Literature Review APA Formatting

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When we write a literature review we should always take into account certain details about the formatting, as they can change depending on what style are we using. If it is a literature review APA style or MLA literature review style, for example, we should always know that they change almost everything, making every literature review different from a formatting point of view. Also, it is important to know that a literature review is an analysis that provides background information on a topic a scholar uses to explain something with better words, or just to give an entrance to a further and more explanatory subject.

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A literature review in APA format, for example, is not a summary of sources or a compilation of facts, neither a criticism of literature nor a book review. A literature review is mostly referred to as an introduction to a large subject, especially research papers and works of that style. However, if it is an APA style literature review, it must follow some guidelines that are always important to have into account.

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Why Is Literature Review Important?

A literature review explains a background from a research of a selected topic, giving some depth to any subject in order to the reader or audience to know and grasp a little more on the subject being presented.

It gives importance of literature review in business research, education, or nursing, discovering the relationships between the different concepts and studies, identifying the major themes of a research and the problems that may arise, to finally discuss every question that could have come out of the whole research, giving some depth and explaining the topic in a form of introduction. This helps both the reader to learn more about the topic being talked about in order to understand better, and to the presenter or researcher to make a point, to deliver the importance of its research and all important details of it.

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About Literature Review in APA Format

The APA Style Literature Review was created in order to standardize scientific writing, making it less tedious and more understandable.


  • Empirical studies
  • Term papers
  • Theoretical articles
  • Methodological articles
  • Case studies
  • Research reports, and of course
  • Literature reviews

Formatting a writing work taking into account the APA Style means that the person must put attention on margin, line spacing, typeface, and page headers:


Fonts The common type of font used on APA style is New Times Roman; however, Arial and other fonts are also used for headers, references, and other types of manuscript tools. It is also important to note that almost all APA Style Literature Reviews have double spacing on the whole paper.

Headings The use of headings is totally necessary, as this helps the reader to know the key points and subject of the paper; also, it helps to note the important facts and themes that are talked throughout the literature review. Headers should be used in order and in levels, if there are 3 different types of headers, they should all be different from one another, depicting different things and key pointing different subjects, especially the depth ones.

Language When writing an APA Format Literature review, it is totally necessary to use the correct language. This means that the person writing the paper should forget about biased language, specifying in a simple way without losing depth, being sensitive to all subjects and labels, and explaining everything in an appealing manner. To do this the person must never generalize, calling things as they should be called and always making the subject as something active, without losing the meaning and in the easiest way to understand.

References References in a Literature Review in APA format is the writing tool most people used to show and depict the ideas of another person, especially the respect ones, who have some influence in the paper or subject the person is trying to present. This writing helps the person to deliver a better way to explain his subject, using previous works as proof of the importance of it and giving more depth.

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The normal references form used on APA Style is the author-date, as in this example:

They are written after citing or quoting, but they are also put in the references list at the end of every work. However, this reference list should have all the important details of the work cited, from title to author, an editorial of the published book and publication date.

Even when writing is all about the author or person trying to explain his own work or research, there are some tips that would immensely help the writer to portrait all of his ideas in a better and understandable way. However, these tips will also be a great help in a creative way, providing aid to the writer to make his work look better and be more appealable.

Choose the perfect topic
Every Literature Review APA should be portrayed in order to explain or give some depth to a research question. This means that the person should never have to put together a series of unrelated studies on a field, but represent and analyze an idea, starting from the point of a previously developed question, giving some answer to it and proving its importance.
  • The topic should never be too narrow or too broad, should always be manageable.
  • The whole subject should have total relation to the problem or research being presented
  • Discuss the topic with experienced people, they would help at giving the right title
Decide the scope of the review
The scope of the review refers to the years and amount of knowledge being managed. Depending on the scope that is going to be presented, the comprehension of the work could change. So, it is important to know and decide the approach that the author wants to give to the subject, but it can also depend on the research and topic, needing more sources to be explained or just a little more depth into the subject.
Select the correct databases for searches
The databases on a literature review will give some background into the work, also giving some improvement to the style and formatting being used. It is important to always look for databases that are related to the subject that is being talked about, with specific relation to the discipline of the review.
Start the searches into the literature
This is how the work begins; from this, the whole paper will start to have to mean, so it is important to follow some rules:
  • Review the abstracts works of the discipline related to the subject being presented to save time.
  • Avoid dead-end searches in databases by writing down every search being finished.
  • Use bibliographies and references to the research in order to find more works on the discipline.
  • Ask experts in the fields (if possible) to give advice on the discipline, or just point out the missing important works left to review.
Reviewing the literature
When reviewing the literature and research as a whole, there are some questions that would help the author to have and portray all the findings in a better and more understandable way:
  • What was the question of the research study? What were the cited and referenced authors trying to discover or prove?
  • Was the research of the cited author being funded by an influencing source?
  • What were the methodologies used in the cited works? Analyze the whole literature, all the sample, variables, results, and conclusions.
  • Was the research completed? Did it get to a point, proving or discovering something?
  • Our studies in conflict with the one being presented? Is the other more influential or giving a proved answer?
  • Are the cited authors respected and viewed with prestige and his work with approval?

These tips would help any writer or researcher to get a better understanding of the topic he wants to talk about. Also, this would help the reader or the audience to understand his work while giving some approval and at the same time portraying the importance it has in the discipline he is working on.

Tips on Proofreading the Literature in APA Format

Also, if the author wants to make a good impression, his work should be all polished, without any mistake of any type, especially grammar, and typos. The presence of this kind of errors would make the research be seen as less credible and serious, losing the importance and sometimes even changing the whole purpose or meaning of the subject.

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  • Printing the work

    Reading the work on a paper is pretty different than reading on a screen. The paper gives a little more depth to the understanding of the subject and makes easier the spotting errors activity. If the reviewers or scholars are going to read a printed version of your work, you should always be the first one to do it in order to spot the mistakes, if there are any.

  • Concentrate on the lines

    By concentrating on each line that’s being read, the author can easily spot more mistakes. If the person focuses on whole paragraphs or texts, mistakes would be hard to spot and would force the author not skip anything, as skipping could be the first enemy of proofreading.

  • Don’t skim or speed read

    The slower you read, the more likely you are to spot the mistakes. By reading every word and sentence as it comes without speeding or skipping, the less likely you are to pass on a mistake. This also gives more comprehension on the reading, making it easier to spot grammar and syntax mistakes.

  • Make others proofread your work

    If you make other people, especially the ones with experience on the field and with knowledge on the area, a different pair of eyes would also help at spotting errors. This would make your work look better and be more comprehensive to the reader, especially if the person who proofreads knows all about the APA style.

  • Proofread

    Never skip anything on the proofreading. If you are writing a Literature Review APA, not skipping would be the best way to do it. This can be done by remembering the details of APA Style, always taking into account the important ones. Also, by proofreading from top to bottom and from bottom to top, the process would have better comprehension, even if it looks tedious.

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APA Format Literature Review: How to Explain Something in Order

In the end, if we want to make points clear, using a literature review in APA format is one of the best ways to do it. Saying this, it means that the APA style gives order and a guide to the writer to make the intention of the paper appear in a more understandable way, without losing any sense and always helping the writer at the same time to write with more order on the specific subject.

This order would keep the author away from grammar, syntax, semantic and pragmatic mistakes if used properly. It will also help to give more depth and always work as a prerequisite to developing studies in an academic field with perfection.

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