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The world of academic tasks is extremely diverse. There are essays, research papers, systematic reviews, theses, dissertations, umbrella reviews, meta-analysis, case studies, business plans, and so on and so forth.

Some assignments are pretty easy to understand and distinguish. For example, no one will ever confuse an essay with a dissertation. Even if you can’t come up with many differences between them, when you visit a write my essay service, you can see that dissertations are written to obtain a Ph.D. degree. So, there is no chance to order one instead of another.

However, some tasks are not that clearly different, like literature reviews and essays. They may look similar at first sight, yet, that’s not always true. Read on to find out how exactly you can tell one from another.

Type and Structure

A literature review is a part of something bigger, say of a research paper or dissertation. It is considered a chapter that follows the Introduction. Even if it’s just an assignment that should teach you how to write reviews, it can’t be considered a full and comprehensive work. However, there is a chance you will be tasked with a literature review paper, which is a totally different type of written task which we’re not going to dwell on.

Meanwhile, an essay is a whole assignment that doesn’t presuppose further research. Its structure is typical and ordinary:

  • introduction;
  • thesis statement;
  • main body (sometimes, split into topics);
  • conclusion.

A literature review structure can be as simple as above, but it rarely has a thesis statement and maybe more complex:

  • introduction;
  • details on literature search;
  • preliminary questions to be explored in the review;
  • main body split into topics or according to the questions above;
  • research gap;
  • questions/hypotheses that should be answered further in the research;
  • conclusion.


As mentioned above, an essay is a work containing finished thoughts and a final conclusion. It means to fully describe your attitude to a problem and opinions on it based on some facts. A review leaves no space for personal opinions and attitudes and is the result of preliminary research aimed at finding:

  • what was not researched;
  • what was researched insufficiently;
  • what contradictions occur in literature;
  • how fresh the last findings are.

By finding those weak areas, you have grounds to conduct (or suggest) additional research. For instance, there may be some updates in the field of finance like new reports on the performance of particular companies.

Such reports are usually voluminous and either contain a lot of numbers or, vice versa, a lot of extra information that needs to be filtered, compared, and generalized. In case no one else has done this before, you have a reason to do this within your research and, thus, contribute to the academic field by bringing new insights.


If you’re not given a specific list of topics to choose from, reviews usually require approval from your teacher. At the same time, essays offer either freedom to choose the topic or a limited choice based on your teacher’s recommendations.

The thing about literature reviews is that there can be a particular topic given to the whole class, but that would mean that the assignment is meant to help students develop or hone their skills in writing such a chapter. However, there can’t be one and the same topic when your literature review is a part of your future research. So, you would need to submit the topic for your teacher’s approval to avoid covering the problem someone else has already chosen.

Academic Level

Essays can be a part of almost any curriculum, at least when it comes to differentiating between high-school students, freshmen, sophomores, and students completing Master’s degrees. After you become a Ph.D. student, most probably, you will never write a single essay.

However, it can be totally different with reviews. Sometimes, completing a dissertation involves numerous stages during which you have to draft several reviews: one for proposal, one for a prospectus, and one for the final work, leave alone the drafts that can be rejected by your supervisor.

Degree of Objectivity & Style

Literature reviews don’t allow for rambling about your own experiences and subjective opinions. Everything you list there should be supported with sources and aim at scholarly research. Even when you make your own conclusions, you should clearly cite the information you are guided by.

To reduce the level of subjectivity, the author should avoid first-person pronouns that are allowed in essays. For instance, instead of ‘I believe’, there should be something like ‘based on the findings, it can be concluded that…’. Note that although contracted forms like “it’s” can be accepted in some essays, still, academic writing is better off without them.


We hope you found the tips above helpful. These differences may help you in the future when you’ll have to deal with a much more complex task you may not know how to approach. Just remember that first, you should check the guidelines from your institution to make sure you meet the criteria.