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5C’s of writing a top-notch critical literature review: An easy to follow guide for students

critical literature review


Are you about to start the literature review section of your research? If yes, then you must know that this section is the most challenging and tiring one. You have to read dozens of research papers and previously published articles. Along with this, you have to cite them properly to escape from the dangers of plagiarism. So, writing a critical literature review is a difficult task. You must have guidelines before you start working on this section. Keeping the importance of this section in view, today’s article is all about writing a top-notch critical literature review. This article will serve as a complete and easy-to-follow guide for research students. There will be a mention of all the 5 C’s of the literature review, and you must take care of them. So, let’s start our today’s discussion with the following question;

What is a critical literature review, and how is it important for any research?

Literature review means reviewing the existing knowledge. A researcher downloads and studies dozens of research papers to perform this review effectively. The literature review aims at understanding debates relevant to a particular study or topic. After studying, the researcher presents those studies in a written form.

Writing a critical literature review is important for every student. This is because it establishes the author’s in-depth understanding of the topic. The author of any research gets to know about the gaps in the literature. The most important part of this review is that it provides all the needed background information. Therefore, it is important to conduct a thorough literature review.

5 C’s of a top-notch literature review

Producing good academic writing is a difficult skill to master. Also, writing for an academic audience is way more different than writing for general audiences. Therefore, to do a top-notch critical literature review, I suggest that you should focus on the 5 C’s of literature review. Now, you must be thinking what those 5 C’s are. I will not keep you waiting any longer; let’s describe them one by one.


The first C is about ‘citing’ the material properly. In the literature review, you read the information already published by other authors. You read that information and incorporate it into your research to back up your point. In order to do so, you must cite the work of other authors. Citation is important because of several reasons, as mentioned below:

  • To show your reader that you have done proper research before writing the paper
  • To be a scholar who is responsible for his job and does not copy the work of others
  • To avoid the application of plagiarism rules in your critical literature review

The reason above clearly illustrates the importance of citation in the literature review. Therefore, you must take care of this first C in your review.


Compare’ is the second C of all the 5 C’s. It tells to compare different arguments presented in the literature. It is clear that when you read dozens of papers relevant to your research, there might be some ideas that agree with each other. The ideas and concepts that disagree will also be there. You compare those arguments and theories where the selected researchers agree and where they disagree. You must also describe the similarities and dissimilarities in the research approaches of different authors.

While comparing, it is not enough just to mention the conflicting arguments and theories. You must also describe the reason behind their agreement and disagreement. This is what the second C of the critical literature review is all about.


The third point is the ‘contrast’ point. In the literature review, you also have to describe the contrasting arguments and theories. Different researchers may have used different methods, approaches and theories to study one topic. So, as an author, you must describe those contrasting theories. You should also describe the areas of the topic that are still under debate, and no particular method has been developed yet. Basically, the debatable areas are the research gaps which need further research and study.

You must also describe the controversial theories used in the literature. They are necessary to mention because your readers want to know your research base. They also want to know whether you are also using those theories or not.


As the name suggests, it is a critical literature review. Therefore the fourth C that you should take care of in your review is ‘critique’. Describe the arguments that you have found more persuasive. Along with the description, you must also state the reason behind your way of thinking. The critique also involves critical analysis of different approaches used in the research. You must describe which approaches to doing the research are more reliable and why. The language of your critical analysis also plays a major role. Therefore, you must be wary of your verb usage. Use verbs like asserts, demonstrates, argues etc., in the critique section.


The last C means ‘connecting’ different research papers that you have studied. Once you have studied all the selected literature, you know which theories, arguments and approaches contrast with each other. This information allows you to connect all the information that you have reviewed. This connection gives you an understanding of the research gaps. It is because you know what other researchers have done and what you need to do to cover the gap. Also, this C of the critical literature review describes how your research adds or extends the previous research.


A literature review is the backbone of your research. It gives you an idea about what is already known in your field and what you need to research. Incorporating all the 5 C’s in your review helps you craft a top-notch critical literature review. Therefore, you must consider them before going further into your literature review.

Author Bio:

Robert Fawl is a professional Content writer & Content Marketer. Based in London, Robert is an author and blogger with experience in encounter composing on various topics including but not limited to Essay Writing, Dissertation Writing, Coursework Writing Services, Thesis Writing Services and Assignment Writing etc.

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