AIf you follow me and my PhD adventures, you might know already that I have just passed the exam for the second year of my PhD. Back in June, I submitted a written report and had to discuss it a few days ago to confirmed that I did do all the work and test my general knowledge of chemistry. I rocked it and I am officially starting the last year of gradschool.

One of the key features of a scientific report is a good background or call it as you like, literature review or introduction of your thesis. One of the criteria to successfully pass your PhD is being an expert in your field and the way to show it is showing that you know what’s going on in your field. You NEED to know what’s been done before you! 1. Because you will avoid repeating stuff that has been already published (you won’t reinvent the wheel again, will you?) and 2. You NEED to acknowledge the hard work of the people who came before you!

To show that you are an expert in your field you need to know what’s going on, present and past

Many students get trapped because they don’t know how to do it when they don’t know what to do, they turn out to me and ask. All good guys, I know what to do! I have done a lit review at the start of my PhD and I am currently doing another one because I recently started working on a new project.

So here we go:

  1. START FROM A RECENT REVIEW to get to know the topic. While reading take notes of all the important references. The most important part of a paper, beside the text, is the bibliography.
  2. Read all the papers of point 1 and while reading take note of why the paper is important, like write down a small summury of the paper and try to understand what’s its contribution to the field.
  3. After that, again for each paper, check its biography and repeat point 2 and 3 again. While looking at the biography, you will realise that some papers are always cited. Stick these paper in your mind, practically in you reference manager software (because you have one, right?) and make sure you put them in you thesis too.

There’s a small tutorial on my Instagram page, to see how you should be doing this in a practical way.


Beside this what else you can do?


Ask your supervisor or your workmates if they have any interesting paper to read. You can’t do everything on your own, and people will be more than happy to help (as long as they are nice, of course).


Unfortunately, many people still think that social media are a waste of time (their opinion). In reality, many academics and editors have a Twitter and LinkedIn account where they share their latest publication. A compliment or a like will also help in boosting your visibility (do you want a postdoc after this PhD? Start looking for now).


I personally use Mendeley because it’s free, we all know that PhD doesn’t come with loads of money, don’t we?. It sends me weekly emails with suggested papers according to the papers you already have in your library.

And finally, you need to put reading as a priority. When you have a bit of spare time in the lab, read a paper. I try to read a paper every day and invest my time in something useful rather than gossiping or chit chatting over coffee breaks.

Hope this helps. Let me know if this was useful by making a comment below. Making a comment or a like will help me in increasing my visibility! Thanks

Related posts How to make an oral presentationHow to write a sciency report

Ciao and stay cool!



2 Comments on “How to write a literature review

  1. It is quite curious to read about how write reviews from someone that has not even published a single article yet.
    Maybe you should be more humble and start to grow a still non-existent career rather than giving lessons without having the knowledge for that.
    Just a hint: reviews are written by already experts in the field, not to show that you are expert in it.


    PS: it is quite doubtful you would be ever able to write a review if you do not proof read your blog drafts. There are several grammar glitches here.

    • Dear somebody, First of all the target audience of my blog isn’t academics or professors but students like me. A literature review isn’t an article on a peer-reviewed journal but more of the introduction of your thesis. Since none teaches you these things in gradschool, at least I share my experience to help people. What are you doing instead? Apart from leaving anonymous comments on my blog? You are a none to judge my career. You don’t know me and what I do and you feel entitled to judge me? Who needs to stay humble me or you? For the record your opinion count 0 and any time I get such stupid comments on my blog, I feel more motivation to keep going. None will ever shut my voice down not even a nobody. More than a feedback, this sounds like enjy of success. Ciao and stay cool

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