Scientific Writing Tips: What is a Literature Review and Why to Write One

Writer: Nishat Raihana

Instagram: @_nishaattt_


What is a Literature Review and Why to Write One

A literature review section describes the field of research directly associated with your research proposal. This may include an overview of current and past research on the specific research topic, specifically addressing the strengths and weaknesses of the literature. This section of your paper also gives you the opportunity to justify your own research, in that you are able to successfully demonstrate that your proposal will make an important and generous contribution to the field of research. Still, all research proposals are different, and although ENVISION’S proposal writing requirement does not specifically ask for a literature review, it’s good to include one in future proposals!

*Note that ENVISIONS requirements (4) - (5) are also elements of a literature review section*

Step 1: Searching for Relevant Literature

In order to write a literature review, you will need to search for credible literature that pertains to the field of research associated with your proposal. You can search for pre-existing research papers using the search engines linked below!

  • It is beneficial to write down specific keywords related to your research question, so that using search engines to find literature is much less taxing. Keywords include the main concepts or variables in your research proposal, and many scientists add them in their papers so that it is much easier for specific papers to be found in search engines when these keywords are sought out for.

  • Aside from using keywords, you should also read the abstract of each paper to find out whether the paper is relevant to your current field of study.

  • Take a look at the reference section of each relevant paper as well. If there are any recurring citations that you notice, take a look at the publication linked to these citations, as they may be significant and well-known articles associated with your research topic.

Some Helpful Websites I Personally Use:

Other Search Engines:

Step 2: Evaluate Your Sources

Once you have a definite list of relevant sources you want to include in your literature review’s structure, you will need to analyze these sources in more detail. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What problem is the author trying to address?

  • What are the results of the author’s study? Add your own discussion of the significance of these findings as well!

  • Do the results confirm, add to, or challenge pre-existing knowledge of the research field?

  • How does the study relate to your own research proposal? Think in terms of theoretical framework, models, and methods

  • *What are the strengths and weaknesses or their research?*

Step 3: Structuring Your Literature Review

Your literature review should essentially have an introduction, main body, and conclusion. The length of your review is subjective, with consideration to how substantial your research topic is to the scientific community. Still, I recommend the literature review to only be 1-2 pages long if submitting your research proposal to ENVISION.


  • The introduction of your literature review should highlight the objective of your literature review, but also bring light on some other details like: the background and importance of your research topic, as well as the scope of the literature you will review.

  • The main body of your literature review should summarize the questions you’ve asked yourself for each source in Step 3. Make sure to really bring focus on how your own research fits in as well, particularly about how you will build on the strengths and weaknesses of pre-existing research on your topic, as well as how you challenge or add on to these works. The main question you should be aware of in this section is: Why is your research still necessary?

  • Finally, the conclusion of your literature review should summarize any key findings and significance to your research proposal.


McCombes, S. (2020, June 25). The Literature Review: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide. Retrieved August 02, 2020, from

How to Write a Research Proposal – A Simple Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved August 02, 2020, from

Christopher Taylor, P. (2020, April 26). How to Write a Research Proposal. Retrieved August 02, 2020, from

REQUIREMENTS: ENVISION: Women In STEM. (n.d.). Retrieved August 02, 2020, from