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Literature Review – Step by Step Guide for Writing an Effective Literature Review

The literature review is about reviewing the research that has already been done about a particular topic. Reviewing prior research done on a specific topic allows the researcher to gain more knowledge about the topic at hand. So, the essence of the literature review is to provide the researcher with a sufficient knowledge base on the topic (Smart Student, 2021). By reviewing what has been written on the topic, the researcher identifies gaps, open questions unanswered by previous researchers, inconsistencies, and conflicts in previous research. Prior to writing the literature review, the researcher needs to know whether the literature review is a standalone assignment or part of a larger assignment. If it is a standalone assignment, the researcher should structure the paper with a cover page, introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion, and references (Smart Student, 2021). However, if it is part of a larger assignment like in a research paper, the literature should be located right after the introduction because it is not the last part of the paper, so it will essentially set up the reader for the rest part of the assignment. Overall, the process of writing an effective literature review can be broken down into four narrow steps, including searching, organizing, structuring, and writing.

Searching involves turning your research topic into a question. It is easier to search for answers to a particular question rather than aimlessly searching for a topic online. The searching step involves looking for the actual information about the topic. The researcher can search for information from different angles. These angles include answers to your research questions, trends or patterns, contradictions or debates, common or recurring themes, or gaps in the research (Smart Student, 2021). Whichever angle the researcher selects, the key is to narrow down the research. The best approach when reading an article is to first read its abstract and the introduction to know whether the information is useful for your research. If it is useful, the researcher can go ahead and read the conclusion and the introduction combined gives a full scope of what is that article. The researcher can further read the table of contents and heading sections to know more about the article. Some of the best places to search for journal articles include the GOOGLE SCHOLAR, EBSCO, MEDLINE, ECONLIT, and PROQUEST (Smart Student, 2021). For example, using Google Scholar requires the researcher to copy and paste the research topic or question to find the potential journal articles written on that topic. In addition to research databases, the researcher can apply networking to find more articles, which involves using references listed in journal articles. Besides the journal articles, the researcher can search for dissertations written on the topic to further research the topic.

The organizing step involves listing the references in an excel spreadsheet or writing an annotated bibliography that gives a summary of each journal article entry used. The annotated bibliography allows the researcher to remember what each journal article is about (Smart Student, 2021). An annotated bibliography consists of 2 main components, including reference list entry and annotation. The annotation is a summary of what is contained in the article, as well as why the summary is important to your research. For example, an annotation can identify a research problem and provide a solution or evidence to your research. After evaluating your sources, the researcher can take some time to digest the information prior to starting the writing process (Smart Student, 2021). For example, taking a few nights before embarking on the writing process allows the information obtained from the sources evaluated to sink in.

Structuring involves selecting the best chronological order to present the information and then creating an outline for it. As far as structure is concerned, there are different types of literature reviews to choose from, including integrative, thematic, chronological, methodological, and theoretical (Smart Student, 2021). Under Integrative, literature critiques the current literature in order to introduce new perspectives. Under chronological, literature is arranged by data in order to analyze the progression of something over time. Under thematic, literature is organized around a main or recurring theme. Methodological compares and contrasts different methods being used. In a particular topic. Finally, theoretical literature compares and contrasts different models and theories. Once the researcher has chosen the type of literature, the next step involves formatting the paper and creating an outline. The researcher should never start writing before writing an outline because it also makes the writing process much easier and faster (Smart Student, 2021). An outline also helps the researcher to present the information in chronological order. The researcher can also create section headings based on the assignment’s instructions.

Writing is the final step of the effective literature review writing process. If the researcher has done proper searching, organizing, and structuring, writing becomes the easiest step. For a standalone assignment, the researcher should focus on writing the body paragraphs first and then create the introduction and conclusion later (Smart Student, 2021). Since the researcher has already written the annotated bibliography, literature review writing involves just putting together the summaries from different sources. The researcher should include the in-text citations and annotations in the literature review to make the writing process much easier. After writing the body paragraphs, the next thing is to write the introduction with a clear thesis statement and a conclusion. The conclusion involves restating the points in the body paragraphs in the order in which they appear (Smart Student, 2021). The last thing after finishing the writing process is to edit and proofread the paper. The researcher can do this by sharing the paper with someone to help you know whether you were effective in your writing.

Socio-economic factors affecting access to education in informal settlements in Nairobi County (Introduction)

There is empirical evidence that socio-economic factors affect access to education in informal settlements. The following literature review confirms that socio-economic factors such as parental involvement, family’s level of income, lack of electricity, inadequate physical teaching and learning materials, all have an influence on access to education for children in the informal settlements in Nairobi County.

Factors Influencing Academic Performance in Urban Informal Settlements in Kenya: A Case Study of Public Primary Schools of Kibera Slums, Nairobi County.

In this Journal Article, KIBAARA & KABURA (2013), admits that although the government is committed to the provision of free primary education to all children, there are still segments of the society that continue to struggle to access basic education. The most affected group are the children living in the slums. The authors agree that although these challenges are common in public primary schools, they are predominant in informal settlements. Due to the nature of informal settlements, particularly in Nairobi County, pupils in these areas face a myriad of socio-economic challenges that affect their academic performance. As a result, some learners in informal settlements are forced to engage in crime, child labor, and prostitution, among others. According to KIBAARA & KABURA (2013), the main socio-economic factors that influence access to education and academic performance in informal settlements include lack of electricity, poor medical care, child labor, lac of food, and the inability of parents to meet other children’s school requirements. Besides the socio-economic factors, the study further established environmental factors that affect academic performance in informal settlements, including tribal intolerance, stereotyping and textbook-pupils’ ratio. Other environmental factors with a significant influence on academic performance in informal settlements according to KIBAARA & KABURA (2013) are the pupils to teacher ratio, poor sanitation, drug abuse, indiscipline, and poor classrooms. KIBAARA & KABURA (2013) also highlights psychological factors like stigma from HIV Aids and other diseases as a cause of poor performance. Overall, this study confirmed that poverty affects the academic performance of students in informal settlements, which corresponds to socio-economic factors affecting access to education.

Parental socio-economic status academic achievement in selected secondary schools in urban informal settlements in Westlands Division, Nairobi County.

This Journal article by Gabriel et al. (2016) is significant to this study because it highlights the parental socio-economic factors that influence the academic achievement of students in secondary schools in informal settlements in Nairobi County. The study found that physical and other essential instructional resources are inadequate in informal settlements. According to Gabriel et al. (2016), there is a positive relationship between the parental level of income and the ability to fiancé education for their children. In addition, the study established a positive correlation between a good teacher-parent relationship and the child’s academic performance. Another key finding of this study is that parental occupation, as well as involvement in educational activities, are key facilitating factors. Therefore, parental inability to finance children’s education, poor instructional and physical resources are key hindering factors to students’ academic performance. The study recommended that there is a need for the government to strengthen collaboration between different educational stakeholders to mobilize learning and teaching resources. Gabriel et al. (2016) further called on the government to control unemployment, which is predominant in the informal settlements and which is a key socio-economic factor inhibiting students’ academic performance. Thus, the study concluded that the government has a responsibility of raising the socio-economic status of people living in the informal settlements to enable them finance the education for their children. Therefore, this study is relevant to the topic as it highlights the key socio-economic factors influencing access to education in informal settlements and also provides potential solutions to address the socio-economic challenges.


In conclusion, there is empirical evidence that socio-economic factors not only affect access to education but also lead to poor academic performance among students in the informal settlements. The two studies highlight the key socio-economic factors that inhibit access and academic performance for students living in the slums. Thus, these studies confirm that socio-economic factors such as parental involvement, family’s level of income, lack of electricity and inadequate physical teaching and learning materials not only affect access to education but also lead to poor performance in the informal settlements in Nairobi County.


Gabriel, M. N., Ngesu, L. M., Muasya, I., Maonga, T., & Mukhungulu, M. J. (2016). Parental socio economic status academic achievement in selected secondary schools in urban informal settlements in Westlands Division, Nairobi County.

KIBAARA, D. T., & KABURA, G. W. (2013). Factors Influencing Academic Performance in Urban Informal Settlements in Kenya: A Case Study of Public Primary Schools of Kibera Slums, Nairobi County.

Smart Student. (2021, March 14). LITERATURE REVIEW: step by step guide for writing an effective literature review. Retrieved from


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