Literature Review Outline: Examples- Approaches- & Templates

A literature review is

an update on the status of current research related to the issue in question

. Its purpose is to provide the reader with a guide to a particular research topic. And for the writer, a well-written literature review is the best way to show their competence in the field.

As with any other academic paper, the key to a successful literature review is a good outline. Below you’ll find great tips for creating a perfect outline. Just keep reading this article prepared by



🔭 Literature Review Outline: General Information

Literature reviews are written mostly in sciences and social sciences, and sometimes in humanities. A literature review aims to discuss published information on the studies in a particular area. The most simple version of a literature review can be a mere summary of the sources. However, it usually features an organizational pattern and implies not only summary but also synthesis.


literature review

aims to provide a reader with a clear and understandable guide to a particular research topic. And for its writer, a solid review is an excellent opportunity to show them as an expert in a chosen field.

As with any other academic paper, the key to a successful literature review is a good


. When planning a literature review, remember that no matter whether you’re dealing with a Chicago, MLA, or APA literature review outline, you’ll have to remember several important things.

A literature review is NOT a research proposal.

Do not explain the method, state the subject, etc. Instead, focus on the central issues reported in current related research and discuss their features.

A literature review is NOT a research paper.

Do not develop a new argument and add any original contribution. Focus on the opinions and ideas of others.
A literature review can be a part of a research paper.

Use your review as a foundation and support for your contribution.

📑 Literature Review Outline: Approaches to Structuring

A well-formed vision of the writing strategy before you start the main body paragraphs is half of the success. There are four approaches to arranging a literature review. Depending on the intended length of your paper, you can combine some or all of them. For instance, more than often, thematic and methodological strategies comprise a theoretical approach when it comes to details.

Literature Review Can Be Organized Chronologically, Theoretically, Methodologically, and Thematically.

Chronological Approach

Tracing the reviewed works in succession, starting with the earliest available materials, is the easiest way to examine the specific topic. Be careful not to list the works in chronological order with their summaries. The purpose of such a review is to find out the key patterns, central debates, and turning points of the prevailing opinion at specific periods.

Here is a sample to make the approach clear. If the first available source dates 1995, and the most recent one was written in 2017, divide your analysis into decades: 1995 – 2000, 2001 – 2010, and 2010 – present.

The chronological approach can perfectly combine with thematic or methodological ones. In such a case, the timescale is divided not by decades but by periods characterized by a predominant methodology or preferred theme.

Thematic Approach

This method is organized around a particular issue, rather than time progression. If you have found recurring themes in the course of your reading, it is an excellent idea to focus the review on them. As a rule, the thematic approach requires an in-depth study of the available scientific literature. It also looks more substantial and time-consuming than the chronological one.

Here, the sections dwell upon different issues or various aspects of one topic. For example, an overview of psychology literature on nonverbal communication can be divided into the following parts: facial expressions, postures, eye contact, gestures, touch, etc.

Methodological Approach

Sometimes the results of findings are not as outstanding as the ways of obtaining those results. A review of research methods provides a profound scientific understanding of the subject field, notably the approaches to data collection, study, and systematization. It also provides an insight into how scientists went from isolated data to a concept, and from the concept to practical conclusions.

This form proves to be the most successful in the analysis of multidisciplinary works. You can list all the methods used and conclude on their efficiency. Alternatively, you can compare the qualitative and quantitative, empirical and theoretical, or any other incompatible methodology. The materials for analysis are the results obtained by such or another method.

Theoretical Approach

Very often, a literature review becomes the basis for a theoretical framework of a research paper. In this case, the theoretical approach is the most effective way to structure the report.

Wherever you can single out several theories on a single phenomenon, different models of a system, or diverging definitions of the same concept, the theoretical approach is the best choice. The purpose is to analyze the corpus of theory that has accumulated regarding an idea, opinion, or event. Usually, this form establishes the existing scientific knowledge gaps and finds out the outstanding research questions.

🗺️ Literature Review Outline: Mapping the Concepts

Wish to outline literature review papers correctly? First, try drawing a concept map for your outline! Create a graphic map with all the concepts and ideas you’ll want to include in the literature review outline. When you start writing, make sure that you’ve included everything you have on the map.

Well, now you’re ready to write the most fantastic outline for a literature review ever! So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and try writing your own outline using the template below – success is just around the corner!

📰 Literature Review Outline: Template

Feel free to use the literature review outline template below! Note that the template is organized thematically.




Its features


Positive features

a) Feature #1

b) Feature #2

2. Negative features

a) Feature #1

b) Feature #2

B. Its significance


Positive effects

a) Effect #1

b) Effect #2

2. Negative effects

a) Effect #1

b) Effect #2


Check the

literature review samples

by the University of West Florida to get a clear idea on how to write this type of paper.

And now, it’s time for you to see an example of an outline for literature review writing!

👌 Literature Review Outline: Example

When creating your own review, consider the following literature review example:


Literature Review Outline: Postmodern Literature

  1. Introduction: postmodern literature
  2. Definition of the phenomenon
  3. The development of postmodern literature
  4. Seminal research studies on the issue

    1. Research studies on postmodern themes
    2. Research studies on postmodern techniques
    3. Research studies on postmodern perspectives
  5. Conclusion: promising ideas for research on postmodern literature

With this literature review outline example, you’ll surely handle even the most complicated literature review structure!

✍️ Literature Review Outline: Writing Tips

When you start writing a literature review, you should keep the following issues in mind:

  • Use evidence

    to support your interpretation of available sources.

  • Be selective.

    Limit your literature review to sources relevant to the topic of your research. You should select only the most important points in each source.

  • Compare and contrast the views of different authors.

    Organize the material for your reader to show trends in the literature.

  • Use quotes sparingly.

    Apply them only when you want to emphasize the author’s point and cannot rewrite it in your own words. Always focus on giving your own summary and interpretation of the literature, showing your original thinking and analysis.

  • Paraphrase in your own words to explain authors’ ideas

    . Give references to other sources when you are writing, but start and end the paragraphs with your own ideas.

  • Summarize and synthesize your literature review sources.

    Identify the main points in a concise manner for your readers. Evaluate your


    , consider their strengths and weaknesses, compare and contrast the results of the studies, and discuss the strength of the evidence.

  • Look for gaps in the existing research.

    Think about what aspects of your literature review topic have not yet been explored.

  • Be creative!

  • Draft and redraft.

    Improve the quality of your literature review by editing and proofreading.

Writing a good literature review is not an easy task. It requires quite a lot of reading and researching. Check our

45 great tips on how to format and structure the literature review

for more advice.

If you still have any problems in writing your literature review outline, ask for professional writing help online.

✏️ Literature Review FAQ

❓ What does a literature review look like?

The way such paper should look like is best presented in the form of an


. A simplified form would include an introduction, 3+ paragraphs (preferably with 2+ subparagraphs in each) as a review body, and a conclusion.

❓ What do you put in a literature review?

You should write about

your interpretation

of the literary piece. Include your understanding of the author’s message and the way he puts that idea across (scenes, characters, allusions, etc.). For a research paper, however, include more precise details than personal impressions.

❓ What do outlines look like?

Outlines for a paper should list

concise notes

about the structure of the text and its content (usually in the format of bullet points). Remember that an outline is not a research proposal or dissertation, so do not write about the goals, objectives, methods, etc.

❓ How to write a literature review outline?

Do you have a list of ideas you want to describe in the paper already? If so, just make those notes structured in logical consequence and format them as bullet points highlighting the gist of each part.

🔗 References