How Long Should a Literature Review Be?

How long should a literature review be

A literature review is one of the key parts of a research project since it provides an overview of existing data on the topic. The length of a literature review can vary based on the paper’s purpose, the topic’s complexity, the amount of research available, and the scope of the review.

If you are wondering how long should a literature review be, you are in the right place. Below is a guide on how many words to use when writing a literature review.

What Determines the Length of a Literature Review?

There are differences in the length of a literature review in various paper types. Research papers have shorter literature reviews compared to dissertations. Essays with a large topic scope also have large literature reviews compared to those with a narrow scope. How long a literature review should be is determined by the following factors:

Scope and Complexity of Topic

If your research topic is specific and narrow, the literature review ends up short. On the other hand, if the topic is broad, there are more details to discuss, making the literature review longer. For instance, when writing a literature review for the topic” Importance of Tourism,” you have more data than if your topic was ” The importance of Tourism in Increasing Employment in the USA.” When the topic is broad, you can explain the different benefits of tourism in various countries. In contrast, on the narrow topic, you can only be specific about how tourism improves employment.

The complexity of a topic also influences the length of the literature review; If your topic is complex, the literature review is longer. A complex topic requires simple and detailed explanations to ensure readers understand the subject. This results in a long review as compared to writing a simple topic.

Amount of Data Available

The information on your research topic also determines how long your literature review will take. If there is extensive research on your topic, you have much content to write in your literature review resulting in a longer paper. On the other hand, if you have limited data on your topic, the literature review becomes very short.

Literature reviews of heavily researched topics are longer than those not extensively researched. Medical issues and healthcare topics are more researched than engineering topics. It is, therefore, common to have longer literature reviews for medical topics compared to topics on engineering.

Number of Sources

If many sources discuss your research question or topic, your literature review gets longer. You must include data from all the sources, thus lengthening your review. If only a few sources are available on your research question, then your literature review ends up being very short.

When writing an academic research paper, your lecturer provides several sources. For instance, if your tutor requires you to write two papers, one with 20 sources and another with ten sources, the paper with 20 should have a long literature review.  The more sources you have, the more the data you have access to, resulting in a lengthy literature review.

Purpose of the Paper

The review is relatively short when writing a literature review to support a given argument. If you aim to provide in-depth arguments for a specific topic, the review ends longer since you need to explain data in detail.

Type of Paper

Different types of papers, including research proposals, journals, and research papers, have varying lengths of literature reviews. A proposal, for instance, should have a short literature review since the entire paper is short by nature. A research paper should have a medium-sized literature review that is not too long or short.

How Long Should a Literature Review Be?

The length of a literature review varies based on the type and purpose of the paper. Generally, it should include at least five sources ranging from just a few pages to as many as 50. Below is a detailed explanation of how different types of papers have varying lengths of literature reviews:

How Long Is an Undergraduate Literature Review?

Undergraduate literature reviews are academic papers that evaluate existing research on a given topic. Their length varies depending on the university requirements and the scope of the paper.

Generally, undergraduate students must write literature reviews between 8 and 10 pages long. This varies based on the project and the number of sources the tutor provides. In most cases, instructors provide up to 10 sources to ensure you research extensively and write an in-depth literature review.

If your undergraduate review is on a broad topic, you write a longer literature review since information is readily available. If the topic is narrow, you lack adequate sources and write a short literature review.

In most cases, lecturers provide the exact number of words you should write in your literature review. In this case, you should follow your instructor’s guidelines to the letter. Failing to do so would impact your performance negatively.

How Long Should a Literature Review Be in A Dissertation?

The number of pages for a dissertation varies depending on the academic institution. The general rule is that the literature review in a dissertation should be 15 to 25% of the total words in the paper. Therefore, when writing your literature review, ensure it meets this percentage. For instance, if writing a 10,000 words dissertation, your literature review should be 1500 to 2500 words.

Every University has its guidelines for writing dissertations and their components. When writing your literature review, enquire if your university has a set standard that you should meet. If it does not have one, follow your lecturer’s instructions or the 15-25% rule.

The number of sources provided also determines the length of the dissertation. Write a lengthy literature review if your tutor expects you to include 30 sources in your dissertation; Your review should provide data from all 30 sources, thus resulting in a long review. When writing a dissertation with only ten sources, your review is short. Providing data from only ten sources is simple and could result in a short literature review.

Your subject also determines the length of your dissertation literature review. If you are writing a mathematics dissertation, chances are that the number of pages of your dissertation is much less than writing a psychology dissertation. Writing mathematical problems and equations in Word would be inappropriate and tedious. This results in a short literature review as opposed to writing a psychology review.

What Is the Length of a Literature Review in a Master’s Thesis

The length of a literature review in a Master’s thesis depends on your project, the field of study, and the selected topic. A master’s thesis is normally between 40 and 80 pages, excluding the bibliography. Following the 15 to 25% rule of thumb, your literature review should be six to 20 pages.

Your field of study also determines how long your literature review will be. If you are undertaking a Master’s in technical courses such as actuarial or computer science, your literature review should be short. However, your literature review is long if you pursue a non-technical course such as Psychology. With non-technical courses, you have extensive data and sources to write your Master’s thesis and literature review.

The topic you select for your Master’s thesis also determines how long your literature review will be. If you choose a broad topic with adequate sources, you’ll have adequate data to write a long literature review. However, if you select a topic with a narrow scope, you’ll lack adequate data to write an extensive thesis.

Your lecturer’s instructions significantly impact the length of your Master’s thesis literature review. They may provide the exact word count for your literature review or a percentage estimate. Make sure to meet these instructions, as failing to do so could impact your performance.

How Long Should a Literature Review Be in a Research Paper

The length of a literature review in a research paper depends on the type of assignment and the specific instructions provided by the instructor. For example, if the assignment is eight pages long and the instructor requires a two-page literature review, it is important to follow those instructions. Similarly, follow those instructions if the assignment is 20 pages long and the instructor indicates a four-page literature review. Adhering to the specific guidelines will help ensure a successful and well-written research paper.

A research paper requires analyzing the topic in detail and exploring existing data. Depending on your topic, you need to provide extensive data in the literature review. Makes sure you use adequate sources to collect data for an in-depth review. Broad topics require lengthy literature reviews, while narrow topics require short reviews.

The length of your research paper literature review is also based on the complexity of your paper. A complex paper requires an in-depth explanation of your topic resulting in a lengthy paper. On the other hand, a simple topic results in a shorter literature review.


Whenever you have a research paper or dissertation, it is common to wonder how many pages you should allocate for your literature review. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about literature reviews.:

How Many Pages Should a Literature Review Be?

The length of a literature review varies depending on the project. As a rule of thumb, a literature review should be 20% of the length of the paper. For instance, if you are writing a 40-page paper, the literature review should be eight pages. If your paper is 60 pages, the review should be 12 pages.

Some universities sometimes have fixed guidelines for writing a literature review. For instance, your university could require you to write a review that is 10% of your entire paper. In such a case, follow your school’s requirements. You can also choose to enquire with your lectures on the format and word count o allocate to your review.

Following your tutors’ guidelines is also key when writing your literature review. Make sure that your paper meets your tutor’s expectations. If the paper guidelines indicate that your literature review should be six pages, meet this guideline.

The number of sources available also determines the number of pages you allocate to your literature reviews. If you can get up to 20 sources on your research question, you can have more pages for your literature review. However, if only a few sources discuss your topic or research questions, you only write a short literature review.

Is 1000 Words Enough for a Literature Review?

One thousand words are not enough for a literature review. At a minimum, a literature review should be 2000 words depending on the scope and length of the paper. Literature reviews are vital parts of a paper and should be written simply yet detailed.

A very short literature review would cover only some details of a research question making it difficult to understand the topic in depth. An excellent literature review should be detailed and include the following:

  • An Overview of The Topic: An effective review provides a clear overview to ensure readers understand the research context. It demonstrates how the study fits into the existing research and contributes to the current body of knowledge. The review also explains critical findings and data within a topic.
  • Any Gaps in Existing Research: A good literature review demonstrates how it will fill the gaps in research within the topic. You should craft an overview of previous studies in your area when writing your review. This includes their topic, findings summary, and existing research discrepancies.
  • Methodology Used by The Current Study: An excellent literature review highlights the methodologies used to collect existing data, their strengths, and their limitations. For instance, if you write about a study involving a few samples, you should highlight that the sample size limited the study. Indicating this shows that you have a deeper understanding of all data sources used in your research.
  • Potential Implications of The Study: A good literature review also highlights the importance of your study’s findings. Your readers should value your research and its impact on your study area. They should understand how your research contributes positively to a given area. For instance, a study on nursing practices should positively impact healthcare quality.

For a literature review to be detailed and in-depth, it should contain the details explained above. Including all of this information in less than 1000 words is not easy. When writing a literature review, ensure it meets the general rule of 15-25% of the content.

The only time your paper should have a literature review of 1000 words is if the paper is short. For instance, when writing a review for a 2000 research proposal, your paper would be less than 1000 words. Also, if your instructor requires you to write a literature review of 1000 words, follow your tutors’ guidelines.

Get Literature Review Writing Services

Literature reviews are a common requirement when pursuing Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D. degrees. Conducting research, identifying gaps in previous studies, and understanding the implications of your research all require significant time and skill. Knowing how to structure and lengthen your review properly can greatly simplify the writing process.

The length of a literature review should be sufficient to explain your topic fully. This will depend on the scope of your research, data availability, and the paper’s purpose. If your topic is broad, a longer review may be necessary as there will likely be more data to consider. Conversely, if your topic is narrow, a shorter review may be appropriate due to a lack of available information.

The type of paper also determines how long your literature review should be. Long papers such as dissertations have longer literature reviews. If your dissertation is 100 pages long, your dissertation should match your paper. Writing a short dissertation for such a paper would leave important data out. Make sure that for such a paper, the literature review is at least 20 pages.

Short papers like college research papers should have a shorter literature review as a general rule of thumb. They have a limited word count, thus resulting in literature reviews that match them. If you have a short paper, ensure your literature review follows your tutor’s instructions or is 15-25% the length of your essay.

You do not have to struggle to write your literature review independently. If you lack the time or skills to write a quality review, you can find literature review help. You will get access to professionals who understand the length of a literature review and aim to meet your instructors’ guidelines.

If you are wondering “how long should a literature review be,” search no further. Our literature review writing services offer the best literature reviews. We craft a quality literature review with the proper length based on your paper’s complexity and type. Our writers have the skills to structure and format a compelling literature review helping get high scores.

Do not struggle to find the right length for your literature review. We got you covered. Contact us for quality literature reviews today.


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