How To Write A Dissertation Literature Review

How To Write A Dissertation Literature Review
Image Source: Canva


A literature study comprehensively describes previous studies on a certain topic. It scrutinizes academic papers, publications, and additional items important to a given topic of study. In the review, existing research should be identified, summarized, identified, objectively appraised, and clarified. It should give a theoretical underpinning for the findings of the investigation and can help the researcher choose the scope of the research.  It also helps in recognizing previous researchers’ efforts, ensuring the reader that the research conducted by the researcher is well-conceived. It builds an image for the person reading it, offering a broad overview of the field’s advancements. This panorama informs the spectator that the researcher has included all (or a substantial percentage of) earlier notable works on the field in his analysis.
Writing a literature review in a dissertation is important as it adds validity to the research study in many ways. It analyses present research from the perspective of fresh advances in the field to help create continuity about comprehension and the usefulness of previous sources. It assists in evaluating the impact of current discoveries in the field by monitoring their growth. It points out the differences between various ideas within the issue to show facts.  The gaps in the research that were first noticed are being studied further to determine the latest facts and hypotheses to utilize in the area. It denotes the present position of study within a certain field schema. It offers knowledge to examine the study for coherence and relevance. Apart from establishing an uninterrupted chain of understanding, it also emphasises areas requiring more investigation and serves as the foundation for future study.
It also helps in justifying the study and establishing the research question. It aids in developing a conceptual framework for the research, which comprises the concepts and propositions that will ultimately be utilized in determining the project’s efficacy. By assessing the strengths and shortcomings of the current research, it is possible to adopt a more suitable strategy for the study, enhancing the findings’ importance by comparing them to the prior research. It saves both money and time by avoiding plagiarism, which saves the scientific article from rejection. To concentrate on the research emphasis, evaluating, summarising, and explaining the main idea in the researcher’s words is useful. It facilitates the comparison and contrast of the study’s uniqueness and distinctiveness with previous studies’ findings. It justifies the necessity for specialized study in a particular problem. It aids in appropriately gathering information, enabling any fresh research technique instead of the previous ones.
Writing an article aims to create a legible synthesis of the finest materials in the peer-reviewed literature for a significant topic for research or a current field of study. It establishes the basis for understanding the subject. It further identifies areas of earlier study to avoid repetition and provide acknowledgement to other academics. It identifies inconsistencies, discrepancies in investigation, disagreements in past studies, and unresolved issues left by other studies. It identifies a requirement for more study that can justify the current study. It also helps identify the research connection in the setting of their value to the subject and other pieces of literature.

Basics of Literature Review

A literature review analyses written material demonstrating knowledge and grasp of academic research on a particular topic. A critical appraisal of the information is also included in it. The three types of literature review are explained. A narrative literature review aims to assess and explain an area of the literature. This is accomplished by offering a full history of published work on the relevant issue to draw attention to fresh studies, find gaps or detect contradictions. This form of literature evaluation may aid in refining, concentrating and moulding research topics, as well as the development of conceptual and theoretical frameworks. Conversely, a systematic literature review takes a more thorough approach to examine the literature because this study is frequently employed to address highly organized and detailed research objectives. While the meta-analysis entails extracting results from the selected research and assessing them using established statistical processes.
The key beginning of defining a literature review is by defining the research question, so while the researcher may be sure about the subject to explore, possibilities are there are certain intricacies that the researcher has to consider. Exploratory searching through databases may be required as part of this procedure so that researchers may see what has previously been released on the same topic. Even though it is a new field, it’s possible that anything was previously published in a related field. After defining the research question, it is important to define and determine the inclusion and exclusion criteria of the study. It includes selecting the time frame, and geography, choosing constraints for the research and considering inter-disciplinary fields, and organizing the structure for the review. After determining the inclusion and exclusion criteria, it is important to search the databases from various articles, journals, websites, publications, books, etc. Following this, it is significant to synthesize the results after that. It can be done by sorting the literature into various themes or categories such as methodologies, theories, time frames, geographies or conflicting opinions. Then, describing the evolution of the research over time and, thus, develops and summarises the conclusion of the overall literature.

Preparing for Literature Review

To write a literature review, the researcher needs to understand and have a thorough knowledge of what is to be covered in the review exactly; its comprehensiveness, length, the detailed explanation should be given or not, concentration on methodologies, citations, broad search area in seeking more literature in the related area of topic and so on.
Establishing a search strategy should account for finding search terms related to the topic, choosing and searching phrases and keywords, finding titles of the subject, searching with the help of citations, using Boolean methods and so on. A thesaurus can be used to find synonyms. Google Scholar can be used to find research papers, journals, books and conference proceedings for the current study. Keywords and phrases can help find the databases related to the exact keyword or phrases. Boolean operators can assist in finding databases by using OR, NOT, AND. Searching through citations is another method of finding published articles. It can be cited using different databases like Google Scholar, Scopus, web of Science, OvidSP databases, etc.

Conducting the Literature Search

To conduct a literature search, plan the research hypotheses and formulate a search strategy. Synonyms can be found using a thesaurus. For the current study, Google Scholar may be utilized to discover research articles, journals, books, and conference proceedings. Keywords and phrases can assist in locating databases that are relevant to the particular term or phrase. Using OR, NOT, and AND, Boolean operators may help you discover databases. It can guide the researcher in finding the evidence and thus assist more efficiently in the procedure. It is important to refer to various sources to find information and idea about the current topic. The researcher needs to identify the database that relates to his study. As the database is identified, there is a need to conduct the research.
To conduct the research, relevant journals and articles must be found relevant to the research question. Snowballing method of finding articles can be used to find related articles and journals. After finding and reviewing articles, it is required to organize results and provide a literature summary.

Organizing and Analyzing the Literature

To structure the literature review systematically, it is essential to write it chronologically by creating an annotated bibliography and evaluating and summarizing the sources in an ordered manner. Themes or categories can arrange articles or journals to be reviewed. Developing frameworks or models related to concepts which explain the patterns and the connection between the terms and highlighting similar contradictions and gaps in the study can also aid in organizing and analyzing the literature properly.

Writing the Literature Review

Writing the literature review in a structured way is an important thing to do. Firstly, the introduction of the prior research is to be explained. After introducing the topic, there is a need to explain the main part of the study, which includes the database, country of origin, methodologies and so on. And lastly, conclude the study by explaining the outcomes and results. While writing a review of a prior study, the researcher needs to ensure that the content should not plagiarised and it should provide synthesized information to the reader. The researcher should also ensure that the written content provides critical analysis and gives a clear picture of the study discussed.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Literature Review

There are several pitfalls in the Literature review which need to be avoided. Firstly, When educational writers are developing the literature review section of their paper, they find that one of the greatest prevalent instances in which they unwittingly plagiarize occurs while they are creating the literature study section of their paper. The goal of this portion of the article is to discuss and synthesize research done by other researchers and explain how your work relates to existing research on this issue. To avoid plagiarism, the researcher needs to use citations and quotations. Secondly, relying more on secondary sources can also create issues. The researcher needs to read the article and write independently by creating and developing his ideas and just pasting the whole content. Lastly, the researcher needs to critically evaluate and analyse the reviews’ findings to help formulate an analysis for the current study.

Strategies for Effective Literature Review Writing

  • Develop plans and schedules for writing an effective literature review.
  • Write the literature review in a well-structured and organized manner.
  • Seek feedback from existing research to improve the literature review.
  • Revise the order of the literature review if necessary, ensuring it is coherent and logical.
  • Edit the review to ensure it is written systematically and in a proper format.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The researcher needs to understand and have knowledge about the problems that can be developed while writing a literature review. Some questions that need to be focused are-

1. What is the recommended length for a literature review in a dissertation?

Answer: In order to specify the length of the literature review, it should take around 15% to 40% of the overall length of the dissertation. For instance, if someone is writing a dissertation of 15000 word, the literature review must count for 2000 words.

2. How do I determine which sources to include in my literature review?

Answer: Peer-reviewed articles, journals, books, conference papers and dissertations that highlights the major parts of the current topic can and can be helpful in answering the research question will be included in the literature review.

3. Can I include sources that are not peer-reviewed?

Answer: No, sources that are not peer-reviewed can not be included in the literature review as they are treated as personal communications and hence, they may or may not provide exact information about the topic.

4. What are the common mistakes to avoid in a literature review?

Answer: In order to avoid common mistakes while writing a literature review, the researcher needs to make sure that the content is not plagiarized. Also, the researcher should not rely on sources that are low-quality. He should focus on recent studies and structuring of the chapter.

5. How do I organize the literature review by themes or categories?

Answer: Rather than concentrating on writing each article individually, the researcher should focus on relating the findings of the articles to each other which further classifies them a theme.

6. Should I include both supporting and opposing arguments in my review?

Answer: Yes, supporting as well as opposing arguments, both should be included in the literature review as they provide a debatable way which helps in better understanding of the topic.


A literature review is a thorough overview of prior research on a topic. It evaluates academic papers, publications, and other resources relevant to a certain subject of study. It analyses current literature from the perspective of new advances in the field to help create continuity in understanding and the usefulness of existing resources. It assists in evaluating the impact of current discoveries in the field by monitoring their growth. It represents the current study location within a certain area’s schema. It provides knowledge for assessing the research’s relevance and coherence. It also aids in the justification of the study and the formulation of the research topic. It aids in developing a conceptual framework for the research, which comprises the concepts and assumptions that will be used to assess its success. By examining the existing research’s strengths and weaknesses, it is feasible to develop a more appropriate study plan that increases the significance of the results by contrasting them to previous research. To focus the research attention, appraise, summarize, and synthesize the main points in the words of the researcher. When creating a manuscript, the goal is to provide a readable synthesis of the best resources available in peer-reviewed publications for a relevant research topic or present study area.
The fundamental starting of establishing a literature review is identifying the research topic so that while the researcher may be definite on the issue to investigate, there may be some complexities that the researcher must address. It is critical to search databases, including papers, journals, websites, publications, books, etc. Following that, it is critical to synthesize the result. It is possible to accomplish this by categorizing the literature into numerous topics or categories. Design a search approach, which should account for discovering search terms linked to the topic, selecting and researching phrases and keywords, searching with subtitles, searching with citations, utilizing Boolean approaches, etc. Plan the study`s hypotheses and develop a search strategy to begin a literature search.
After locating and evaluating publications, organising the findings and summarising the literature is necessary. It is vital to compose the literature review chronologically to arrange it methodically. To start writing the review, the researcher should start with the introduction, the main body and the article’s conclusion. There are some pitfalls while writing a review, such as plagiarism and dependency on irrelevant sources. The researcher must critically assess and analyse the outcomes of previous reviews to formulate an analysis for the present study. The tactics necessary to create a good literature review must include writing plans and timelines. The researcher must solicit input from current studies before modifying the order of the literature review, whether it is prepared systematically or not.
Author Bio: Mark Edmonds is a highly experienced professional at Academic Assignments, with a strong focus on delivering the best quality dissertation help to students. With years of expertise, Mark is dedicated to guiding and supporting students in their journey towards successful academic endeavors.