Apr 5th 2017

Guidelines for Writing Dissertation Literature Review


Regardless of how thorough your research is or how good your writing skills are, a bad literature review is one of the most common ways of derailing an entire dissertation. The goal of the student is to present himself as professional, which is something you must prove in this particular section. As Boote and Beile said, ''a researcher cannot perform significant research without first understanding the literature in the field”.

Writing Your Literature Review

You are now an academic writer and as such, people expect you to provide an overview of the literature published in the specific topic you have chosen. This overview should be analytical and instruct the audience on the topic. In the case where the audience knows the information found in the literature review, your goal here is to demonstrate intelligence and familiarity with the topic in question.

This is why we said a bad literature could derail your entire dissertation and the opinion of the audience.

Generally speaking, a literature review should:

  • Interpret the issues connected to your chosen topic
  • Place another person's original work in the content of your literature
  • Describe the relationship of these works with your topic and other works
  • Interpret and shed lights to previous research and gaps in it
  • Resolve conflict if discussing contradictory studies
  • Point out to further research on the topic
  • Pinpoint the literature that makes most contribution to your topic and understanding

Literature Review Content

A proper literature review is well structured and the ideas within flow logically. To create such literature review, ensure that all references and sources are relevant and current. In addition, look into guidelines and your discipline to cite these sources appropriately.

The content of the literature review should:

  • Divide works into concepts and categories, depending on your and their position
  • Provide an overview of the issue, subject, or theory you are considering
  • Connect the previous works to your works and other sources
  • Create conclusions about these works and speak of their contribution to your subject

When aiming to include other work in your literature review, make sure to pay attention to the qualifications of the author, their perspective and credibility, as well as the value of their conclusion. Use transition and reporting words to indicate transitions between ideas and assessments.

The transitions serve to assess, synthesize and analyze outside perspectives, while the reporting allows the writer to convey the claims of such works. In order to report, use verbs that indicate neutral, positive, critical and tentative assessment.

Tips for Writing the Literature Review

In most cases, you will be directed towards specific published work or given a booklist to use in your paper. Use this to your advantage and research what you are given.

Still, this is not the case with the more complex papers. As students, you will be required to write theses and dissertations, which allow for more flexibility, but require more effort. When this is the case, decide on your research's parameters. For example, you can use a list of the main questions and areas to get some guidance and information about the answers to these questions.

To write a proper literature review, you should:

  • Start with a short and concise introduction, which provides the reader with an outline of the literature review. This introduction should include the topic covered and the order of your arguments. In addition, you can add a brief rationale for all this in the introduction.
  • Add a short summary of your arguments and the evidence at the end of each section. You can also use quotations wherever appropriate.
  • Acknowledge various opinions even if they do not agree with your point of view. Do not ignore opposing viewpoints – this can only make your argument look weaker.
  • Use an academic, formal style and language. Keep your writing concise at all times, and avoid using personal language and colloquialisms.
  • Be objective. You should always be respectful of other opinions. This academic paper is not the spot to use emotive language or your strong personal opinions.
  • Avoid plagiarism at all costs. To achieve this, separate your sources from the hypothesis. Use the literature to prove a point, but reference it properly.

Final Literature Review Checklist

These should help you write your literature review. If you still do not feel confident enough, go through our checklist:

1. Select the sources

When selecting the sources of your paper, check the following questions:

  • Did you indicate the review's purpose?
  • Did you exclude the unnecessary sources and include the relevant literature?
  • Are your review's parameters reasonable?
  • Did you use recent developments and sources in the review?
  • Have you focused on secondary and primary sources?
  • Is your bibliographic data finalized and complete?
  • Is all the literature used relevant?

2. Evaluate the literature

Do not forget to be critical in this part – the best judge of your writing style is you. In order to evaluate the literature used, follow this checklist:

  • Did you organize the material according to the issues?
  • Is the detail amount sufficient for the discussed issue?
  • Did you organize the material logically?

3. Interpret the Review

Finally, the interpretation part. This part comes when the entire section is finished and you want to make some final touches. Here is what you should ask yourself:

  • Did the methodological implications of the review reflect the design of the research?
  • Has your current literature summary contributed to the understanding of the readers?

There you have it – everything you need to know about writing a quality literature review. Go through our list step by step and create the best dissertation literature review there is!

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