Common Mistakes to Avoid When Reviewing a Research Literature

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Reviewing a Research Literature

For many students, the literature review of their research works is considered to be the most difficult and tasking part of the research work. Indeed, it can be said to be a tasking experience, and this is as a result of the objective difficulties in the need to search and critical processing of a large amount of literature. However, the truth is that it helps students and researchers at large to understand how to correctly formulate their thoughts.

It also serves as the first part of a paper (a course work, diploma paper, or dissertation, etc.) presented to a supervisor, and he forms an opinion about your abilities on its basis.

This makes its high-quality implementation extremely important. However, it has been noticed that many students fail at this stage and it is on this basis we have created a list of the most common mistakes students need to avoid when carrying out a review of the literature.

12 common mistakes to avoid in the literature review writing are presented below:

Below there are 12 points to notice which include:

1. The lack of a basic idea

Prior to embarking on writing a literature review, it is quite important to highlight the central ideas of the research. The main aim of the review is firstly to describe the works that have been carried out before your period of study for you to determine your research’s contribution to knowledge.

2. The lack of the need for research

Many times, students tend to review relevant literature without establishing the need for the research. However, to avoid this mistake, you should ensure you establish the significance of your research when carrying out the literature review. This is to establish that the research you want to undertake is relevant to knowledge and promising. It is also to show the uniqueness of your work by showing that research on that particular topic has been insufficient. To avoid making this error, one must familiarize his/herself with the central theme of the research paper and this can only be displayed by having an organized literature review section.

3. Wrong form of presentation

One other common mistake many students make when carrying out a literature review is through utilizing an unusual way of presentation of the literature. Without the appropriate structure, the central idea of the review will look unclear, hence, the need for proper structuring. If you ask many researchers, and even project supervisors, they all have the notion that a clear structure aids the view of the material and considerably enhances the subjective view of the work.

4. Incorrect writing style

Many students tend to make this mistake a lot. They feel this is the stage for opinion and commentaries. However, the truth is that it is an academic work and thus, should be written academically. Colloquial words and phrases should be avoided at all costs. Failure to follow the appropriate writing style opens the review to criticism.

5. The incorrect content

This has been established as one of the most common mistakes students make when writing a literature review. They review works that are not related to the central idea of the work. A literature review should consist of correct content; that is to say, the works to be reviewed should be related to the topic being investigated. Issues arising from the topic should be deeply studied and essential questions should also be looked at. In essence, like any other section of the project writing phase, content should be a key focus too when writing a review of the literature.

6. Not meeting the expectations of the supervisor

Since the review of the literature is ultimately evaluated by the supervisor, it is very important to understand its requirements for the content of the review as early as possible. This will allow avoiding a situation in which the supervisor will not be satisfied with the content of the literature review, as well as significantly reduce the time and labor resources for its preparation.

7. Failure to comply with the requirements for the volume of work

Indeed, there is no official cutoff mark for the volume of the literature to be revised. However, for instance, for dissertations and diploma works, the literature review that is up to 25-30 pages is significantly viewed more favorably as a standard work. Nevertheless, it is important to discuss with your project as he or she might have his notion on what constitutes a standard literature review.

8. Incorrect formatting of in-text links

Since this is a review of the literature, it is very important to correctly draw up links to the sources used. Sometimes students make mistakes and format them wrong. It is recommended to adhere strictly to the in-text formatting style of your department. For some departments in the college, you make use of endnotes or footnotes, while for others you make use of the sample ‘last name, year’, for example, (Johnson, 2001).

9. Incomplete or incorrect bibliography

A lot of students make this mistake. However, the thing most of them are not aware of that is that aside from the content, the supervisor of that project focuses more on the list of references used for the review. But many students do not consider its proper design to be important. However, the design of the literature review is considered a significant part of the review. When assessing, the number of used literature sources, the share of foreign literature sources, the age of the used literature sources, and the completeness of the literature are considered.

10. Untimely submission of the review

Many students fail to comply with the stated deadline for submission of the work. It is important to point out here that one must adhere religiously to the deadline for the submission to stand a high chance of scoring a good mark. Not submitting at the scheduled time lowers the chance of scoring a good mark even if the paper is wonderful.

11. Choose safe sources to support your work

The best place to find legal materials to support your study is the databases that we are presenting in our conversations. Avoid blogs or similar texts, as articles submitted to magazines, whether national or international, undergo rigorous evaluations before being circulated, and thus, give more credibility to your text.

12. Write your review clearly and objectively

Avoid presenting your text in the form of a reading sheet, that is, avoid phrases such as “Author A said this, Author B said this, and Author C said that”. The interesting thing is that you find points of agreement and disagreements between different authors on your research topic. In addition to the point above, a lot of students tend to make their literature review only a narration of the works being reviewed. Indeed, it is important to provide a summary of the work being revised. However, don’t make it a narration, rather an analysis.


In this post, we have highlighted the most common mistakes teachers have pointed out students need to do away with to create a wonderful literature review. By following the tips, we have provided in this work, you stand a big chance of having a good grade for your literature review.