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Literature Review: Steps of Proper Review of Sources


Review of a basic literature is the first step of studying any scientific issue. You should know what has been discovered before you, and this will be the basis of your future scientific work. Without proper studying of the main resources, you may end up inventing what has been invented long ago. Therefore, it will be a good idea to follow the next sequence.

Step 1: Studying Theoretical Text on Your Topic

  • Based on your own evaluations, or with the help of your scientific advisor, choose an important source written by a classic scientist for the selected field. This may be a book or a big article. You will need to spend a few days to read it attentively and make notes. Format your notes properly, use inverted commas for the direct quotes, so you will be able to use them for the further paper writing. Do not forget to indicate the numbers of pages as well.
  • While reading, try to understand the main ideas of the author, put accents with the help of your comments in the places where you disagree with the writer or feel that a certain idea will be useful for your research work.

Step 2: Choosing the Supplementary Sources

  • Find the works about the selected author, his/her approach, critical reviews of his/her contribution to the development of the field.
  • Find the sources written by a few other scientists who use the same approach or review the same scientific issue. Create a scheme of the theoretical approach, mentioning all the scientists who have been working according to it, and try to define its main features.

Step 3: Theoretical and Methodological Correlations Definition

  • Think about what exactly you will focus on, based on the reviewed materials. Explain your choice of the certain methods of gathering information and its analysis.
  • Find publications of scientists who presented similar empirical surveys based on approaches similar to yours. What methods have been applied? Make notes and accurately format them.

Step 4: Description of the Theoretical Approach

  • Now, based on the existing conspectus, you need to describe the selected theoretical approach. Link the ideas of the main author and others you have reviewed. Think whether you agree with everything, and if not, find others who have the same opinion. This will be a good support for your critics.
  • Your main aim is not to retell what has been read, and adding something like “also, the following authors were working with the same issue,” but to critically evaluate and create logical links among the texts reviewed.
  • Critical reflection is the key thing in a literature review. You need to characterize it using the brightest ideas and using very short but relevant quotes.
  • Try to create a clear structure and devote one paragraph per idea.

Step 5: Theoretical Explanation of Your Selected Topic

  • This task is easy based on the previous steps. Show how the topics you have already written about can help you in your particular research.
  • Show the limitations of your approach: what won’t you be able to cover?
  • Tell how the ideas reviewed in complex will help you to find the key to the solution of your particular issue.
  • Formulate hypotheses on how the theories will develop, tell what may be your contribution to the development of the approach.
  • Make a link between the theoretical base and your empirical research, as well as types of data you will operate.

Step 6: Annotation

  • Why is your study necessary?
  • What is the main research question?
  • What do you aim to receive as a result? What do you want to prove?
  • What theoretical ideas form the basis of your argumentation and how can they be applied?
  • How and from where will you get the empirical data?

Following these easy steps will help you to create an effective literature review for your research. Just make sure you keep the sequence and pay attention to every step.

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