Quarterly Business Review: How to Write One and How to Present It Successfully

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After working hard to develop a sustainable client base, you found out you have to work twice as hard to keep them. Now you have to handle countless meetings, project updates, reports and assure them that everything is on track, every step of the way.

You’re hardly alone in that. Many business owners and executives have found out that, as their business scales, the need for reporting grows.

Even if you’re doing everything right, you still need to present it to your client in a way they’ll understand. They’re your client, they expect results, and it’s your job to ensure they get them. That’s why you need to keep wowing them if you expect them to stick around.

However, presenting raw data isn’t gonna cut it, no matter how good it is. Crunching numbers and statistics really isn’t most people’s forte, and most people’s eyes glaze over when you start spouting technical explanations full of jargon. All told, your clients would probably rather look at the digest version with pretty charts. You just need to make them.

While this may sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be. With the right business dashboard software , preparation, and a little know-how, you’ll be able to deliver interesting reports to your clients that will ensure they continue trusting you and relying on you. You will also be able to establish a deeper and more productive relationship.

  • What is a Quarterly Business Report?

Why Should My Company Conduct Quarterly Business Reviews?

What should you include in a qbr, what are the benefits of a qbr, how do you conduct a qbr.

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Quarterly Business Report

Tips for presenting a quarterly business report.


What Is a Quarterly Business Report?

Let’s start with the basics and go from there.

Quarterly business reports are usually designed for clients (but can be aimed at your own sales team or stakeholders). Their purpose is to reassure the client that things are going well and to show what your plans are for the future. After all, you need to convince them that things that are going well will continue to do so and that challenges will be resolved. You’re presenting yourself as a problem-solver and an invaluable resource.

A quarterly business report is an important part of customer relationship management. It’s there to highlight the value your business brings to the client. It’s very likely your clients aren’t very good at making sense of raw numbers, so you need to give them a visually interesting presentation to explain what’s going on. Show them what you did in the last three months, how it affected their metrics, and what you’re planning to do in the next three months until the next QBR rolls around.

Keep in mind that QBRs need to focus on the strategic, big-picture layer. They’re an opportunity to gain deeper insight into the client’s business and to make a strategy based on their plans and current position on the market. This isn’t the place to talk about minutiae and deal with minor issues and challenges. You’re not simply providing services anymore — you’re stepping into the business advisory role.

The truth is that not every business needs it. Depending on your focus or business size, you might not need quarterly business reviews. You might just need annual or more frequent reports. However, even if you don’t need quarterly reports, some kind of reporting will be necessary, and similar broad rules apply.

When Are Quarterly Business Reviews Needed and When Not

B2C companies are usually much faster moving and have a large number of shorter-term clients. Creating a client-facing quarterly business review for each of them would be too time-consuming and often unnecessary. They’ll usually need per-milestone or per project updates. By contrast, B2B companies with fewer clients are usually more focused on QBRs and are more likely to require such a structured form of reporting.

Another factor that determines if you need quarterly business reviews is company age. Startups or businesses in the early stages of development have fewer clients or customers, and it’s still easy to maintain a relationship with them. However, as the business and the client base grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain frequent communication. The need arises for more structured, longer-term reporting and meetings.

These aren’t hard and fast rules. Every business and client is unique and has specific needs and challenges. Putting together a quarterly business review does take a lot of time and resources, so make sure you either need to have it (is it worth it), or that you have access to tools that will make the whole process a lot easier.

Think about the size of the company, how many clients you have, and how much money those clients spend. Focusing on big, important clients is just common sense, and it will help you understand their priorities better. Ensure the customers who need and deserve top-level treatment get it.

The Reasons for Conducting Quarterly Business Reviews

No matter your business type or stage of development, building and maintaining relationships is crucial for growth. And that’s the key reason for having QBRs. They help you maintain good relationships with clients as it shows them that you put special thought into what they need.

QBRs strengthen partnerships and give you the opportunity to really strut your stuff and dazzle the client. It shows them how well you’ve handled their business and your ability to plan for the future. You’ll be able to highlight your achievements and everything you’ve done for the client.

Finally, they allow you to show the customer what’s the most beneficial path for them (and you, since you’re in a business relationship) to take. That way, you both prosper and continue growing.

Again, the information you should include in a quarterly business review varies on the type of client, but there are some basics that need to find their way in almost every one of them.

Clients need to know:

Of course, not all data points need to be given equal priority. Every client is different, but you can always highlight the ROI and present market benchmarks. Business owners usually love to see how they stack up against the competition. Customer health index is another important metric that gives the customer an overall impression of how they’re doing. Use a set of weighted data points in order to assign them a number between 1 and 100. Keep in mind that while customers may dislike raw data, they like objective numbers as opposed to opinions. If you’re making a projection, ensure it’s based on cold, hard facts.

So try to be unbiased and take a good look at the depth and breadth of product usage (how useful you are to the client), engagement (how frequently do they engage with you and to what extent), growth, age, etc.

Another important note is transparency. Don’t try to hide or obfuscate the negatives because if a client finds out that you’ve been lying to them, they’ll lose their trust in you. Be honest and frame setbacks as challenges to be overcome.

PRO TIP: How Well Are Your Marketing KPIs Performing?

Like most marketers and marketing managers, you want to know how your efforts are translating into results each month. How is your website performing? How well are you converting traffic into leads and customers? Which marketing channels are performing best? How does organic search compare to paid campaigns and to previous months? You might have to scramble to put all of this together in a single report, but now you can have it all at your fingertips in a single Databox dashboard.

Our Monthly Marketing Performance Dashboard includes data from Google Analytics and HubSpot Marketing with key performance metrics like:

Now you can benefit from the experience of our Google Analytics and HubSpot Marketing experts, who have put together a plug-and-play Databox template that contains all the essential metrics for monitoring and analyzing your website traffic and its sources, lead generation, and more. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in marketing reports, and best of all, it’s free!


You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.

To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Get the template 

Step 2: Connect your HubSpot and Google Analytics accounts with Databox. 

Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.

You really should look at a QBR as a set of opportunities.

We’ve already mentioned that quarterly business reports are about maintaining a good working relationship with the client. So, you get an opportunity to improve your business partnership. Like with any relationship, this one is built on frequent communication, honesty, and taking into consideration everyone’s needs. If you do that, you’ll ensure you’re all thriving together.

Another opportunity presented by QBRs is aligning people’s interests and getting on the same page with the client. This adds to the relationship-building aspect above. By figuring out the state of the business and communicating it properly, you can give your customers value and continue to benefit from a good business relationship.

Continuing with the opportunity theme, consider what you have to do in order to conduct a quarterly business report. You need to analyze all relevant data (pretty much everything you can), and you can use it to find more information and market gaps in your client’s offer or come up with interesting ideas to implement.

QBRs are excellent check-in points to monitor progress. You can figure out if short-term plans are getting accomplished and see how you’re doing with long-term goals.

Finally, QBRs can help you prioritize tasks. This is another benefit of the comprehensive analysis you’ll have to perform. By comparing various metrics you’ll be able to determine which tasks are more important or valuable than others and prioritize them accordingly.

Now we come to the big one, how do you actually perform a quarterly business review?

You start by reviewing the client’s KPIs or, if you’re just starting to work with them, set the KPIs now. Focus only on the KPIs your company is influencing, but if you think you can improve on others, feel free to include them and mention them in the report.

Specific KPIs depend on the business but can include ROI, net profit margin, gross profit margin, number of conversions, number of new leads, number of subscribers… literally anything that you can use to assess business performance.

You want to highlight achievements and focus on the goals you accomplished. Put as positive a spin as you can on the last quarter. However, keep in mind the transparency mentioned above — stay honest. Point out issues and challenges, as the client should feel like you’re serious about addressing their concerns and tackling problems. Identifying a hitherto unknown and unaddressed problem and presenting a plan to solve it will make you seem invaluable.

Additionally, you need to make a solid plan about what to do in the future. If you’ve identified new opportunities, you want to come up with a plan to capitalize on them. Write down actual steps and what the plan for the future is expected to bring. If you’re introducing new KPIs to be tracked or even if you just want to test a strategy out, you should mention it.

Finally, you need to wrap the whole thing into a neat little package. Using customizable templates can help you make the whole process easier, from building a report, gathering metrics, crunching numbers, and presenting it all in a visually appealing manner.

PRO TIP: Figure out who should participate in a QBR . Including a customer relationship manager is a must, but executives from both sides should be present to get the most out of a QBR. This allows both companies to assess how they fit into strategies. In addition, it keeps the channels of communication open and provides the opportunity for C-suite to get to know each other better.

Tips for Writing a Quarterly Business Report

Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind when writing a QBR.

Use a Business Analytics Tool

While you may think that there’s nothing Excel can’t do, you’d be wrong. Business analytics tools (like Databox) crunch numbers more quickly and help you make sense of them with easy-to-understand and attractive-looking charts. Additionally, data visualization capabilities can ensure you’re ready to present all the data to the client in a visually interesting manner.

Tell a Story Through the Report

Numbers can be boring, and no one wants to sit and listen to you read a bunch of percentages. If they don’t fall asleep, your clients will probably think you’re trying to obfuscate something by hiding behind dense statistics, or even that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Use pictures, data visualizations, and talk about goals. Build a narrative of the last three months and present a story about what you plan to do in the future.

Related : Creating Dashboards from Multiple Data Sources – a Marketing Superpower

Make a Basic QBR Template

This will save you time and make sure everyone understands what needs to be included and what steps need to be taken. If you already have a preset workflow, you’ll be able to put together a QBR much more quickly. It’s very likely you’ll continue tracking similar metrics from review to review, so you’ll be able to focus only on what’s new and finding an interesting way to present it. 

Using pre-built reporting templates can also be a huge time saver as you’re relying on the expertise of people whose business it is to know how to structure data.

Revise After Every QBR

Use a QBR as a learning opportunity. Did you notice any gaps in performance? Are there any KPIs that should have been included? Did your client offer any feedback? What would they like to see and what did they especially care about?

Write down your observations and use them to make the next QBR better.

Include Highlights

You can follow the rule of three here. Pick three things as your main message for each segment and try to center your presentation around them. People remember things that come in threes more easily, and you want to take advantage of that. 

Make It Concise

Your clients are likely busy people and don’t have too much time to listen to a lengthy report. Be crisp and concise, no QBR meeting should take more than an hour, and even that is pushing it. Don’t pad the agenda and stick to the things that really matter. 

If possible, structure the presentation with the most important information in the beginning. This allows attendees who no longer need to be a part of it to leave. Time is money, after all. You really don’t want to hear a customer say, “this really could have been an email,” after you’re done presenting a quarterly business review.

Some of these may sound like no-brainers but you really want to avoid making these mistakes. Don’t:

1. Call it a QBR If you don’t actually hold them every quarter

If you’ve decided that you need to hold your business reviews less frequently you can use:

2. Hold QBRs when it’s not necessary

– While the quarterly makes it sound like you have to do it every three months, you really don’t. Sometimes you just don’t need to hold them that frequently.

If you get a big new client you might want to do an “onboarding summary.” You’ll take a good look at them, identify new KPIs, figure out their goals and their current position, and make a strategy on how you can get there. Then you can schedule a meeting that coincides with meeting specific milestones.

3. Get defensive

– If your client interrupts you to ask a question or ask for clarification, be ready for it. The same goes if they ask you about promised milestones that you didn’t manage to deliver. Just stay calm and patient and address their concerns. If you get flustered and defensive, it’s likely you’ll just sour the relationship and make it harder to gain the customer’s trust.

4. Spend too little time preparing

– You really don’t want to treat a QBR as something to get off the agenda as soon as possible with minimum effort. Even if it doesn’t take too long to prepare, don’t do it the day before! 

Your client deserves more than a hastily made presentation. Talk to them, and invest time and effort into the process.

5. Focus on the numbers

– while you do want to showcase all the shiny metrics that improved while you were working with them, that can’t be the focus of the presentation. 

It bears repeating, a QBR is an opportunity to improve your relationship with the client , so use it. It’s likely that they either won’t understand all the numbers or won’t care to analyze them thoroughly. You need to be more than a talking spreadsheet. Be patient, and use the time to connect with the client.

6. Just read what’s written on the slides

– If you’re just going to read the slides, you could have sent the QBR as an email and saved everyone some time. Your clients want to hear what you have to say, not just a recitation of dry statistics and phrases that can fit into a slide.

7. Make it too long

– Respect your client’s time. We mentioned being concise, but it’s still something a lot of people flub. They get caught in the idea that more is better and end up delving into minute details that aren’t necessary and dragging the whole thing out well past the point it’s needed.

You’ve got your QBR written up, the slides look eye-catching, and you’ve briefed everyone who’s supposed to be involved. All that’s left is to actually present it to the client, and you don’t have to worry about it for another three months.

Well, let’s cover the presentation part and you’re good to go. 

Overuse of buzzwords also runs the risk of making you look like you’re trying to hide something or that you don’t really know what you’re talking about, and that’s the last thing you want.

Use Quarterly Business Reviews to Build Stronger Connections

Quarterly business reviews are a key aspect of any customer success program. By dedicating time and effort to growing your relationship, you can ensure you’ll bring value to your clients and grow with them.

Databox Dashboard Designer can help you build more effective and eye-catching presentations. Just link the data sources, and you’ll be able to populate a dashboard with relevant metrics that are easy to read and understand. Emphasize important data points and showcase how much you’ve helped your client and how valuable your partnership is.

Of course, you don’t have to create reports from scratch. Databox Dashboard Designer will take care of that for you by offering pre-built visualizations for the most popular metrics from 70+ data sources. Our business dashboards are fully customizable and you can create your own unique look that will suit the needs of your QBR presentation. All elements are dynamic, so you can move them around, and they’ll resize automatically depending on the room available. Databox is far more than a simple data visualization tool. It will allow you to track performance from multiple sources, compare them, and identify trends that you can capitalize on. 

No coding skills are required and the tool is incredibly simple to use, saving you both money and time.

Like what you’ve read so far? You can create a free Databox account in minutes and make building quarterly business reports easier than you thought possible.

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How to Write a Traditional Review One Day Course

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What students had to say about other CIBNP programs

how to write one review


What will you learn.

What is a Review Article? Types of Review Articles? Structure of Your Review Article What each section of a review article means? Topic Selection Data Collection Keywords Databases Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria Referencing Manually Referencing Electronically Introduction Section Writing Types of Introduction Method Section Writing Types of Method Section Results Section Writing Types of Results Sections Discussion Section Types of Discussion Section Conclusion Section Writing Types of Conclusion Referencing Tables and Figures Abstract Writing Time Management for Traditional Review Frequently Asked Questions Final Exam Assignment

For Whom is this training?

This unique training has been designed for everyone who is interested in research or research writing regardless of the profession.

If you are a beginner then you will definitely benefit from this training. But if you are already an experienced author and want to polish and improve your writing knowledge and skills, then this training is the best tool that you can have to improve your writing capability.

If you are anyone of the following, then this training is for you

⦁ Beginner with no experience in writing ⦁ Professional with Little experience in writing ⦁ Professional with Good experience in writing ⦁ Professional with Excellent writing skills but want to learn more to grow more ⦁ Medical Student ⦁ University student of any domain ⦁ Medical Doctor ⦁ Engineer ⦁ Assistant Professor at a university ⦁ Associate Professor at a university ⦁ Full Professor at a university

Minimum Requirement:

The minimum requirement is High School Level English and High Speed internet connection.

⦁ Every job employer wants and expects you to write and publish research papers. Whether it is a clinical residency job or it is professorship or a job as a scientist. This unique one day hands-on Traditional Review Writing Course will enable you to learn to write your research paper in a short span of time. This training will help you regardless of the experience and background.

⦁ The skill and ability to select your own topic and write unlimited amount of papers

⦁ The knowledge and understanding of all the aspects of Tradtional Review Writing

⦁ You will be among very few researchers who know different types of Introduction sections, method, results, discussion, conclusion and abstract writing.

⦁ You will be considered over others for jobs as a researcher because every lab looking for candidates would love to hire a person who has the skill and ability to write research papers

⦁ If you are already an assistant professor or associate professor this training will enhance and polish your skills of writing a traditional review

⦁ If you know how to write a tradtional review you can easily write any other type of article without any hassle.

⦁ More job opportunities because this training will be a proof of your knowledge to write a paper.

⦁ More opportunities of fellowships, residency positions, positions as scientists

⦁ More chances of promotion because without the knowledge of research writing you may find it extremely tough to be promoted or get a raise in salary.

⦁ More confidence you get just because of knowing more than your peers

⦁ Better self-esteem

• Life long access to the video recording and course material

• This program will give you more exposure to research

• It will make your CV extremely strong

• Not many people know about these topics, therefore, it will make you distinct.

• The program will help you learn the basics of paper writing.

• If you are currently writing a paper and are stuck about the next step, this program will assist you about the parts of research paper and the writing basic knowledge.

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Dr. Hassaan Tohid MBBS, CCATP, CSOTP is a TEDx Speaker, Entrepreneur, Neuroscientist, Motivational speaker, Trainer, Certified Life Coach, and a Published author.

He has a career with three domains. An entrepreneur, an academic (neuroscientist, and a teacher), and a clinician (Addiction treatment).

As an entrepreneur, he is the founder of California Institute of Behavioral Neurosciences and Psychology. Where he leads the organization as the CEO. He is a trainer, a coach, and a teacher. His training includes Public Speaking, Research Writing and Research Data Analysis, Business training and coaching, life coaching, and Sales.

An academic he is a Neuroscientist and delivered a TED talk on his specialty Mirror Neurons and Dissociative Identity Disorder at TEDx UCDavissf and TEDxUAlberta. He has published over 40 scientific articles and written 3 books.

A clinician with substance use disorder treatment specialty. Dr. Tohid graduated as a medical doctor and chose mental health and substance use disorder as a domain of his clinical career.

Dr. Tohid has delivered lectures on the subjects of success, motivation, business, sales, and research writing and publishing in different languages to thousands of medical and non-medical students.

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How to Write a One Page Performance Review

How to Write a One Page Performance Review

In a performance review, a manager evaluates an employee. they offer feedback, identify areas of strength and those that need improvement..

In the review meeting, goals and targets for future performance will be outlined. Keeping the performance review brief, as brief as one page, can ensure that it delivers value to the employee, their manager and the entire business.

Companies carry out performance reviews periodically because this offers a chance to correct course quickly if need be and offer support in a timely manner.

Other benefits of performance reviews include:

It is customary to write a performance review in order to provide a record of what was discussed, and to track progress. This report can be a point of reference for both the employee and the manager. For this reason, amongst several others, it should be kept short.

Reasons to write a one page performance review

It is faster.

It takes less time to conduct and respond to a one page performance review. Because participants don’t have to set aside a lot of time to do them, it encourages both managers and employees to embrace the process.

It allows you to relay relevant information

One page performance reviews can be done frequently and this allows managers to share current and relevant feedback. A one page performance review done once a month will be more effective than a longer review that is done only once a year.

They can double as an engagement tool

Feedback is one of the things managers should put at the fore front if they are seeking to both maintain and improve engagement amongst employees . Short and frequent reviews offer managers a chance to give feedback.

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A quick point of reference

Employees can quickly pull up their copy of their one page performance review if they need a reminder of what they need to focus on. They can track their own progress and these documents can be powerful tools in a larger performance review or a salary review.

They get to the gist of the matter

A short review will be specific, leaving no room for vagueness or assumptions. This helps both the manager and the employee give information that is actionable.

What to include in the performance review

Different industries will measure performance basing on different parameters. In addition to those specific measures, most will review the following skills:

employee performance review

Writing the one page performance review

Depending on the preferences of the organisation, the grading system for the review can be numerical, 0 to 5, involve alphabetical choices, ask for written responses or even be some combination of the three.

A performance review can involve feedback from a self-evaluation as well as evaluation from a manager of their employee.

Be specific

The review should cover specific areas like employee behaviour, achievements and their contribution to the larger organisational goals. Rate the employee on each of these areas and give clear feedback for improvement or congratulate them on a job well done.

Keep feedback constructive

Feedback should focus on correcting, improving or advising. For instance, “This was not done well” could be replaced with “Consider using this system to ease the flow of information.” This ensures that employees find the reviews beneficial.

Use examples

Brief doesn’t mean the performance review should be vague. In fact, for a one page performance review to be beneficial, it needs to be very clear.

If you are happy with how an employee resolved a particular conflict, articulate that. Saying, “Well done on your use of the company’s 5 step resolution conflict with a customer this month” is clearer than giving 5 stars on the ‘Conflict resolution’ metric.

It is helpful to tailor the review template to a specific department and not use the same one across the entire organisation.

Compare with previous reviews

If the employee has been with you for a while and you have done reviews before, reference them. If there were areas that had been highlighted for change, comment on if the desired action has been undertaken or not. If an issue is recurring, it should not be ignored.

Balance the negative and positive: try the sandwich approach

It is unlikely that an employee has done everything wrong in the period under review. As such, make sure to point out what they have done right as well and where you have noticed improvement. This will motivate and encourage employees.

Let the job description guide you

In writing a one page performance review, look to the employee job description . It highlights exactly what an employee is supposed to do and will be a good measuring stick for how they have performed. Referencing it can also serve as a gentle reminder to employees about their roles.

Be holistic

Even though a one page performance review is carried out periodically, take the bigger picture of an employees’ performance into consideration. Having done extremely well or extremely badly in the last week shouldn’t completely erase the trend you have been noticing with the employee.

Adding that their performance has improved from the last months or that it has slipped from what it has been previously can also be helpful feedback

A one page performance review is a helpful tool in improving productivity and engagement. Managers should remember to do these brief reviews periodically. It is important to keep the process two way, allowing for an interaction between manager and employee. During this conversation, both parties can make a plan for the near future.

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How to Write a Product Review: a Step-by-Step Guide (With Examples)

Cath andrews.

How to Write a Product Review: a Step-by-Step Guide


Have you heard of the term “fake reviews”? They’re reviews written with the sole purpose of selling a product, whether the product quality is good or not, even if the author has never used it.

This article is about how to write a product review, one that is authentic and offers your customers a solution to a problem, fulfills a need, or meets a desire.

Your product review page is not about selling to a customer. It’s about talking to a friend, offering the best quality information possible.

The process and techniques you’ll learn here apply to any product review: digital and hard products, affiliate products and your own; from the very expensive to the very cheap.

Before you start writing your page, you need to do some preparatory work.

Think of it like this: your customer is on one side of a door. To her, the door looks closed and barred. She has no idea how to get through it.

Wood door with lock representing unlocking doors to questions with product reviews

A good product review starts where your customer is, unlocks the door, and leads her through.

So before you choose the product you’re going to review and sell, you need to focus on what your customers need or want.

Not what you want. Or what you think they want.

Purchases are made for one of three reasons:

The impetus to buy is strongest if the issue is a pressing problem for which customers require a solution. It’s simply more acute, generally, than a desire.

So what we’re selling is more than a product or service. It’s

Two important things to understand about purchasing are that:

Step 1: Identify Your Customer’s Pain (and Write A Product Review to Solve It)

Pain point symbol - address customer pain points in your product reviews

2. No product in mind at the moment? Even better. Ask yourself the same questions, in a slightly different way:

3. No idea what your customer’s most pressing problem, need or desire is? Or think you may know, but you’re not really sure? Time to find out!

Top Tip: Think Creatively

Think outside the box. Here’s an example.

Product Review Example: Identifying the Problem

I have a site about keeping backyard chickens . One of my most popular (and lucrative) products seems totally unrelated to chickens.

It’s an electronic rat trap. I sell upwards of 15 of them a day, and they cost around $35 each.

Product Review Example about an electronic rat trap

Why so popular?

I discovered that one of the most critical problems for chicken keepers is rats. Where there’s grain, there are rodents.

When I looked for solutions, I found many complaints about rats in the chicken run — but no long-lasting solutions.

So I asked for advice from some real live rat-catchers and wrote a series of articles: how to know if you have a problem, how to tell mice from rats, how to get rid of them.

Those pages all link to the product review page.

So, think creatively, particularly if you don’t have a specific product in mind. Find the most pressing problem. Find a solution. Write a product review.

Take some time now to note how you’ll identify the most pressing problem, need or desire for your audience. We’ll come back to this — it’s one of the two most critical parts of this process.

Sign up here to receive the how to write a product review worksheets to use for this exercise. Use it to record what you’ve discovered so far.

Step 2: Find the Right Words to Use When You Write A Product Review

We’ve identified what your potential customer’s problem or need is. Now we need to look at how she’s feeling about it.

Why? Because…

“Feelings + thinking = purchase.”

Maya Angelou quote related to writing a product review

You’ll sell the product only after you’ve identified the pain point (or need) and let your customer know that you understand it.

So now we need to examine the kind of language she uses when she’s recounting her problems.

Using some of that same language makes your product review more likely to resonate. “This person understands exactly how I feel” is the reaction you’re looking for.

How to do this? Learn to speak the same language as your audience. Aim to foster rapport and credibility.

You already have your own “voice” for your blog or website. This is not about changing that voice. It’s about including some of the language — the specific words — your potential customers use to identify their pain points, and empathizing with them.

Don’t try to second-guess this. Avoid thinking that your customers “must” use the same language you do. The likelihood is, they won’t.

Sign up below to receive the how to write a product review worksheets to use for this exercise. Use it to record what you’ve discovered so far.

You’ll refer to your notes when you start to write a product review.

Product Review Example: Using Emotional Language

Child eating watermelon at daycare

Her books are about what to feed children in daycare. She had a sales page that described what the books were about — healthful, easy-to-make recipes, together with a shopping list for each one. If you want your recipes to get found in Google, make sure you are using proper recipe schema.

But the words on her sales page weren’t resonating with her audience.

So we looked for threads related specifically to food in a couple of daycare provider forums.

These are real quotes. Note the “feeling” words the providers use: “panicking”; “driving me crazy”; “at a loss”; “chaos”; “stressed out”…

Writing product reviews using emotional language

From the outside, some of it may seem funny, but to those daycare providers, it’s serious stress.

What’s the solution they’re looking for? Could Megan’s books be part of it?

Most of them really don’t know what they need. They’re expressing their feelings.

It’s the way they’re describing the problem that gives us a clue about where they are now and the emotional state they want to be in.

Reflecting these words back to the customer in her product review immediately resonated:

“Are you at a loss to know what to feed your daycare kids?”

“Does lunchtime feel like chaos, every day?”

“Feeling stressed out even trying to decide what to have for lunch?”

The feeling in her potential customer? “Thank goodness — someone who understands exactly how I feel!”

Now look at the flip side. Others in the same forum had a clearer view of how they’d like to feel and what the ideal solution looked like…

Benefit focused phrases for product reviews

Again, notice the language:

“Calm and focused”; “time for discussion / reflection”; “organized.” And there’s the very idea for a product that Megan has already created!

How did we use this?

We put it together with the earlier “problem-focused” language:

“If you wish you could feel organized, calm and focused at mealtimes, if your heart’s desire is to be able to sit down, family style, and eat healthful foods with different tastes while having time for discussion about the afternoon ahead…”

“I have exactly the answer you’ve been looking for!”

This exact process can be followed to help you uncover the right language to infuse your product review with emotional impact.

It doesn’t always work out as clearly as this. Sometimes you have to dig more deeply. But the greater the problem, the more likely you’ll discover words that you can use to good effect.

And maybe you’ll stumble upon ideas for future products in the process.

Hand manipulating puppet strings

If so, reassess your thinking about products. You’re matching up problems your audience has with a solution they say they want.

That’s not manipulation. It’s serving your customers. You’re not going to sell them a product they don’t want. You are going to talk about the pros and cons — product drawbacks as well as benefits. You’re not going to deceive them about how the product will change their lives overnight.

You are going to tell them how your product, whatever it may be, can help change their world for the better — a little at a time.

Reminder: You are not writing a review with the primary goal of selling a product. Your goal is offering a solution, meeting a need or fulfilling a desire.

Open doorway to beautiful beach

Remember: Your product review is the door through which you lead your customer to the product you’re selling.

You’ll harness this and prove why this product is the one that solves her problem or satisfies her desire as completely as possible.

And your review won’t look anything like the reviews of scammers. It will look and sound like you, helping your customer.

Let’s examine the product you’re about to write a product review page for. How can we ensure that it provides a solution and meets your customer’s needs or desires?

Step 3: Choose Products to Review

Shipping boxes on conveyor

It’s important that this part — the factual information about the product — links back to the feeling part. That’s where our work lies now.

We’ll split this into two: products you’ve developed yourself, or have owned, used and love, and products you wish you had the money to try but haven’t.

Then we’ll look at smaller products, for which this process may feel like overkill.

Products You Use

Let’s start with your own products or affiliate products you’ve owned and used.

Use the worksheet you downloaded earlier if it’s helpful. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, sign up now!

It will be very important when you write a product review that you have this information at hand. So don’t just think about it — write it down.

Think through the benefits your product has.

If this is a product you’ve created yourself, or an affiliate link to a product you own and use, it’s a fairly straightforward process. You’re giving your personal feedback on the product: not just its features, but authentic information about how it helped you in real life. If you’re new to affiliate marketing, Miles Beckler covers “how to be authentically helpful” in his affiliate marketing crash course .

The worksheet allows for 5 features and their related benefits. If you can only think of 2 or 3, that’s fine.

If there are more, that’s also fine, but bear in mind you don’t want to overload your customer with information. What she’ll want to know most is how this product addresses her most pressing problem, need or desire.

Break this down into small parts.

Your customer is more likely to buy a product if she can see its features as direct solutions to her problem or an exact match for her need or desire.

Case Study: Translating Product Features Into Benefits

I have a website about Italy, which is where I live. I sell a lot of electric pasta machines on my Italian site.

Pasta Machine Product Review Example with image of egg and flour

But the most obvious, and best, feature of the pasta machine is that it automates the process. Flour, egg and water go in. 35 minutes later, push a button and pasta comes out the other end.

And the greatest benefit is one we can all relate to: a saving of time . A working parent of two toddlers may want to give the family fresh pasta for dinner, but time is against her.

What does she feel about that? Perhaps frustrated. Guilty that she’s not able to be a “perfect parent.” Tired, if she tries to make pasta anyway… Stressed, because (at least in her mind) other parents seem to manage to provide healthful meals every day.

How does she want to be? Relaxed. Happy that she’s providing nutritious meals. Glad that her children are learning about, and eating, food that’s not processed.

What solutions does the pasta machine offer, and how will they help make her feel good?

The added, less obvious benefits? Perhaps improved relationships with the children. A more relaxed household.

The benefit of that is for her entire family: healthier food means healthy children, an improved lifestyle.

Which may mean fewer doctor’s visits, less time off school, less stress…

And then there are lessons for children about preparing food with fresh ingredients…

See how each separate feature can lead to multiple indirect benefits, many of them emotionally based, which all lead back to how our customer wants to be?

Acknowledge the Negatives

Very few products have absolutely no drawbacks at all, and it’s important to acknowledge that when you write a product review.

Why? Because there are too many fake reviews out there that praise products, mentioning no drawbacks. That’s doing a huge disservice to customers — and will dispel any trust you’ve built up.

So, be honest.

Chicken egg hatching

If you’re reviewing your own product and it’s already live, look at what your customers are saying. If they’ve not said anything negative, ask them. Questions like “how do you think this product could be improved?” or “what’s the one thing you’d change about it?” are a good starting point.

If it’s an affiliate product and you can’t think of any cons of the product, look at some reviews. Amazon is a rich source of information. Review all the reviews: one or two stars are the obvious ones to read but sometimes reviews of 3 or 4 stars can give more nuanced problems people have come up against.

Are those issues going to stop your customer from getting through that barred door? Are the drawbacks enough to put her off buying the product?

Take some time to think about your product drawbacks. How could you overcome them?

If you draw a blank, look for reviews from people who’ve used the product and found it lacking but have overcome the obstacles. Are their solutions something you could also offer to your customer?

What If You’ve Never Owned the Product or Tried the Service?

Writing about a product we own and love is obviously the best type of review. But we don’t always have the luxury of testing every product we think will meet our customer’s needs. I don’t have the money, the time or the inclination (well — maybe the inclination…) to try out all of Italy’s best hotels to review for my site.

So, what then?

Interrogation room with chair and spotlight

Occasionally we can do this in person. Friends or family may have tried it. Sometimes we can ask our most trusted customers. What can they tell us?

Be careful about this. People’s memories can be selective, and individuals have differing ideas about what’s a necessary feature. Not everyone thinks having six kinds of tea in their hotel room is critical to their enjoyment of Florence.

Sometimes we don’t have either of those options. In that case, our option is to look at other people’s reviews.

This one is tricky. Earlier, I mentioned “fake reviews.” Amazon, Yelp and TripAdvisor have struggled with them for years.

Why? Because reviewers have written reviews not to offer help to prospective customers but to make competitors look worse. It’s particularly prevalent in the hotel and restaurant industry.

Amazon and Expedia have become better at preventing fake reviews. They highlight those from people who have bought the product or stayed at the hotel. They’ve also prosecuted when they’ve found proven fake-ness — but the problem is still there.

So, what should you look for if you’re curating other people’s reviews for your page?

I received this product for free or at a discount in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.

The intent may well be genuine, but research shows that even with the best of intentions , people who receive goods in return for a review tend to be less critical and more positive, and they give a higher rating than others. (See, for example, this study ). Be careful of this type of review.

Is This Tantamount to Writing a Fake Review?

Is this a manipulative way of writing a review? Some say it is. Clearly, having personal experience is the ideal.

But this is the real world. Do your research thoroughly and make clear in your review that’s what you’ve done.

Whatever else you do, do not, ever , make things up to suit your needs.

Your customer will trust your ideas, knowledge, passion, technique and understanding to make a difference to her life — to unlock that door and lead her through to a more contented life.

Abuse that trust at your peril.

What About Small Items?

Is it really worth going through all this for a $9.99 ornament from Amazon?

Let’s take another real-life example.

Case Study: How to Review Products with Low Price Points

Product review example for a snow globe

One of the most successful small affiliate products on my Italian site is a $20 snow globe. I sell dozens as soon as we get to August.

Why so successful? It’s not a problem looking for a solution, after all.

It’s successful because it’s hand-made in Italy. It’s robust enough to become an heirloom. And I know this particular section of my Italian site’s audience: they’re very proud of their Italian roots, and keen to keep those roots alive for their children and grandchildren.

So that’s where my product review page starts: with an appeal to emotional ties to Italy:

Looking for a unique and relatively inexpensive Christmas gift, hand-made in Italy, that can be passed down your family for generations?

Whatever the product you want to review and sell, it all comes back to that same issue: put yourself where your audience’s emotions are. Use language that resonates and find a solution, or an item that satisfies their need or desire.

In terms of how much time to devote to researching and writing about smaller items, give as much or as little as you think your product is going to merit. Your $500 course will need more research than my $20 snow globe.

Let’s Summarize

If you’ve completed the tasks and used the how to write a product review worksheets, you now have the background material to make writing your review a straightforward process.

You have invaluable information about…

And you know that…

Step 4: Time To Write A Product Review

It’s time to write your product review. Here’s what you’ll do:

1. Choose a Keyword

Example of a search bar

2. Create the Main Headline

8 out of 10 people who click across from search results will read your headline. But only 2 will read the rest.

That’s how important your headline is.

The aim is simple: to get the customer to read the first sentence.

Your headline writing must be compelling, suggesting something the customer will find of great value.

Refer to the information you’ve gathered in your how to write a product review worksheets, because your headline must address your customer’s biggest problem, most desperate need, or most wanted desire.

That’s what will make her read on!

A question (to which you know the answer will be “yes”) is a good way to start. And it doesn’t need to be complicated.

Remember I mentioned that one of my best-selling products is rat traps?

“Got rats?” is all I use for the headline of that product review. It’s all it needs, because people who have the problem instantly react.

Suppose you’re offering a program for your customer to cut down on her sugar intake. If you know that what she’s searching for is “sugar detox” then the question “Been eating too much sugar recently?” will hook her.

3. Draft Subheadings

Your subheadings also need to demand attention and convey value. They have a double imperative: to make clear why the text below is a must-read, and to stop your customer from scrolling endlessly — and leaving the page without buying.

Why are subheadings important?

They break up the text, and make reading much easier. They also help keep your reader’s eye moving down the page.

Specifically, each subheading must relate to one of the benefits you identified for your product.

Remember: this is an outline. You can alter it if the subheadings don’t seem to fit once you start writing.

Creating them now will help keep your product review highly focused.

4. Write the Content

Your First Paragraph

Geometric pegs and holes

It’s your job to make her not just want, but need , to stay on the page.

So grab your reader’s attention by appealing to her current emotion(s) — noted in your worksheet — and expand on the promise you made in your opening headline.

Once you have her emotional attention, she’ll give you her intellectual attention so that you can lay before her all the benefits of this product that will make her life easier.

Your headline referred to her main problem. Now tell her that you know how she feels, and that you know of something that can help. Start to lead her through that door she thought was locked.

Tell her what’s in the page for her. Give a clue here as to what the product can do to solve her problem or meet her need or desire.

Focus on those people who are likely to buy your product. (That focus will likely put off people who are never likely to buy it.)

So, go back again to your worksheet notes. What’s the biggest benefit you noted? There’s your first sentence.

Here’s an example (Where the headline is “Got Rats?”).

“This electronic rat trap is strong enough to help keep your chicken coop free from rodents — permanently.”

Problem (headline) = rats. Answer (first sentence) = this amazing rat trap. End result: I will help get you, my potential customer, to where you want to be: rat free.

Don’t over-promise . People need more than a rat trap to keep rats away — note the words “help keep.”

See how things fall into place when you’ve done the prep work? Simple, right?!

Refer to your worksheets. Note which words you could use, and the main problem / need / desire you referred to in your worksheet.

Now write your opening section.

This opening section will lead into the remainder of the page, which will describe the benefits — and possible drawbacks — of the product.

The Rest of the Content

General Tips

Iphone X. Soon.

Don’t feel you have to satisfy it completely though — sometimes it can tell you to do weird things. Use your judgment and your knowledge of the style your customers like.

Don’t sell to a customer. Talk to a friend.

Your content sections are now more or less written for you, based on the information you gathered in the worksheet.

Write your product reviews when you’re feeling energetic and positive. Those feelings communicate themselves in our writing.

If you feel unwell one day, schedule your review for the next. But do not use this as an excuse to avoid writing at all! Every day you put off writing is a day’s potential income lost. It’s important to develop work habits and regularly make time to sit down and write.

Here’s what you’re aiming for:

So: take the worksheet, use some of the vocabulary your potential customers were using — particularly the emotive words — and go through each product benefit you highlighted.

After you’ve written each section, read it and ask yourself…

Case Study: How to Write a Product Review Outline

Here’s the outline of my rat trap product review, told in pictures.

writing a product review outline for rat trap

And these were the three main (emotional) benefits I told my potential customers they might expect:

emotional benefits to include in product review

What If You Haven’t Tried the Product?

We looked at this issue earlier. The same principles apply in the opening section:

5. Find Images, Testimonials and Ratings

Although you’re communicating key messages in your headlines, subheadings and text content, images can help sell a product. They help break up the text, they provide an emotional connection, and they show what the product looks like and how it works.

Two women on a pool toy taking a selfie

Be creative! Do you make and sell your own products or provide a service? Take a photo of you painting / quilting / cooking / dancing / counselling / with a patient (don’t want to ask permission? Get your partner to play the patient, sitting with back to the camera so the focus is on you).

Remember: images are not only photos. Research shows that about 90% of customers say that video helps them make purchasing decisions, and roughly 64% say that they’re more likely to buy a product online after they’ve seen a video of it.

Not able to make your own video? Check YouTube for an excellent video of the product in use and embed it in your sales page.

If you don’t have your own image of a product you’re selling from an affiliate, use theirs. If you’re not sure about copyright, write and ask.

What if your product doesn’t lend itself to an image — for example, a Kindle book, or an online course? Share part of the product itself. You can do this by either allowing access to (for example) the first chapter / lesson, or by telling people in detail what it includes.


Testimonials are particularly important if you’re selling your own product, and useful if you’re selling an affiliate product.

Use testimonials to counteract any issues you found in the research stage that may reduce the likelihood of purchase. An example might be that it’s too expensive: find testimonials saying “Yes, expensive — but so worth it!” or “You get what you pay for.”

Many affiliate marketing programs include resources to help you in writing about their products. Take some comments from the “review” section of the affiliate company’s site. State that’s what you’ve done — something like “Here’s what some people who’ve bought [the product] on [Amazon] are saying.”

For your own products, it’s particularly important that you make clear that these testimonials are not made up! Yes, it happens a lot, and potential purchasers are wary of “fake reviews.” Wherever possible, ask customers if you may use their full name and a photo. The more detail you can add, the better.

Companies like Amazon and Expedia give stars when you review their products. It helps potential customers quickly know whether or not you’re recommending the product.

Rubber ink stamp with star shapes stamped

6. Write a Product Review Call to Action

You’ve written all your text, added your images, testimonials and rating, and now you’re ready to publish.

Except… you need a Call to Action.

Tip: Brush up your CTA writing skills with these Call to Action best practices or look at some real life CTA examples that work.

At the end of your review, remind the customer about the benefits she’ll get when she buys and how the pain or inconvenience will go away when she buys, or how amazing she’ll feel when she has that lovely picture hanging on her wall.

Money back guarantee crest to add to a product review

Once you’ve done that, ask them explicitly to buy. You don’t have to do a “hard sell.” If it’s your own digital product, invite people to “download now,” for example. If it’s an affiliate product, invite people to click over to the company’s site if they need to see more reviews.

And Finally…

Congrats! Not only have you learned how to write a product review, but you’ve created a product review template that you can use time and again.

Before we finish, here are some wrap-up reminders:

When you look at this product review page, are you proud of it?

If your answer is a resounding “yes!” then it’s a big “Congratulations” from me — your product review page is finished.

Learn how to start a business online and earn extra income on the side.

Questions about how to write product reviews as part of your online business? Message one of our friendly Advisors right away

How to Write a Product Review: a Step-by-Step Guide (With Examples)

Cath Andrews

Latest posts by Cath Andrews ( see all )

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How to Write a Literature Review

What is a literature review? Written in essay style, a literature review (Lit Review) describes, classifies, and evaluates the sources of information published on a given topic. A Lit Review is not just a list of books/articles.  It’s a review of a collection of research published by accredited scholars and researchers that is relevant to a research question. “Non-scholarly” sources, i.e., those you don’t want to reference, include but are not limited to magazines, newspapers, web sites, and non-published material. The Lit Review does not have to be exhaustive; the objective is not to list as many relevant books, articles, and reports as possible. The idea of the Lit Review is not to provide a summary of all the published work that relates to your research, but a survey (summary and evaluation) of the most relevant and significant work. A Lit Review is a critical look at the existing research that is significant to the work you are carrying out. It’s not just a summary. While you do need to summarize your relevant research, you must also: •    evaluate this work, •    show the relationships between different works, and •    demonstrate how it relates to your work. A Lit Review is about the existing literature on your subject and provides background for your own research findings or commentary. How much sense does your research make if you don’t provide background to the reader about past research conducted by others?

What is the value of a literature review? A Lit Review provides your reader with a survey of the professional publications available on your topic. It demonstrates that you have not only thoroughly researched your topic but also carefully examined and critically evaluated the range of relevant sources. In writing the Lit Review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic and what their strengths and weaknesses are. A Lit Review: •  places the paper within the context of known research on the subject; focuses one’s own research topic. •  provides thorough knowledge of previous studies; introduces seminal works. •  indicates timely nature of one’s research, if applicable. •  suggests previously unused or underused methodologies, designs, quantitative, and qualitative strategies. •  identifies gaps in previous studies; identifies flawed methodologies and/or theoretical approaches; avoids replication of mistakes. •  identifies possible trends or patterns in the literature. •  helps the researcher avoid repetition of earlier research. •  determines whether past studies agree or disagree; identifies controversy in the literature. •  tests assumptions; may help counter preconceived ideas and remove unconscious bias.

What is the “literature” in a literature review? The “literature” is the collection of books and journal articles, government documents, and other scholarly works you found to be relevant to your research topic. •    Journal articles: An excellent source for a Lit Review. These are good especially for up-to-date information. They are frequently used in Lit Reviews because they offer a relatively concise, up-to-date format for research, and because all reputable journals are refereed or peer-reviewed, i.e., editors publish only the most relevant and reliable research that has been reviewed by other experts in the field. •    Books:  Generally, a good source for a Lit Review. Books tend to be less up-to-date as it takes longer for a book to be published than for a journal article. Textbooks are unlikely to be useful for including in your Lit Review as they are intended for teaching, not for research, but they do offer a good starting point from which to find better, more detailed sources. •    Conference proceedings: A good source for a Lit Review. These can be useful in providing the latest research or research that has not been published. They are also helpful in providing information on which people are currently involved in which research areas, and so can be helpful in tracking down other work by the same researchers. •    Government/corporate reports: A good source for a Lit Review. Many government departments and corporations commission or carry out research. Their published findings can provide a useful source of information, depending on your field of study. •    Newspapers: Not a good source for a Lit Review. Since newspapers are generally intended for a general (not specialized) audience, the information they provide will be of no use for your Lit Review. Journalists are generally not scholars, i.e., experts on the topic on which they are writing, and thus newspaper articles are not scholarly sources. •    Theses and dissertations: Can be a good source for a Lit Review. These can be useful sources of information. However there are disadvantages: 1) they can be difficult to obtain since they are not always published but are generally only available from the library shelf or through interlibrary loan; 2) the student who carried out the research may not be an experienced researcher and therefore you might have to treat their findings with more caution than published research. Note: Some dissertations are available from the DuBois Library databases. •    Web sites: Never a good source for a Lit Review. The fastest-growing source of information is on the Internet. It is impossible to characterize the information available but here are some hints about using electronic sources: 1) bear in mind that anyone can post information on the Internet so the quality may not be reliable, and 2) the information you find may be intended for a general audience and so may not be suitable for inclusion in your Lit Review (information for a general audience is usually less detailed and less scholarly). Note: This section does not refer to scholarly articles located on the DuBois Library databases. Databases are not web sites. •    Magazines: Not a good source for a Lit Review. Magazines intended for a general audience, e.g., Time, Us, National Enquirer, will not be useful in providing the sort of information you need. Specialized magazines may be more useful (for example business magazines for management students), but usually magazines are not useful for your research except as a starting point by providing news or general information about new discoveries, policies, etc. that you can further research in more specialized sources. How is a literature review different from an annotated bibliography? A Lit Review is written in the style of an expository essay; it has an introduction, body, and conclusion, and it is organized around a controlling idea or thesis. Compare this to an annotated Works Cited list, which is simply an alphabetized list of sources accompanied by summaries and evaluations (annotations). While a single source appears just once in an annotated Works Cited list, it may be referred to numerous times in a Lit Review, depending upon its importance in the field or relationship to other sources. Finally, a Lit Review includes its own in-text citations and Works Cited list.

How is a literature review different from a traditional research paper? A Lit Review may stand alone as a self-contained unit or be part of a research paper (such as a chapter in an honors thesis). Whereas the main body of a research paper focuses on the subject of your research, the Lit Review focuses on your sources. Put another way, in the research paper you use expert sources to support the discussion of your thesis; in a Lit Review, you discuss the sources themselves.

What are the characteristics of a literature review? Among the characteristics you should expect to see in any Lit Review are these: •    A Lit Review MUST have a Works Cited list that includes all references cited in the Lit Review. Do not list sources in the Works Cited list that are not directly cited in the Lit Review. •    A Lit Review is organized by subtopic, NOT by individual source. In a typical Lit Review, you may cite several references in the same paragraph and may cite the same reference in more than one paragraph if that source addresses more than one of the subtopics in the Lit Review. •    Typically, discussion of each source is quite brief. The contribution you make is organizing the ideas from the sources into a cogent argument or narrative that includes your perspectives. •    You should focus on citing the material that originates with each reference. This may require a careful reading of the reference. If the reference author refers to another source whose ideas are relevant or interesting, you are better off tracking down and using that reference. Citing a source that you haven’t read directly is called “grandfathering,” and it is not permitted. Never cite a source you haven’t read.

How is a literature review structured? The Lit Review is not just a descriptive list of the material available or a set of summaries. Demonstrate that you gained a thorough knowledge of the subject area being studied. A Lit Review should NOT be organized as a narrative of your own research process. A Lit Review that says essentially “First I found this source, then I found this one ….” is NOT acceptable. Therefore, like any expository essay, a Lit Review should have an introduction, body, and conclusion: The introduction should contain your research question (thesis statement), an explanation of its significance, and any other background information setting the context of your research. The body paragraphs contain your summative, comparative, and evaluative comments on the sources you’ve found. These comments may pertain to: •    historical background & early research findings •    recent developments •    areas of controversy among experts •    areas of agreement •    dominant views or leading authorities •    varying approaches to or perspectives on the subject •    qualitative comparisons and evaluations The conclusion summarizes major issues in the literature; it also establishes where your own research fits in and what directions you see for future research.

How is a literature review organized? While covering the range of matters listed above, a Lit Review—like any expository essay—should still have a single organizing principle expressed in a thesis statement. Examples of some common ones are these: •    Chronological — Use this organization if developments over time are important to explain the context of your research problem. Otherwise, using a chronological system is not the best way to organize your work. •    Thematic — Depending on your topic, you could organize your Lit Review by time, geographic location, gender, nationality, or another appropriate theme. •    Methodological — What approaches have researchers taken in studying the issue you’re researching? Is your topic suited best for library research or field research? •    Qualitative — Is there a great deal of difference in the quality of research conducted on your topic?

What are some strategies for writing a good literature review? The process of writing a Lit Review typically involves a number of steps. These should include the following: •    Deciding on a relatively focused topic or question. •    Searching for relevant and relatively current literature (books, journal articles, etc. – the mix of these depends on your topic or thesis statement). It is important to locate and comment on the most important works in your chosen field. Failure to include such works might be considered a major failing of your review. The more you research and read, the more you become aware of names that are mentioned repeatedly as influential and even seminal authorities. •    Reading the materials you have found and noting how they approach your topic or question: It isn’t necessary to read every word of a book to learn what an author says about a particular subject. Peruse the index. Skim through the book or article. A quick read through the introduction or the conclusion gives a gist of the book’s or article’s thesis, general points, or argument. Begin with the most recent studies and work backwards. A recent article’s list of references or bibliography might provide you with valuable works to consult. •    Preparing a working outline for your Lit Review and grouping notes from your references in the appropriate section of your outline: Use note cards with citations and annotations, photocopied articles with points highlighted and notes in the margins, or whatever methods helps you keep your information organized. •    Take good notes: Don’t trust your memory. Record all research. Write out the complete bibliographic citation for each work. Record the page number too, because you’ll need it for your in-text citations. (Unless you are citing an entire book or journal article, the in-text citation must include a page number or it’s considered incomplete/inaccurate.) Write direct quotations word for word. Use quotation marks, so it can be recognized as a direct quote. Avoid using too many direct quotations. Take down the substance of the author’s ideas in your own words (paraphrase). IMPORTANT: Most of the review should be primarily in your own words with appropriate documentation of other’s ideas. Don’t take too many notes from a single source or two. Use a wide range of sources. •    Evaluating the information: After reading a lot of material, researchers must carefully evaluate it and decide what should be included in the literature review. Obviously researchers must be objective. Keep an open mind and look at a topic from different vantage points. Determine the objectivity of the material. Who funded the research studies? Who actually performed the research? For a contentious topic, present as equally as possible opposing positions. Be objective. Don’t overemphasize one side. •    Writing and revising the narrative: Keep your audience in mind as your write. Keep your paragraphs short and use subheadings to clarify the structure. Subheadings break the material into readable units. A Lit Review must be organized around and directly related to the thesis or research question you are developing. It must identify areas of controversy in the literature and formulate questions that need further research.

Some traps to avoid: •    Trying to read everything! As you might already have discovered, if you try to be comprehensive you will never be able to finish the reading! The Lit Review does not have to be exhaustive; the objective is not to list as many books, articles, and reports as possible. The idea of the Lit Review is not to provide a summary of all the published work that relates to your research, but a survey of the most relevant and significant work. The Lit Review should contain the most pertinent related studies and show an awareness of important past research and practices and promising current research and practices in the field. •    Reading but not writing! It’s easier to read than to write: given the choice, most of us would rather sit down with a cup of coffee and read yet another article instead of putting ourselves in front of the computer to write about what we have already read! Writing takes much more effort, doesn’t it? However, writing can help you to understand and find relationships between the works you’ve read, so don’t put writing off until you’ve “finished” reading – after all, you will probably still be doing some reading all the way through to the end of your research project. Also, don’t think of what you first write as being the final or near-final version. Writing is a way of thinking, so allow yourself to write as many drafts as you need, changing your ideas and information as you learn more about the context of your research problem. •    Not keeping bibliographic information! The moment will come when you have to write your Works Cited list . . . and then you realize you have forgotten to keep the information you need, and that you never got around to putting references into your work. The only solution is to spend a lot of time in the library tracking down all those sources that you read and going through your writing to find which information came from which source. To avoid this nightmare, always keep this information in your notes. Always put references into your writing.


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