Literature Review Outline: Useful Tips and a Brilliant Template

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You can’t draw a cat before you learn what a cat is and, even more importantly, what it’s not. A cat is a small house pet, but it’s not a guinea pig; it likes milk, but it’s not a mongoose. Knowing all this makes your drawing of a cat better, even though it can do so in subtle ways.

The same thing is true for writing a literature outline. When dealing with a review of the literature, outline writing is your first task. And the first and foremost thing you must know is what a literature review outline is not: it’s not an outline for a research paper, it’s not an annotated bibliography, and it’s not a research proposal or any other custom essay writings.

An outline of a literature review is…

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

This is not yet a paper – you discuss the sources (by the way, don’t forget to proofread your paper by Grammarly). And here’s what you can discuss:

  1. Whether the research results known so far have strong/weak points;
  2. Whether various research findings have practical implications yet, and, if so, what kind;
  3. The kind of approaches adopted by various researchers in the field; and
  4. The conclusions that authors come to and the results they offer.

Literature review outline specifics: create brilliant papers!

When planning a literature review, remember that no matter whether you’re dealing with a Chicago, MLA or APA literature review outline, there are several rules you’ll have to follow:

  1. This is not a research proposal.

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

  1. Use subparagraphs (at least two for each point).

For example, check this sample literature review outline:

Review of Literature: Outline

  1. Issue #1
      1. Its features
      1. Positive features
      1. Feature number one. (Continue the text on the same line…)
      2. Feature number two. (Continue the text on the same line…)
      1. Negative features
      1. Feature number one. (Continue the text on the same line…)
      2. Feature number two. (Continue the text on the same line…)
      3. Its significance
      1. Positive effects
      1. Effect number one. (Continue the text on the same line…)
      2. Effect number two. (Continue the text on the same line…)
      1. Negative effects
      1. Effect number one. (Continue the text on the same line…)
      2. Effect number two. (Continue the text on the same line…)


    1. Issue #2…

Now that’s what experts call an example of a literature review!

  1. Make sure that the points have a logical sequence.
  2. Make certain that the outline reflects the key ideas you present.
  3. Clearly state what each paragraph is about.

It seems that you’re quite ready for a great sample of a literature review format! Coming up next… an example outline format!

Literature review outline elements: remember the basics

Well, it’s time to learn how to outline a literature review! There are a bazillion ways to do it. For example, literature review outline writing like this will do you a good job:

Example of an outline format

    1. Introduction: How well researched is the topic today?
    1. Crucial research studies on the issue
      1. Study A: the issue, main point, conclusions
      2. Study B: the issue, main point, conclusions
      3. Study C: the issue, main point, conclusions
    1. Conclusion: What can be done to research the topic further?

Alternatively, you can split the studies investigated according to the stage of research presented and the results they offer – check out this sample of literature review writing:

    1. Introduction: How well researched is the topic today?
    1. Description of existing research studies on the issue
      1. All-embracing, fully-developed research studies
      2. Research studies with preliminary results
      3. Research studies that make an interesting point, but are not fully developed
    1. Conclusion: What can be done to research the topic further?

In addition to the above, you might also need to consider other aspects – take a look at the following sample review of literature:

    1. Introduction: How well researched is the topic today?
    1. Seminal research studies on the issue
      1. 1staspect of the issue: research studies that deal with it
      2. 2ndaspect of the issue: research studies that deal with it
      3. 3rdaspect of the issue: research studies that deal with it
    1. Conclusion: What can be done to research the topic further?

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

Literature review outline template: follow this example

When creating a literature review plan, it’s best to use a template to guide you. Consider the following scheme:
Literature review outline sample

    1. Introduction: postmodern literature
    1. Definition of the phenomenon
    2. The development of postmodern literature
    1. Seminal research studies on the issue
      1. Research studies on postmodern themes
      2. Research studies on postmodern techniques
      3. Research studies on postmodern perspectives
    1. 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: the final essential ingredient

There is still one more ingredient you’ll need to know before you start writing your literature review outline.

To outline literature review papers correctly, first try drawing a concept map for your literary review outline!

Create a graphic map with all the concepts and ideas you’ll want to include in the outline for a literature review. When you start to outline literature review 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 of a literature review – success is just around the corner!

Literature review writing tips

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

  1. Use evidence to support your interpretation of available sources.
  2. 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.
  3. Compare and contrast the views of different authors. Organize the material for your reader to show trends in the literature.
  4. Use quotes sparingly—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.
  5. 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.
  6. Summarize and synthesize your literature review sources. Identify the main points in a concise manner for your readers. Evaluate your sources, consider their strengths and weaknesses, compare and contrast the results of the studies, and discuss the strength of the evidence.
  7. Look for gaps in the existing research. Think about what aspects of your literature review topic have not yet been explored.
  8. Be creative!
  9. 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. If you have any problems in writing your literature review outline, ask for professional writing help online.

Comments (17)

  • Education Help Education Help Posted:

    I really like your blog, keep bloging like this.

    • Daisy Daisy Posted:

      Thanks for your feedback :)

  • Didi Elvin Didi Elvin Posted:

    Such a great help with the information above.

    • Daisy Daisy Posted:

      Such a pleasure to read your feedback. Thank you, Didi!

  • Laurel Laurel Posted:

    Great outline ideas! Thank you!

    • Daisy Daisy Posted:

      Thank you for the kind words, Laurel :)

  • lawernce Kalo lawernce Kalo Posted:

    helpful indeed

    • Daisy Daisy Posted:

      Glad you found my article helpful!

  • Janeth Janeth Posted:

    I am working on a literary review on a couple articles having to do with college football players getting paid, I have started my intro with info about the college athletic industry and how it is controversial, but how do I introduce/ transition into the articles and the actually literary review?

    • Daisy Daisy Posted:

      Hi Janeth,

      Thanks for stopping by. Try to write about features, positive and negative ones.


    • Dal Dal Posted:

      Try to go with the facts, and stick with them. It would work kind of well, Janeth.

  • Jane Jane Posted:

    Thank you so much. This was so helpful, especially with your examples of an outline.

    • Daisy Daisy Posted:

      I’m glad the article was helpful for you, Jane!

  • Dominic Weck Raik Dominic Weck Raik Posted:

    Really appreciate the great information guide writing an outstanding and brilliant outline process explained herewith. Thanks.

    • Daisy Daisy Posted:

      Thank you for your kind words, Dominic! Glad the article was useful for you.

  • Rimpy Rimpy Posted:

    Very well explained

    • Daisy Daisy Posted:

      Thank you, Rimpy!