My experience of writing a literature review

The first time I heard about a literature review was in August, 2014 when I started the Inquiry Methods course at GSE. Unfortunately, due to the limited time we had only two sessions devoted to the topic of writing a good literature review. I still remember how confused, lost and frustrated I was when the professor passed around the work schedule for the time when we are back home. We were supposed to have a written up literature review from five to seven pages long by the next intensive session in October. Since I did not understand much of the information received during those two sessions the only way out was to study on my own and search for the answers to all the questions I had in mind.

First, instead of reading all those books on research in the field of education I looked up video sources on One of the videos has provided me with a brief overview of the process of writing a good literature review. The authors of the video suggested following some basic steps in order to succeed. The first thing was to identify the keywords. Having decided on the topic of my future thesis, I picked some of the keywords and started looking for the sources. The search engine has shown a couple of pages with articles, books, and reports on my topic. So, I started looking at each source and downloading the ones that I found useful for me. The first stage was completed. I had a number of credible sources for writing my literature review.

However, the great challenge came when I started looking through the sources and got completely lost in all the information I had. I understood that just summarizing each article is not going to construct a successful literature review. The video proposed to organize the sources by analyzing them, selecting the key points and ideas, and having a summary table of all the sources. It was a time consuming process, however, having spent an hour and a half on one article every day resulted in a very informative table that included information on each source with its brief summary, key ideas, notes and important quotations. Later, following the advice of our professor, I divided the sources into categories based on the themes. For this, I created a mind map with the key concepts and ideas. The mind map helped me to identify the gaps in the literature and possible areas for further research.

After this long and tiring process of organizing the information into themes and identifying the literature gap, I started writing the literature review. It was not so difficult to do since I already had most of the work done. The only thing left was to put all the information from the table and the mind map into well-structured and logical sentences.

I got a high grade for that literature review assignment. The topic of my thesis is going to be the same, therefore I do not struggle much in extending my literature review. I found more sources and now I follow the same steps as I did last year. I hope that the result will be as good as it was before.

3 thoughts on “My experience of writing a literature review

  1. Thank you Dayana for your post. Your writing is really extensive and gives clear explanation about literature writing. I really like the word choice that really suits to the language context. I wish you good luck with your thesis.


  2. Dear Dayana,
    Thank you very much for sharing your techniques of reviewing literature for resaerch paper. Earlier I could not even realize that by drawing mind maps and completeng tables we can construct Literature review. Now I am thinking about it and becoming aware of these techniques’ effectiveness. To my opinion,tables are especially good for paraphrasing and avoiding plagiarism. I find your strategies very helpful and again many thanks!

    Best regards,


  3. Thanks Dayana. I imagine that your shock and frustration with the overload of new material is even more overwhelming when you aren’t on-campus having regular weekly classes. I’m glad to hear you have grasped and are working to master the concept-based literature review.

    I would ask you to share specific resources for other students to use. Is there one YouTube video that stands out?

    Great post!



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