Common Mistakes in Literature Review Writing

Before knowing the common mistakes while writing a literature review, you first need to understand what the literature review is and the purpose of writing a literature review. So, let us first understand what literature review is. The literature review is an extensive summary of the research done in the past on a specific topic. Conducting a literature review provides the author and reader with a clear understanding of what has happened or been established in the past in their area of research. It informs the readers that the author has assimilated the majority of the significant works of the various researchers in that field. 

The term literature review can refer to either a full scholarly paper/ article (literature review-based paper) or an educational paper/article/dissertation section. This blog focuses on the mistakes made by the academic writer while writing a literature review section in a research paper, a dissertation, or a thesis. It will further help you to improve your writing skills.

The literature review is considered vital as it forms the basis of your research or dissertation. It should be brief and clearly describe, summarize and evaluate the work of the previous researchers. The literature review provides a sound theoretical base for your research. The primary purpose of conducting a literature review is to identify a research gap

Failing to add necessary arguments in your literature review makes it poor. Most people make this mistake by simply summarising their readings. It is always recommended to avoid words like 'are reported' in literature review writing. The use of words such as "He said..." "She said..." are the common mistakes in literature review writing as such a pattern indicates the lack of analysis.

how to write literature review

Tips for Writing a Good Literature Review

Writing a good literature review demands the presence of

  1. Integrated research of various authors
  2. Similarities and differences of ideas
  3. Wide reading
  4. A guiding concept 
  5. Analysis and critical evaluation

Common Mistakes in Literature Review Writing

Writing & Stylistic Issues

  1. Use of emotional phrases:It is recommended not to use emotional words in a literature review section. Remember that the writing of a literature review demands presenting the flow of ideas on your research topic.
  2. Giving personal opinions:You don't add emotional phrases; it is highly suggested that you must not insert personal views in the review writing. Such a review is an unbiased display of ideas and research revolving around the topic.
  3. Not a descriptive list – Writers should understand that writing a literature review is an art and not a mere descriptive list of the facts and figures or just a summary of articles published. 
  4. Author'sname and year – Not knowing an appropriate writing style and author's name and year of publication in the literature review section is the biggest drawback that most authors face. Thus they commit mistakes. 
  5. Absence of keywords:No keywords while searching articles for the literature review will get irrelevant papers. 

Issues With The Structuring of Literature Review Writing

  1. The absence of background/definition section:This occurs more often, and unfortunately, most students don't focus on inserting the pre-literature review section. Adding one is necessary as it gives relevant background information. A substantial potential audience is left out if the key concepts and background information is not included.
  2. Bad organization and structure: This is the most common mistake in literature review writing as a lousy structure makes the doctoral students rewrite and restructure many sections. With the use of subheadings, one can avoid the lousy structuring of the literature review. If such a method is deployed in the review, the focus on the bigger picture remains to allow the student to avoid illogical structure and lousy organization.
  3. Irrelevant content: Getting caught in the details of the review is most common to occur with doctoral students, especially while reading other studies. This results in students writing or mentioning irrelevant topics. Ergo, to ensure the relevant information in the literature review, citing the relevant points related to your subheadings is necessary. It should be understood that just because a study is essential to the given topic does not make all the details relevant.
  4. Ignorance of steps:the literature review is generally misunderstood as a single step in the research process. Whereas, literature review involves a series of steps to be followed from problem formulation, data collection, data evaluation, analysis and interpretation to public presentation. 
  5. New/Old studies:The most common mistake that authors commit while writing a literature review is to include only the old studies or only the recent studies. Whereas authors should use an appropriate mix of old and recent studies
  6. No gap: The main objective of doing a literature review is identifying a literature gap. If your literature review cannot highlight a research gap or the contribution, your research is of no use.

literature review

How Can You Avoid Common Mistakes in Literature Review Writing?

The following points can help you with making your literature review look good in terms of information –

  1. Select the topic and the audience- The first step of writing a literature review starts with choosing an interesting topic on which the literature review needs to be conducted. Also, select your target audience. 
  2. Selecting the literature for review-While writing a literature review, don't read everything but read the selective ones. Authors must report only the information relevant to the topic.
  3. A guiding concept– Make sure that your literature review is defined by a research objective or the problem/issue you will discuss in your article.
  4. Know the type of review- There are numerous types of literature review such as narrative or tradition, critical review, argumentative review, systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-synthesis review etc. The author should know about the type of review he wants to conduct.
  5. Use relevant keywords:Using relevant keywords and inclusion or exclusion criteria while searching articles for literature review enhances your search result and provide you with the papers/articles pertinent to the topic.
  6. Use of appropriate style for author's name: Suppose you, as the author of the paper, wants to use the article -"Thabit, T., & Raewf, M. (2018). The evaluation of marketing mix elements: A case study. International Journal of Social Sciences & Educational Studies4(4)" in your literature review. Then you should write, "Thabit and Raewf (2018) found that…….." Remember, we use the author's last name.
  7. Criticizing the literature – Once you are done writing what previous researchers have found, you must write a summary at the end of the literature review. The author must evaluate the findings of the earlier researchers to get a better insight into the topic. The author's ability to assess and critically analyze the relevant field of work describes the excellent quality of a literature review. 
  8. Interpretation of the literature – Another critical area that needs to be focused on is the interpretation of the literature review in the author's own words. Interpretation of the literature enhances the quality of your literature review.

Always remember to keep the bibliographical information. Never give incomplete referencing (summaries, paraphrases, and direct quotes). The points discussed here can only be helpful if these points are confirmed in the review. 

Happy writing!

About Author
Nick

Nick is a multi-faceted individual with diverse interests. I love teaching young students through coaching or writing who always gathered praise for a sharp calculative mind. I own a positive outlook towards life and also give motivational speeches for young kids and college students.

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