What Makes a Good Literature Review in Dissertation Writing 

Before writing a literature review, one should clearly understand the purpose of writing. The section “Literature Review” is focused on the discussion of the subject matter explored by different researchers. One should have a close look at advantages and disadvantages of previous research procedures, as well as identify possible gaps in the study. The literature review also implies introducing the background of the study (as outlined in Chapter 1), but it should be done in a more extensive manner. The writer is supposed to provide comments pertaining to the study and explain their significance in the context of research question under analysis. 

The Scope of Work 

Please carefully investigate your professor’s instructions and requirements of your specific educational establishment. Some universities oblige students to write not less than 20-30 pages in a “Literature Review” section. Students begin to panic because it is rather challenging and daunting to find appropriate materials that directly relate to the assigned topic and summarize general information about the assigned research question. For this reason, since students cannot dedicate 30 pages to the literature review, they fill out the text with verbose sentences just to fill out the blank space. Do not confuse dissertation writing with a common term paper. Sometimes even a couple of pages in a literature review section clearly outline the research question and its gaps. Therefore, find out specific word count requirements relating to this section to avoid unnecessary generalizations. 

Recently, some educational establishments have allowed their students to take the original research and adjust one element (for instance, a geographic location). Do not think that the same can be applied in your college or university. Altering the data in the original research (even the location) will not represent an explicit and robust research relating to your specific research question. Always try to present a research with original data, no matter what topic you have. Adjusting previous studies according to the assigned topic is not the way out. If you outline some issues explored in a specific geographic location, be sure to give credit to the source and mention that the discussed part relates to the research conducted elsewhere. For sure, most of professors allow exploring both national and international studies, but they must be clearly outlined in the Literature Review. 

Organization of a Literature Review 

As it was already mentioned, a literature review may take up to 30 pages of text. Therefore, it is highly important to create a logical organization according to any writing pattern. Most likely, your professor will ask you to create subheadings that will allow comprehending information easily. Moreover, you can always create linking sentences – the last sentence in a paragraph gives a hint about what the next text will discuss. Remember that the purpose of writing a literature review is to outline your findings, conclusions, gaps, controversies, etc. Thus, this chapter is bound to include a great deal of ideas that must be systematized. 

According to modern writing standards, students should focus on sources published within the latest 5 years. If later, there are high chances that you will show a specific gap in the knowledge and will not include relevant and up-to-date ideas necessary for dissertation writing. At the same time, some disciplines do allow their students to use materials published before a “5 year” rule (e.g. history). In any case, you have to show what has been done recently, what statistical analysis you found  to be interesting, what methodology was used along with research approaches, how do they differ with other studies and their results, etc. 

If you were assigned a very complex topic that was not properly explored before, you will barely find some material for your literature review. In this case, create a small section consisting of several paragraphs explaining the key findings and possible implications. If you have managed to find much about your research question, you must focus on the most recent studies only, which will prove your ability to discuss the notion in the newly settled context. Moreover, you can indicate some studies that did not correlate with a purpose of your dissertation writing. Outline the major differences and state why these studies were not taken into consideration (show logical gaps, if possible). 

Students have to work on a Literature Review before composing Chapter 1 (introduction). Your scientific supervisor may advise you what similar studies should be investigated, how to review results from different angles, what the body of literature should take, etc. You must clearly understand that Literature Review is all about summarizing existing studies and identifying their gaps in the context of your research question. However, you should differentiate between “summarizing” and “concluding/analyzing.” In the end of your literature review, create a small summarizing paragraph outlining the key notions discussed before.


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