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Published by at January 17th, 2024 , Revised On January 23, 2024

What Is A Preliminary Literature Review

Embarking on a research journey requires careful planning and a solid foundation of knowledge about the existing body of work related to the chosen topic. One crucial step in this process is the preliminary literature review, a comprehensive examination of previously published research that lays the groundwork for a successful study. 

This blog will help you understand what is a preliminary literature review, its purpose, and how to write one. 

What Is A Preliminary Literature Review – Definition

A preliminary literature review is a comprehensive survey of existing scholarly works, articles, books, and other sources that are relevant to a particular research topic or question. This type of literature review is conducted at the beginning of a research project to gain an understanding of the existing knowledge in the field and to identify gaps, trends, and key concepts that will inform the researcher’s own study.

Purpose Of A Preliminary Literature Review

The purpose of a preliminary literature review is to:

Establish A Foundation

It helps researchers familiarize themselves with the existing literature related to their research topic and thesis statement. This foundation is crucial for understanding the context and background of the subject.

Identify Gaps And Trends

By reviewing existing literature, researchers can identify gaps in current knowledge or areas where further research is needed. They can also identify trends, controversies, and debates within the field.

Refine Research Questions And Objectives

The information gathered from the literature review in a thesis or a dissertation helps researchers refine their research questions and objectives. It allows them to tailor their study to contribute meaningfully to the existing body of knowledge.

Avoid Duplication

Researchers can ensure they are not duplicating efforts by conducting a preliminary literature review. This step helps them understand what has already been studied and published.

Build A Theoretical Framework

The literature review aids in constructing a theoretical framework for the study by highlighting relevant theories and concepts that will guide the research.

Support Methodological Choices

It provides insights into the methodologies used in previous studies, helping researchers make informed decisions about their own research methods.

Structure Of A Preliminary Literature Review

The structure of a preliminary literature review generally follows a systematic and organized approach. While specific requirements may vary based on academic disciplines or the nature of the research paper, here is a general structure that can be adapted:


  • Introduce the research topic or question.
  • Provide context for the importance of the topic.
  • State the purpose of the literature review.

Scope And Objectives

  • Define the scope of the literature review (e.g., specific time frame, geographic area, key concepts).
  • Clearly state the objectives of the literature review.

Search Strategy

  • Describe the methods used to search for relevant literature (databases, keywords, inclusion/exclusion criteria).
  • Explain the rationale for the chosen search strategy.

Selection Criteria

Specify the criteria used to select the literature for review (e.g., peer-reviewed journals, recent publications, relevance to research questions).

Organization Of The Review

  • Group literature by themes, concepts, or methodologies.
  • Provide a rationale for the chosen organizational structure.

Synthesis Of Key Findings

  • Summarize the main findings from each selected source to further strengthen your hypothesis.
  • Highlight key concepts, theories, methodologies, and gaps in the literature.

Critical Evaluation

  • Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of each source.
  • Consider the credibility, reliability, and validity of the research presented.

Identification Of Gaps And Trends

  • Identify gaps or limitations in the existing meta synthesis literature.
  • Highlight trends, patterns, or recurring themes across different studies.

Theoretical Framework

  • Integrate relevant theories and frameworks that emerge from the literature.
  • Discuss how existing theories inform the research question.

Methodological Insights

  • Summarize the methodologies employed in previous studies.
  • Discuss the implications of these methodologies for the current research.

Implications For Research

  • Discuss how the literature review findings inform the current research’s design and objectives.
  • Highlight potential contributions to the field.


  • Summarize the key points of the literature review.
  • Emphasize the significance of the literature review in guiding the current research paper format.

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Tips For Effectively Writing A Preliminary Literature Review

Now that you are familiar with what is a preliminary literature review and its structure, here are some tips to help you write a literature review that is informative, well-organized, and contributes to the overall success of your research:

Tip 1: Define Clear Objectives

Clearly articulate the objectives of your literature review. What are you trying to achieve? What questions do you want to answer? Defining clear objectives will guide your literature search and organization.

Tip 2: Create A Well-Defined Scope

Clearly define the scope of your literature review. Consider factors such as the time frame, geographic focus, and specific concepts or variables you are interested in. A well-defined scope helps you manage the breadth of your review.

Tip 3: Organize Your Review Logically

Organize the literature logically by themes, concepts, or methodologies. Consider whether a chronological, thematic, or methodological organization best suits your research objectives.

Tip 4: Use A Systematic Search Strategy

Develop a systematic search strategy to find relevant literature. Use appropriate databases, keywords, and inclusion/exclusion criteria. Document your search process to enhance transparency and reproducibility.

Tip 5: Keep Detailed Records

Keep detailed records of the sources you consult. Include bibliographic information, summaries of key findings, and notes on the methodology. This will save time and help you keep track of your sources.

Tip 6: Critically Evaluate Each Source

Provide a critical evaluation of each source. Assess the credibility, reliability, and validity of the research presented. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each study.

Tip 7: Synthesize Key Findings

Synthesize key findings from each source. Summarize the main concepts, theories, and methodologies. Identify common themes and patterns across different studies.

Tip 8: Highlight Gaps And Trends

Clearly identify gaps or limitations in the existing literature. Highlight trends, patterns, or recurring themes. Discuss how these gaps and trends inform your research objectives.

Tip 9: Connect Sources And Concepts

Show how different sources and concepts connect to each other. Demonstrate the relationships between studies and how they contribute to the overall understanding of the research topic.

Tip 10: Build A Theoretical Framework

Integrate relevant theories and frameworks that emerge from the literature. Discuss how existing theories inform your research questions and objectives.

Tip 11: Maintain Cohesiveness

Ensure that your literature review maintains a cohesive and logical flow. Each section should contribute to an understanding of the existing knowledge related to your research topic.

Tip 12: Use Clear And Concise Language

Write in clear and concise language. Avoid unnecessary jargon and ensure that your writing is accessible to a broad audience. Clearly communicate your ideas and findings.

Tip 13: Revise And Edit

Review, revise, and edit your literature review. Check for clarity, coherence, and consistency. Ensure that your review meets the requirements of your academic or research context.

Tip 14: Seek Feedback

Seek feedback from peers, mentors, or colleagues. Getting input from others can help you identify areas for improvement and ensure the quality of your literature review.

What Is A Preliminary Literature Review Example

Title: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health: A Preliminary Literature Review

Social media has become an integral part of daily life, transforming the way individuals communicate, share information, and connect with others. As this digital landscape continues to evolve, there is a growing concern about its potential impact on mental health. This literature review aims to explore existing research on the relationship between social media use and mental health outcomes.

Social Media Use and Mental Health

Several studies have highlighted a positive correlation between excessive social media use and increased levels of anxiety and depression (Smith, 2018; Jones et al., 2019). The constant exposure to curated content and social comparisons on platforms like Instagram and Facebook may contribute to heightened feelings of inadequacy and stress.

Research indicates a strong association between cyberbullying on social media and adverse psychological outcomes in both adolescents and adults (Williams & Johnson, 2020; Wang et al., 2017). The anonymity and widespread reach of social media platforms amplify the negative impact of online harassment.

Social Media Addiction and Mental Health

The concept of social media addiction has gained attention in recent years, with studies suggesting a link between excessive social media use and addictive behaviours (Kuss & Griffiths, 2017; Andreassen et al., 2019). The constant need for validation and engagement may contribute to a cycle of dependency, adversely affecting mental well-being.

Positive Aspects and Moderators

Contrary to the negative associations, some studies emphasize the positive role of social media in fostering social support and connection (Primack et al., 2020; Ellison et al., 2014). Platforms like Twitter and online support groups may enhance social ties and provide emotional support, thereby positively influencing mental health.

Research suggests that the way individuals use social media may be a crucial factor in determining its impact on mental health (Verduyn et al., 2017; Twenge & Campbell, 2018). Passive consumption and excessive scrolling may contribute to negative outcomes, while active engagement and meaningful interactions could have a protective effect.

While existing literature presents a nuanced picture of the relationship between social media use and mental health, it is clear that further research is needed to understand the underlying mechanisms and potential moderating factors. This preliminary review highlights the need for a comprehensive examination of both the positive and negative aspects of social media in shaping mental health outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions

A preliminary literature review is an initial survey of existing academic sources on a specific topic to identify key themes, gaps, and debates. It provides a foundation for further research and helps researchers understand the current state of knowledge on the subject.

To write a preliminary literature review, define your research topic, search for relevant academic sources, summarize key findings, and identify patterns or gaps. Organize the information coherently, highlighting existing debates and areas requiring further exploration.

When writing a preliminary literature review, begin by introducing the research topic. Summarize key findings from relevant sources, highlighting themes and gaps. Conclude with a brief assessment of the existing knowledge, paving the way for future research.

A preliminary literature review is an early-stage examination of existing academic works on a specific topic. It helps researchers understand current scholarship, identify gaps or trends, and lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive review in the later stages of the research process.

About Nicolas

Avatar for NicolasNicolas holds a master's degree in literature and has earned a PhD in statistics. He has a keen interest in writing, culinary arts, and running. Nicolas is dedicated to assisting students at various academic levels.

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