How To Format A Literature Review

How To Format A Literature Review

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What is a literature review? Being that it is a less common type of writing, this is a question for many. A literature review is a work that explores different publications while focusing on specific subjects and most times within a particular timeframe. Literature reviews require you to take your time to read and analyze various information sources that relate to a particular idea and then present a unique comprehension of the publications.

The review should combine a summary and a synthesis of the information sources. The summary is normally an overview of the critical information in the publication whereas the synthesis is the information the writer re-organizes to the article. We will focus on how to format a literature review to help you understand the basic steps involved.

The Main Purpose of Literature Reviews

The primary purpose of literature reviews is to summarize and re-organize the ideas from previous authors without being subjective or adding any extra information. The goal, however, isn’t just the summaries; rather, it’s to look out for the main trends and principles pronounced in all the publications. Literature reviews, just like research papers, are guided by the main organizing principle.

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Literature Review Format and APA

Before attending to your literature review format, look out for the citations preferred by the instructor. Go ahead and seek clarifications from your instructor, should there need be, in a bid to understand best how to format a literature review.

Consider the following in establishing your review paper format:

  1. What article review formats should be used for the citations?

  2. What kind of sources are you going to review and how many?

  3. What’s the expected length?

  4. Should you have a summary, personal critique or synthesis in your review?

  5. What are the headings, subheadings and background information to be captured in your review paper format?

Once you’ve considered all this, now let’s move to the APA style. Do you know what is a literature review APA? If you opt for a literature review format APA for your paper, then follow these rules:

  1. A header should be included at the top of the page; use capital letters. The header can’t be more than 50 characters with spacing and punctuation and must be a brief version of your article’s title.

  2. The title page should have; the paper’s name, author’s name and institutional affiliation. Use upper and lowercase letters centered in the upper part of the page to type the title. At least fit in 12 words minus abbreviations and meaningless words.

The above rules should help you with your literature review format APA.

Article Review Format Outline

Just like many other academic writings, a literature review outline should entail an ideal introduction, body, and conclusion with generally five paragraphs. The outline sections have different objectives, but for literature reviews, it’s a bit different.

  • Introduction

In this introduction section, the goal of the author is to guide the reader towards the main organizing principle. The author normally begins by presenting the general concept (Unemployment for example). After which, the author will come down to the main organizing principle by telling the reader the rationale used in sourcing information. At the end of the introduction, sum up the presentation of the main organizing principle that should link to all the literature sources.

  • Body

The body paragraph usually focuses on the specific sources of information that are usually laid out in the introduction. Each source should have its approach on the primary organizing principle; the article review format should be structured in the most logically consistent way possible. Pay attention to methodology, chronology, and theme.

  • Chronological

Keeping the correct historical timeline is essential. This can be achieved by breaking down the sources based on their publishing dates. If done appropriately; development of certain concepts over time can be presented and with examples in the form of literature. You should however not fix yourself as there are other alternatives.

  • Methodologically

As the name suggests, this review paper format focuses on methods used to present the critical concept. For instance, an author could use law and order to show the dangers of dystopia to a social species. By showcasing some of the methods used to bring out the primary organizing principle, the writer can go ahead and compare them with factors like Ethicality, Severity and even the Overall Impact it would have.

  • Thematically

Besides using the timeline approach, the link between the source and the central organizing idea can be another option. At times, the central point is just so pronounced in the literature, but at times the author has to go an extra mile and seek out examples to prove a point. For a successful review paper format, you should consider presenting your sources by order of their strength – stronger points should come first.

  • Conclusion

Once you’ve already presented your research in the body paragraphs, they are objectives to look out for in conclusion. To begin with, the author should give a summary of their findings; ‘what have you learned?’ The next step is to relate the information to the current situations in the world right now. From this point, you now finish with a breadcrumb trail. Like a good author you’d want to leave your readers with something to ponder on. This can help push further research; the reader may consider where the next discussion should go.

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Tips to Consider

  • Sources; the writer should find the best source for their main organizing idea. In your research, consider ten different options. The best source will strongly support your argument.

  • Keep off generalizations; each piece of literature approaches the main organizing principle from a different angle. As a writer, you should present the contrasts

  • Re-organize the literature; the review paper format structure should be on point whether chronologically, thematically or methodologically.


Literature reviews can be challenging. It is therefore essential that you spend a lot of time outlining and drafting beforehand. What was the writer’s intent and what effect does it have on the reader? Take your time to understand this aspect and bring it out clearly. Do you now know what is a literature review APA?