

But, first, you have to choose a method to organize your sources.

There are three main ways of organizing sources in a literature review:

  • Chronologically: organizing sources chronologically means maintaining the right historical timeline.

Therefore, if you choose this organizing principle, you start with the earliest source and end with the latest source.

  • Methodologically: this organizing principle focuses on the methods used by the authors to present critical concepts. For instance, one way to methodologically organize sources on women reproductive rights is to look at the ways cultural bias affects the way authors depict the exercising of women’s rights.
  • Thematically: this refers to organizing sources in terms of a theme, trend, topic, or theoretical concepts you deem necessary to understand a given topic. Let’s say you are looking at sources in the topic of cervical cancer treatments, you could thematically organize the sources according to the type of treatments they cover, i.e., radiation and non-radiation treatments.


The conclusion should provide a summary of your findings.

In a literature review, you should relate your findings to the real world.

In other words, try to make your reader understand why your literature review was important.

It is also advisable to leave your readers with something to think about by ending with a rhetorical question or posing questions for further research.

Format a Literature review in APA

The instructions given by the instructor will help you determine the format and outline to use.

So before you start writing seek clarity on:

  • The review format to be utilized in citations
  • The number and types of sources to include
  • The expected length
  • The headings, subheadings, and any other background information to include

In most cases, you will present your literature review in the APA format.

If that’s the case, consider the following rules:

  1. Insert a page header, and type the page number aligned right, and the literature review title in caps left aligned.

Note that, the title of the review should be shortened to 50 characters or less (including spaces and punctuation).

Also, the header of the first page should have the phrase ‘running head’.

  1. In the title page, type the title of the review, the name of the student, and institutional affiliation.

This information should be center aligned and should appear in the middle of the page.

The review title in the title page should not exceed 12 words.

2. Type the paper in Time New Roman font, and font size 12.

The whole document should have double-spaces paragraphs.


The truth is that it can be quite challenging to write a literature review.

But, with proper planning, understanding the structure, and having the correct outline, you will have an easier time.

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