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How to Write a Dissertation Literature Review

Date published September 16 2020 by Jacob Miller

How to Write a Dissertation Literature
  1. Gather all your books.
  2. Sit down and get your morning coffee (doesn’t matter if it’s 6 pm. If you’ve woken up just now, it’s morning coffee).
  3. Start reading your books
  4. Begin to jot down sentences from the literature.
  5. Keep writing until you think it’s enough.
  6. Spill your coffee on the papers

That’s because it’s NOT how you write the dissertation literature review chapter at all. We wish it was that easy to get done with our dissertations.

Everything in a dissertation is complex. So you should know that all five chapters of your dissertation are going to give you a hard time. But it doesn’t mean you should give up and drop out.

There are always two ways to do everything, the smart way, and the hard way. You can take the smart way and get some amazing dissertation writing service online and get your whole dissertation including literature review done without any struggle.  If you want to take the hard way and write your own dissertation, you can stay and find out the best way to do literature review!

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Table of Contents

What is a Literature Review?

Before you get the guidance on the best way to do a literature review. You should fully understand the concept of a literature review.

In the simplest words, a dissertation literature review has to acknowledge all the sources you have used to gather information for your research in a very comprehensive yet concise way. It is the lengthiest chapter of a dissertation that proves and explains the authenticity of your research.

A lot of students (and even researchers) get confused about what should be included in the literature review chapter. The reason behind the confusion is that there is no definite way to write the best literature review. The content can vary from each literature review depending on factors such as:

what is literature review

Why Literature Review is Important?

Now you know what a literature review is, it’s time for you to understand why it’s really important.

So what’s the point of writing a literature review?

It is one of the most frequently asked questions because providing evidence is a very crucial part of any research. Any academic research is incomplete without proof and evidence that is what a literature review chapter provides.

It shows that you have done an extensive research on your dissertation topic. That proves that you are well aware of the background of your research and have enough evidence to back it up. The literature review chapter is the backbone of your research as it persuades the reader(s) as it shows that your dissertation is relevant and your arguments are valid with proofs.

In the simplest of words, your dissertation can’t be completed without a literature review to backup all your arguments. You have to invest a lot of time in your literature review to make your dissertation argument and research stronger and relevant.

The Best Sources for the Literature Review:

You have to use authentic and credible sources for your literature review such as:

source of literature review

And a few more.

You can also surf the internet to extend your research but remember that just Google won’t get you out of it. You have to use Academic search engines and databases to get verified and credible sources.

Here are some great search engines you can use to gather credible sources for your literature review:

How to Write a Dissertation Literature Review-3

These search engines can help you get the best sources for the literature review of your dissertation easily.

What to Include in a Literature Review?

There is always a confusion among students about what they should include in their dissertation’s literature review chapter.

The content of your literature review is going to be different but here are a few things you must include in the literature review. 

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In-text Citations:

In-text citations are very important because they make the most of the literature review. If you don’t know what in-text citations are then don’t worry because we are going to learn everything.

When you refer to any kind of information or quote from any previously published author, you have to give them proper credits. These references should include the name of the author, the year that information (or research or dissertation) was published, and the page number you cited from.

Citation Analysis

You have to relate the in-text citations to your research. The citation analysis doesn’t have to either agree or disagree all the time. You have to discuss each of the relevant citations included in your literature review.

You have to analyze each citation and discuss how it is related to your research. It can either be directly or indirectly related to you. You have to further evaluate the aforementioned citation by discussing how it impacts your research and whether it complies with your research topic or it is against it.

Empirical Evidence

Empirical evidence or empirical literature review is also known as a systematic literature review.  In the empirical evidence section, you have to analyze and examine previously published studies, researches, and scholarly articles.

All the scientific experiments, surveys, dissertations, and other research studies come under the empirical evidence. All of them are observations based on researches and experiences and not the systematic logic.

Theoretical Background

The theoretical background is also known as a theoretical framework in a dissertation literature review.

It is developed to form a connection of your literature review with the existing knowledge, research, and theories. You will have to analyze each of the citations to find out if they approve your research, literature review, and predicted results or not.

Whatever cannot be backed or supported by theory cannot be included in your dissertation unless it is highly relevant.

Hypothesis Development

Hypothesis development is a crucial part of a literature review.

You don’t know what is a hypothesis?

Don’t worry, I got you covered amigo!

Hypothetical development or hypothesis development is an important part of the literature review and your whole dissertation research as well.

In hypothesis development, you have to introduce your research question and propose the expected or predicted outcomes. It’s basically predicting the outcome of your research through scientific methods to help you conduct experiments. Any minor flaw in the hypothesis can directly affect your experiments and your research so it is advised to be very careful with them.

Although, to develop an astounding hypothesis, you have to make sure that your hypothesis is testable for your experiments whether scientific or unsystematic.  A testable hypothesis can be denied or agreed with as the result of the experiment.

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    Hypothesis Relations (Considering Variables)

    After developing your hypothesis you have to make sure that your hypothesis works as a bridge between the variables of your dissertation topic.  Developing a hypothesis that relates your variables themselves and to the literature, you are reviewing in your dissertation literature review is a must.

    How to Gather Sources:

    Identifying the Sources:

    You can’t just insert citations randomly that you found on the internet. You have to identify each and every source. Chances are you could have given guidelines from your professor(s), department head, or tutor. In case you don’t have any guidelines then don’t panic, we are going to tell you how to identify and choose the best sources.

    You have to keep a balance of sources that can include (but are not limited to) books, scholarly articles, previously published dissertations, and researches. For example, if you are searching for sources using an online search engine such as Google Scholar. You can see how many times a certain article has been cited. This will help you determine how important it is.

    If an article has been cited multiple times and is relevant to your research, It is clear that it’s an important source and you should include it in your literature review. Before you start including the sources into your literature review, you have to organize them into a list.

    Studying Your Sources:

    After you are done listing down all the sources you think are relevant to your dissertation research. It’s time to study all of them and shortlist the suitable ones.

    Well, yes, you are right…

    Reading through all of the researches, books, and journals is going to take you a long time and you don’t have to initiate with that. Firstly you have studied the research questions or the main aspect of your selected source regarding the importance and relevance to your dissertation topic.

    After you are done with the first stage of having the most relevant sources. You can continue to the second stage of reading the abstracts of each of the shortlisted sources if you have enough sources to cover your literature review. If you don’t have enough sources, you can go through the first stage again.

    Once you have enough sources, study their abstracts, and then keep only the most important and most relevant sources for your literature review chapter.  If you don’t have enough sources after the second stage, repeat the first and second stage again.

    Considering the Gaps:

    Get that thing inside your head while selecting your dissertation topic: the aim of your research is to contribute something new to the respective subject. By that, it means you can’t just copy and paraphrase any older research.

    After having all your sources listed down, you have to consider all the gaps those sources have. The aim of your research is to identify the gaps, study them, and then fill them. Let me tell you the most basic and simple way to identify a gap. If a question still exists, it means that it has not been answered yet and that’s the research gap.

    These research gaps show the authenticity of your dissertation and help you build a great literature review chapter as well. Although finding or coming up with astounding dissertation topics is hard but not impossible. 

    Now you know how to gather the sources and how to identify the gaps. It’s time we move forward to the actual writing process, finally. As we discussed earlier, the literature review is divided into three major parts.

    Simple Steps to Write a Dissertation Literature Review:

    Now that you know what to include in your literature review. Now you will learn how to write the most astounding dissertation literature review.

    We are, for obvious reasons, won’t be telling you how you can write your dissertation literature review of your dissertation topic. But you can always get some dissertation help online and get your dissertation done without any hassle. But here we are going to teach how you can have a shot at getting your desired marks by nothing but hard work!

    Without any further ado, let’s get started right now.

    Get your pen and notepad because it’s a long ride and you have to hang tight. As we said before, the literature review chapter is the lengthiest chapter hence the template is going to be huge. A perfect dissertation literature review template awaits for you and here is the formula.

    The literature review chapter is divided into three major sections which are:

    1. Introduction
    2. Main Body
    3. Conclusion

    Although it seems like an easy task to do it as usually everything is comprised of these sections. There are some special tips you are going to get here to eliminate all the issues with your dissertation literature review chapter before you encounter them. So before we tell you how to write the literature review, we are going to help you a little bit more.

    You can skip but the loss will be yours. So here we start!

    steps to writing a dissertation literature review

    1. Introduction

    Firstly you have to write such a capturing and irresistible introduction that a reader couldn’t stop but get interested in reading your dissertation.

    For an eye-catching introduction, start by stating the objectives of your literature review. To do this in a flawless way, you have to start by posing your research problem or research question. Take it further following a concise summary of all the sources you have reviewed in your literature review.  

    To end the introduction section like a boss, highlight all the gaps and state what kind of approach you are going to take to counter and fill those in your dissertation.

    2. Main Body

    This is the main part of your dissertation hence the most detailed one. So, fasten your seatbelts because are going get into the deep.  Each of the things we are going to explain shortly will apply to each of the sources you have gathered.

    Summarizing the Sources

    You have to analyze each source and then highlight all the major findings related to it. You have to ask yourself some certain questions like; what kind of significant improvement or change a source has brought into your research? Was it helpful or is there a research gap in this source?

    These questions will help you summarize the sources easily.

    Evaluate the Sources

    Evaluation is important but how do you  evaluate important sources in your literature review?  It’s simple!

    You have to discuss the source thoroughly. You have to state your own opinion regarding how a certain source complies with your research topic or is it against it. Simply rephrasing and paraphrasing previously published won’t do it for you.

    Evaluating the sources by stating your opinion will increase your credibility and prove that you have been studying the subject and understand it with sufficient background knowledge.

    Analytically Judging Sources

    You have to analyze the sources analytically as well. It will help you judge the weak and strong points of the literature that you are reviewing. It is a crucial part and you will have to state weak and strong points for each of the sources.

    Building Relation between Your Research Problem and Sources

    You will have to build and state the relation between your research problem (dissertation topic) and the sources you are reviewing in the literature review. This will show and prove that the sources you are citing are related to your research and has an impact as well.

    Besides that, you can also build a relation within the sources you have cited as well. You have to analyze the differences and similarities between different literature sources you have cited. Discussing and explaining the conflict between sources as well to clarify certain aspects.

    3. Conclusion

    This is where you end your literature review. A simple “ok bye, the end” won’t work here or anywhere else (unless it’s a conversation with someone who’s been bothering you while you try to finish your literature review).

    To have a conclusion that will lead your reader towards the next chapter of the dissertation (which is Methodology). You have to throw some bombs (not the literal ones) that will engage the reader with such clarity and interest.

    Don’t worry, let me show you the way.

    A perfect conclusion section of a literature review has to summarize the implications of the sources and the literature you have cited. You have to take the summary a little further by linking the implications with your argument or dissertation research question.

    And that’s how you slay your literature review chapter. Although I already mentioned a few times before that literature review is the lengthiest chapter alongside the data collection and analysis chapter. It will require you to put a LOT of effort and time into and it will be worth it.

    Some Key Tips for You!

    But before you leave to start your literature review chapter. I’d like to share some very helpful tips and tricks that can help you with everything from the research to finishing up your literature review chapter.

    Samples Are Helpful!

    For some guidance, you should have a look at some samples that are related to your research topic.  It will give you practical examples and guidance. It is recommended to take the samples from the most recent reputable author(s). As the formatting could be different for one country compared to other, checking authors from your own country or region is going to give you an upper hand.

    The samples will help you with the structuring in a very practical way as you can see what kind of structure, format, and template they have followed. In case you are not familiar with formatting or structuring styles. These samples can help you significantly.

    Simplicity is the Key!

    Your dissertation should be as concise and narrow as possible. There are hundreds of thousands of resources related to your dissertation research topic and problem. You can’t and don’t have to cite every single source and literature related to the perspective of your dissertation. Just cite and refer to the most relevant literature only.

    It will actually ease your work a lot. You will automatically eliminate all the sources and the literature that is too broad. You will be focusing on the important sources only and save a lot of time by this.

    Most Recent Sources are Most Efficient

    If you are writing a dissertation in 2020, using any literature as a source from the 1950s won’t get you anywhere. A lot has changed and a lot changes every day.

    Although, you already know that you aren’t allowed to use sources from back in the good old’ 1950s. Your literature should be published within the last 10 years and it’s a rule. But it doesn’t mean that all your sources should be 10 years old. The most recent ones are most effective as they’re based on the latest researches and literature. It’s a cycle and you have to follow it.

    Have Your Word as Well

    You do have to cite the authors and their publications in the literature review but it doesn’t mean it should be only someone else’s words. You have to analyze and analyze a lot to critical analysis of all the literature you’re citing in your literature review chapter.

    Find out what the authors have missed and if your opinion and your research fits with their research and opinion. And if it does or does not, discuss and state why and what could be done further.

    Prove Your Point with Evidence!

    Everything you state anywhere in your dissertation should be backed up with evidence. The same goes for the literature review chapter. If you are stating any point, make sure to prove it a citation or theory in the form of evidence. Saying for like 50th time, any statement without evidence is useless.

    Too Much Direct Quotes are No-No

    Overusing or overdoing direct quotes from authors can make your dissertation literature review monotonous for the readers.  To make your literature review interesting and exciting for the readers. You can highlight the importance of an author in your literature review and then move on to your opinion.

    If you feel like there’s a need to go back to that author’s publications again. Critically discuss the impacts of the certain author’s publication on your research whether it agrees or disagrees with it instead of summarizing their work.

    Follow the Appropriate Referencing Style

    Using the right referencing style is the most important thing you have to keep in mind. The styles are most commonly decided and instructed by the professor, department head, tutor, or the instructor. These are the most common referencing styles:

    • APA
    • MLA
    • Chicago
    • Turabian

    Take Enough Breaks

    We talked enough about working hard now you should also know that taking breaks is necessary. You can kickstart your research by working extra hard and then burn yourself out quickly. It is important to have a work schedule and work according to it. Include sufficient breaks in the middle so that you can freshen up your mind and perform efficiently.

    Wrapping it Up!

    Now that you have learned everything about the dissertation literature review chapter from its importance to its structure and formatting. Follow it all up to write an extra-ordinary dissertation literature review chapter!

    So we hope you are completely armed to face the challenges that are awaiting you!

    Good luck! May the odds be in your favor!