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How do I Write a Literature Review?: Step #1: Choosing a Topic

So, you have to write a literature review. Well, this is the best place to start!


Choosing your research topic is an important step in writing a literature review.

First, choose a strong topic and one you're interested in. You don't want a topic that is too narrow or one that has little or no research about it. Think of a topic that will have enough supporting articles relating to it. Is it significant enough that research has been done on it?

Try brainstorming. Writing different ideas down on paper can help your ideas flow. You also want a topic that piques your curiosity. Keep in mind you have to live with this topic over the course of an entire semester.

Try identifying 3 potential research topics. Consider related concepts. Then, perform a brief preliminary search on all three. From your three ideas, choose the one that is strongest. Are there enough articles available? Is the topic too general? Keep refining your topic so that it isn't too broad and general.

Finally, write down your topic in a statement form.

Here are a few helpful tips on how to choose a research topic:

  • Brainstorm
  • Choose a strong topic & one that interests you
  • Try a preliminary search on your topic
  • Refine your topic
  • Write it out as a statement

Identifying the Scope of Your Lit. Review

In the early phase of planning your literature review, you will want to identify the scope of your research. Below are a few elements to consider:

  • How long will the literature review be?
  • How many sources/citations are required?
  • Will the literature under review have a publication date requirement? (For example, you will only include sources published between 1990 and 2010.)
  • What type of resources will you consult? (e.g. trade journals, peer review journals, books, websites, etc.)
  • Will your literature review focus on a theoretical issue, on a topical issue, or on qualitative/quantitative research?