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Sample Literature Review

Our advice on how to format a literature review

Once you learn how to write a literature review, it's quite easy to put your ideas onto the page. Whether you're a student or an academic professional, our sample literature review can help you get started.

The following literature review template provides a basic outline of the sections that you should include in your review. Keep in mind that you'll need to add transitions between paragraphs and more detail about the content of each source.

If you still have questions after reading our sample review, don't hesitate to contact our academic editors.


The Reign of Terror, which occurred between 1793 and 1794, was the most brutal phase of the French Revolution. It was during this time that the guillotine was introduced and Maximilien Robespierre rose to power. There is a wealth of current scholarship on Robespierre's politics and the reasons for his eventual decline, but academics tend to agree that his radicalism was the central catalyst for his execution and the subsequent fracturing of the revolutionary party.

Commentary: We begin our literature review template with an introduction. It's here that we provide basic details about the topic and include information about the scope of our project. In our sample review, we've noted that our research focuses on the decline of Robespierre.

Analysis of Source #1

The Terror: The Shadow of the Guillotine by Graeme Fife is a broad survey of the political and social undercurrents of the Reign of Terror. Fife traces the Revolution back to the initial stages of rebellion and follows its timeline through the fall of Robespierre. He paints the famed Jacobin as a man of intense passion, writing that "the sincerity with which Robespierre held his opinions, the intense concentration on their detail, marked him out" (Fife 2004, 37). Fife's characterization of Robespierre is pertinent to my thesis, since it describes his political machinations in detail.

Commentary: In this part of our literature review template, we introduce the first source and briefly discuss its content. We provide a direct quotation that clearly illustrates the author's opinion of Robespierre. Finally, we mention why the source is relevant to our thesis.

Analysis of Source #2

Jeremy D. Popkin examines the evolution of the French media in his aptly named article, "The Royalist Press in the Reign of Terror." Popkin uses excerpts from major contemporary newspapers to illustrate public opinion on the Revolution. His commentary on Robespierre is limited, but he does discuss the shifting loyalties of Jacobin supporters.

Commentary: As in the section on the previous source, this section of the sample literature review comments on the content and quality of Popkin's work. Unfortunately, his article does not contain much information that is pertinent to our thesis, so we have noted this in our analysis.

Analysis of Source #3

In The French Revolution, Linda and Marsha Frey present a detailed chronology of the political conflict involved in the Revolution. While their work is broader in scope than Fife's, they include an entire chapter dedicated to the Reign of Terror. Like most other French historians, they conclude that Robespierre's decline was due to his failure to control the Jacobins that he had radicalized. This study is helpful in that it confirms the complexity of the Jacobin ideology.

Commentary: This next section of the literature review template looks at the work of Linda and Marsha Frey. We've noted that their argument about Robespierre's decline is similar to that of other scholars in the field. 


A review of the pertinent literature on the Reign of Terror reveals an important trend. Most scholars recognize that the fall of Robespierre was an inevitable result of Jacobin leadership. My research will draw upon the plentiful scholarship on this topic to elucidate the circumstances surrounding Robespierre's decline.

Commentary: Our literature review template ends with some closing comments about trends in the scholarship. It also suggests ways in which the sample review might inform our thesis.

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