How to Write a Literature Review APA


When writing a literature review, it is important to take into account certain details concerning the formatting, because formatting styles change concerning the kind of style you are using. If you intend to write your literature review in APA or MLA style, for instance, you should always be aware of these styles change almost everything, thus making the literature review different from a formatting point of view.

Besides, it is significant to bear in mind that a literature review involves an analysis of background information concerning a particular topic you intend to discuss or explain clearly or to give an entrance to further studies regarding discipline or problem. For instance, a literature review written in APA format is not just a summary of sources or a compilation of facts or a criticism of literature or a book review. Often, it is an introduction to a broader subject, especially dissertations or research papers and works of the APA style. Nonetheless, writing a literature review in APA format, you must follow the guidelines that are specific to the APA formatting style.

Importance of Writing a Literature Review

When students are assigned research papers to write, some of them opt not to include a literature review. Most of these students end up getting low grades because they don’t know the importance of including literature reviews in their research papers. Here is why writing a literature review is important to any research assignment;

  • A literature review provides background information to your research topic
  • It identifies areas of prior scholarship thus preventing duplication of such information while giving credit to other researchers.
  • It identifies inconsistencies, gaps and conflicts in previous studies and opens questions left from other researches.
  • It identifies the need for extra research on the topic – justifying your research
  • It identifies the relationships of different works in the context of their contributions to the topic as well as other works
  • It places your research within the context of existing literature thereby making a case for why further studies on the topic are required.

Literature Review APA Format

The APA Style Literature Review allows for students and writers to standardize various scientific writings while making it less tiresome and more comprehensible. The APA style of formatting is mostly used in writing:

  • Term papers
  • Empirical studies
  • Theoretical articles
  • Methodological articles
  • Research reports
  • Case studies
  • Literature reviews

Formatting a literature review work in APA Style takes into account that the writer should put more attention on the following:

  • Title page Setup

The page header should be two-part section. The ‘Running head:’ which is the preceded by the abbreviated title which should be about 50 characters of fewer. The word ‘Running head’ should only appear on the title page.

  • Title of Manuscript: Should be written in upper and lowercase with not more than 12 words.
  • It should be double-spaced if it is longer than one line.
  • It should also be centred in the upper half of the page.
  • Name(s) of the author(s) one double-spaced line below the title
  • The ID of the author
  • Course name
  • Institution
  • Due date: Day, Month, Year

Note: Different instructors have different requirements for title page information.

  • Abstract

The literature review abstract is needed for a few selected assignments only. It begins on a new page right after the title page. It includes a heading “Abstract” that is centered at the top of the page but not bold. The first line of the paragraph should not be indented. The abstract should contain between 150 to 250 words although this requirement is dependent on the instructor’s requirements.

  • Page Setup

  • Margins: The margins should be set at 1-inch. You can do this by going to Layout – Margins- Normal.
  • Line spacing: The lines should be double-spaced in Times New Roman with 12-point font. The first line of each paragraph should be indented ½-inch. No extra space between paragraphs or section. The paragraph format should be set ‘0’ before and after.
  • Page Headers: The page header should be left-justified on every page. The page number should be on the top right.
  • Title of the manuscript: Should be centered at the top of the page but not bolded. No “Introduction” header required.
  • Reference

The reference list comes at the end of the literature review on a new page. It includes all the sources used in the literature review.

  • The title ‘Reference’ or References if many entries should be centered at the top of the page
  • Hanging indent: This should appear in every line after the first indented 1/2-inch. To format this, press Ctrl +T

The reference list should keep the dame formatting like the rest of the paper. That is:

  • Times New Roman font
  • 12-point
  • Double-spaced
  • Language

When writing an APA format literature review, it is important to use the most appropriate language. This means that you should forget about the biased language, specify in simple ways minus losing depth and be sensitive to all subjects and labels. Be sure to explain everything appealingly. Also, don’t generalize things but endeavour to write them the way they are minus losing the meaning and making understanding difficult.

Tips and Hints of Proofreading your Literature Review in APA Format

As a student, you want to make a great impression with your literature review assignment so that it fetches you the best grades. As such, before you submit your assignment, you must make sure it is flawless especially the grammar, spelling errors and sentence structure. The presence of these errors in your work will make the entire research be seen as less credible while losing importance and even changing the entire purpose and meaning of your research topic. To avoid all these, make sure you proofread your literature review by following these tips listed below.

  • Print the document

Reading your work on a piece of paper is quite different from reading on a screen. The paper gives more depth to the understanding of the topic and makes it even easier to spot errors. If your examiners are going to read it from a piece of paper, be the first to do so to spot the mistakes if there are any.

  • Focus on the lines

When reading each line, you can easily spot more mistakes than when focusing on a whole paragraph or texts. Mistakes are less likely to be spotted when focusing on paragraphs or skipping through the lines.

  • Avoid speed reading or skimming

The more you read your literature review in a slow pace, the more likely you will spot many errors. Read every word and sentences to get any mistake therein. Besides, it gives more comprehension on the reading hence able to pick any syntax or grammar mistake.

  • Ask others to Proofread your Work

If you request your classmates or friends, especially the experienced ones in your subject to read your work, you can see the magic different pair of eyes does. Friends will easily spot errors within your work. Besides, they will make your work look better and comprehensive to the reader, especially if those proofreading your work know all about APA style of formatting in the literature review.


Writing your literature review in APA format is the best way to get it right. This format gives you order and guides in making the intention of your literature review more understandable without losing sense while helping you to write in an orderly way on your research topic. With this post, we believe that you can write your literature review excellently in APA Formatting Style.


  1. Thank you for well explained literature.
    I am requesting one sample of review of literature written in APA format.


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