What is a literature review?
The literature review is a key part of your dissertation, and it often appears near the start of your dissertation. It summarizes the available writings in the field you are researching and where exactly your dissertation will fit into. Even though you will barely have time to read a lot of thesis literature review writing tips, your literature review must, however, demonstrate wide reading.
Instead of writing a list of writers in the field and their opinion, your literature review should be clear enough to describe the different literature bodies and provide different standpoints on vital issues and indicate any changes or current challenges in general opinions. Suffice to say, your literature review should not just be a summary of books and articles you refer to; it should also provide a critique of each work.
Bear in mind that a good literature review not only serves as an important background to your dissertation. It also helps show where and how your dissertation will fit into the field.
How long should a literature review be?
Your literature review should make up at least 25% of your entire dissertation, and each of the following factors must be evident in your review:
Do not jump into analyzing the literature without clarifying the research questions that will guide your dissertation. You can do this by simply formulating problems beforehand; this will help you avoid hours of aimless reading. Know the key issues that concern you and your dissertation, and approach from this lens alone.
- Wide search
For a literature review to be deemed satisfactory, you must demonstrate your ability to search relevant materials from different sources. Consult online databases for useful dissertation abstracts whose relevance you can consider, use the available university and departmental libraries for extra guidance and resources.
- Significance over content
When writing a literature review, relate only the content that is directly relevant to your research and spend as much time analyzing the significance of these sources to your work.
- Key themes
Identify, explain, draw out, interpret, and evaluate key themes that emanate from the various literature you studied. Analyzing your themes provides you with a foundation on which to build your body of work.
- Critical attitude
If you haven’t sufficiently scrutinized, questioned, or dissected any material, its content must not make it into your dissertation. Critical perspective to all material eliminates mere description and emphasizes initial analysis.
Despite the existing opinions, controversies, it is important that you try to draw out your findings, regardless of if it is in contrast to what is currently in the public domain. Suggest what you believe in and why make predictions where you can.
- Valid sources
Your sources’ validity remains an essential part of your literature review; therefore, avoid using or consulting materials or data that are now obsolete.
Categorize your materials based on their relevance to research questions, theoretical paradigm, chronology, and academic positions. It is a useful way of presenting your findings without getting lost in the process.
The theoretical aspect of your findings must have a coherent rationale behind it. The opinions you have formulated at the end of your literature review must also be on point because that’s the whole point your literature review wants to achieve.
- Source provenance
Prove your sources at all times. With questions such as: How widely cited is the author? Has there been a damning critique of the author’s work? How authoritative is the writer? Proving your sources gives credence to your literature review.