How to Write a Dissertation Literature Review: Guide

The literature review is a crucial chapter that highlights the background of the topic, clarifying the knowledge gaps that justify your research. Often, students tend to think that the literature review is a summary of the sources they have interacted with in the course of their research.

However, the literature review serves to critique these sources, justifying your research objectives and showing the tutor that you are well-versed in the topic. Unfortunately, many students struggle with writing their literature reviews owing to a poor grasp of what is expected of them when writing this chapter.

Here, we’ll highlight the structure of a literature review and discuss the tips for writing a comprehensive PhD literature review.

Steps for writing a dissertation literature review

  1. Identify your sources

The initial step of writing your literature review should be to search for relevant sources relating to your topic. these sources should preferably touch on the ideas you intend to develop, allowing you to support existing arguments or to highlight inadequacies in the arguments which you intend to criticize.

When searching for sources, consider using Wikipedia reference lists as a starting point or engaging your librarian as they are better placed in identifying the content within your topic.

  1. Analyze the sources

After collecting your sources, read through each source to identify the main arguments presented by the author. Here, gauge the themes, debates, and knowledge gaps in each source to offer a detailed analysis of the literature review. 

When analyzing the sources, relate the sources that develop an idea and identify the variations in arguments within your sources. This will allow you to justify your opposition to a given idea, and to connect various sources in support of your arguments. 

  1. Critique your sources

As stated earlier, your literature review chapter should serve a bigger purpose than highlighting the arguments in various sources. Therefore, be keen to offer your criticism of various sources, building upon your solution for the inconsistencies in the existing knowledge. 

  1. Outline your literature review

Like all chapters of your paper, the literature review requires a meticulous outline to keep track of the major arguments within your paper. The outline also allows you to organize your ideas for a smooth flow, bringing out your intended weaknesses in a manner that is easy for the reader to identify. 

The outline of a literature review may either organize your ideas in chronological order, following through the development of thought from the initial research to the current state. Alternatively, you could also take a thematic approach, organizing your content based on the themes you intend to tackle within your paper. 

  1. Writing

After outlining your literature review, develop various parts, organizing the ideas in a manner that’s easy for the reader to comprehend. Also, consider seeking assistance for editing to ensure that your literature review chapter serves your intended purpose of highlighting the gaps that necessitate various research objectives. 

How to structure a literature review

The literature review, like an essay, is divided into an introduction, the body, and a conclusion. The introduction states the objectives of your paper and introduces various research questions under investigation. 

The body then develops your criticism of the sources you have encountered while linking various research problems to the sources. Finally, the conclusion refocuses on your research questions, making for a smooth transition to the methodology chapter.

For this, we recommend that you look at a literature review dissertation example for a better grasp of the ideas within various sections of your literature review.

How to start a literature review

The introduction of your literature reviews should hook your reader into the section, allowing you to introduce your stance before providing support from the existing sources. Your introduction should discuss the purpose of your literature review and the focus of your research.

You could opt to start your introduction using a fact or rhetorical questions to make the reader aware of your approach to the argument at hand.

How many sources for a literature review

As stated earlier, your literature review section should not simply echo the sentiments of another author. With 15% of the total word count dedicated to the literature review section, you require several sources for a worthwhile literature review section.

The literature review chapter should have a minimum of one hundred and fifty to two hundred sources. This can be translated to a single source per page or a higher number of sources, enabling you to tackle relevant criticisms without falling short of the recommended word count.

How to Write a Proposal for a Dissertation: Best Tips

Proposal writing for a thesis often overwhelms students. besides having to determine what to include, and the supervisor’s expectations, students are required to put in tons of work to ensure the proper topic selection and to exhaust research of the available materials.

Unfortunately, the dissertation proposal is a vital statement of intent that gives you a go-ahead for a given research topic. This allows the tutor to guide you on how to approach your dissertation proposal, reducing errors and complications in the latter dissertation writing stages.

This article will guide you in writing a dissertation proposal to help you overcome the challenges you could encounter as you tackle your dissertation.

What is a dissertation proposal?

A dissertation proposal is a document highlighting your research question, methodology, and approach to data collection and analysis. This document allows you to envision your final research paper and to save time and effort through insight from your tutor. 

The dissertation proposal, therefore, shows your mastery of a topic and also allows your supervisor to test the feasibility of your topic, ensuring that your efforts do not wash down the drain.

How to write a dissertation proposal: Tips for writing a dissertation proposal

Although many students are familiar with the process of writing a dissertation, the approach to writing a dissertation proposal is often a cause of confusion. If you are also unfamiliar with the process of writing dissertation proposals, these tips ought to come in handy to ensure a quality proposal.

  1. Identify the research methodology

The research methodology highlights the approach you intend to take in your research and various considerations made in selecting your participants and research methods. This part of the dissertation proposal gives readers a good grasp of your research scope, making your paper simple to comprehend and feasible with the resources at your disposal.

The proposal should therefore tackle all the finer details in your examination, to show the supervisor that you are familiar with what you are doing. 

  1. Discuss the data analysis software

When dealing with complex research, you may require software such as SPSS, SAS, Minitab, and MATLAB to analyse the data at your disposal. These tools may require some training to solidify your understanding of the software, assuring your supervisors that the data yielded from your research will be properly interpreted to inspire correct deductions.

  1. Consult online samples

Unlike the dissertation, your proposal is written without the data from research, making it unnecessary to include the results and discussion section. The common dissertation outline is thus improper for your dissertation proposal.

Online samples should serve as a template for a dissertation proposal allowing you to familiarize yourself with the structure and style for writing a dissertation proposal. Alternatively, reach out to peers and tutors for guidance and tips for writing a dissertation proposal, and overcoming the common challenges faced by students.

  1. Develop an outline

Alike all academic writing tasks, a dissertation outline is a crucial element in mapping out ideas to ensure that you tackle all the details that are relevant to your research topic. Outlining gives you a better grasp of what your dissertation will appear as, helping the tutors to gauge how your ideas connect and your approach to confirming your research objectives. 

Before developing your outline, conduct extensive research to broaden your perspective on handling a topic and highlight the research approaches that have already been taken, ensuring the uniqueness of your paper. 

Also worth noting, familiarize yourself with the thesis proposal format to tackle all the relevant information in your thesis. 

  1. Outline potential implications

The last section of your proposal should highlight what you hope to achieve through your research, giving the supervising panel a gist of your arguments and the research gaps you intend to approach. Doing so creates room for insight into the changes to make in your paper to ensure the relevance of your research. 

  1. Include the references

When writing your proposal, be keen to include the references of the sources you have interacted with in the course of writing your paper. This assures your supervisor that you have conducted ample research to diversify your perspective on a topic and also shows that there is ample material to support your claims in the discussion. 

Final take

We hope that these tips have helped you overcome any confusion you had regarding your dissertation proposal. However, we suggest that you familiarize yourself with the tips for preparing for your proposal defence to overcome issues that may delay your dissertation writing timeline.