Techniques for Organizing and Writing Literature Review

Organizing Your Literature Review

The appropriate way to organize or arrange the information gathered to aid comprehension is by using SUB-THEMES OR HEADINGS.

The sub-headings must be related closely to the research topic. Therefore, any information which does not fall under any of the chosen sub-themes is not included in the review.

An example is provided as follows to show how you can organize the reviews.

Suppose you have a research topic: Major Areas of Students’ Difficulties in SSS Chemistry.

The review could be organized under the following sub-headings:

  • Concept of physics and learning difficulty
  • Secondary school Chemistry curriculum: Philosophy, Structure, Problem and Implementation Issues.
  • Theoretical Framework (this should focus on cognitive theories of learning/learning difficulty)
  • Review of Related Empirical studies
  • Implication of the Review on the Present study
  • Summary

Writing a Good and Sound Literature Review Report for Your Educational Research Work

When writing the review after extracting the information using your bibliographical card or the literature review summary sheet/table, make sure that for every section of the literature review, you should provide the following as suggested by Prof. Peter Okebukola (2019);

  • An overview of the subject, issue or theory under consideration
  • Those in support of a particular position, those against, and those offering alternatives theses entirely.
  • Explanation of how each work is similar to and how it varies from others
  • Conclusions as to which studies are best considered in their argument, are most convincing of their opinions and make the greatest contribution to literature in the area.

The table below shows the difference between a poor literature review and a good ligature review.

S/N Poor Literature Review Good Literature Review
1. Storytelling, descriptive and compilation of who did what, when and their findings-just like an annoted bibliography Report of critical analysis and synthesis of previous research and extract of unanswered questions. It is evaluative rather than mere description.
2. Narrow and Shallow Very Comprehensive in breadth and depth
3. Confusing, longwinded and uncoordinated Very clear, concise and arranged in themes or interconnected segments.


Sample of a Poorly Written Literature Review (storytelling & descriptive)

Shehu and John (2015) asserted that research in science education in Nigeria has continued to seek better ways of implementation.

Ahmed and Abimbola (2016) stated that poor teaching methods adopted by teachers is one on the major factors of poor performance.

Abel and Ojukwu (2018) claimed that the persistent use of lecture method makes students passive rather than active learners. Similarly, Lalong (2014) asserted that among all science subjects offered at senior secondary school examination chemistry practical performance has been very bad and below average for most years.

Sample of a Good Literature Review Language (Comparison & Evaluative)

While the study of Musa (2019) which compared the implementation of gender policies in Kano, Kaduna and Katsina showed huge similarities, that of Joshua (2016) failed to reach similar conclusions. This can be ascribed to the methodological flaw in Joshua (2016) study which used very small samples sizes from the three states.

Many of the findings of studies conducted on the impact of instructional materials in enhancing academic performance of science students in secondary schools over the last five years are in accord regarding the concretization of abstract concept by instructional materials(Ibrahim,2016,Egboli,2017; and Ayodele,2019).However, Ocholi working on pedagogical belief has disagreed with these findings on the strength of previous studies not recognizing pedagogical belief as a factor in enhancing students’ academic performance.

To further make your review writing task easier, below is a table of some transition words that you can use in different occasions.

Table of Transition Words
Words to use When “Describing Similarities”:

ü  Similarly

ü  In the same way

ü  Not only…..but also

ü  Correspondingly

ü  Equally

ü  Likewise


Words to use as “Additive”:

v  In other words

v  Furthermore

v  As well as

v  Additionally

v  For example

v  Namely

v  The fact that

Words to use when making “Emphasis”:

v  Moreover

v  In fact

v  In addition

v  To further buttress this point

v  Especially

v  It should be noted that

Words to use to show “Cause and Effect”:

Ø  Consequently

Ø  Therefore

Ø  As a result

Ø  Thus

Ø  Hence

Ø  In that sense

Ø  For as much as

Ø  This suggest that

Words to use when “Concluding”:

v  It can be concluded that

v  Given the above

v  As described

v  Finally

v  In summary

v  To sum up

v  In the end


Words to use to show “Comparing and Contrasting”:

v  Despite/in spite of

v  While

v  Even so

v  On the contrary

v  Nevertheless

v  Although

v  On the other hand



Lastly, in citing sources, you must try to avoid the following practices;

  • it is an academic theft and will get you into trouble.
  • Un-introduced quotations-always introduce with one sentence or two before each quotation.
  • Irrelevant quotations.

In closing, let me reiterate what literature review is NOT and what it is Really.

What Literature Review is NOT

  • It is not the summary of everything you have read or a chronological list of the most pertinent abstracts that the reader must dissect to discover how they relate to your present study. In other word, literature review is not a shopping list of everything that exists.

What Literature Review is Actually

  • It is a critical analysis that shows an evaluation of the existing literature and the relationship between the works. In this logical structured discussion, you point out areas of agreement and disagreement. You are also expected to indicate where gaps or weakness exist that have given rise to your present study.


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