Learn and Master Bibliographies, Works Cited, and References

Understanding APA Literature Reviews


Teachers often assign research papers to students, especially literature reviews. Literature reviews may be part of a larger research paper or stand alone on their own. Since conducting original research and writing a paper about it takes considerable time, instructors often require students prepare papers such as compare and contrast, critical essays or literature reviews instead.

What is a Literature Review?

Although a literature review is considered a summary of previous research, it is more than that. You must select sources that move the research forward and then suggest ways that help other researchers move the subject forward. For example, if you are preparing a literature review for your sociology class, you may choose a topic such as bullying and social media or the gender wage gap.

students learning about research project

Researching Your Topic

As you research those topics, check the dates of the articles, websites and books you’re reading as you want the most current information. However, you may want to start by referencing studies from several years back and then finding newer sources. Gaining understanding of how bullying and social media develops, strengthens your argument. After you find your sources and develop your thesis, you can conclude your school paper by suggesting new areas of research.

If you include a literature review as part of a larger research paper, that section appears after the introduction. The research sources in the literature review section back up your thesis statement andare relevant to the arguments you present in the rest of your school research paper.

Organizing Your Literature Review

An APA style paper is organized in the author-date style. This means you cite the author’s name and year of publication within the text (in-text citation) along with the page number, if appropriate. You then include the full information of that source in a reference list at the end of your paper. As a reference list contains only those sources you used within the text of your paper, every in-text citation must match with a reference list entry.

About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico. As Editor-in-Chief of SJSU School of Information SRJ. Adrienne guided the editorial team through the scholarly journal’s double-blind, peer reviewed process to provide quality, cited articles to library information and science researchers. Her passion for digital inclusion and information literacy led her to volunteer as a digital training team member of Librarians Without Borders. Adrienne has over 25 years of experience as a freelance writer and editor.

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