How to Write Review of Literature in Dissertation

Writing a review of the current literature in a dissertation is one of the most time consuming, difficult parts of the overall dissertation.  Think of it this way, just this portion of a dissertation is comparable to a major thesis paper.  Therefore, it is imperative that you know how to write a solid, cohesive, relevant literature review of your topic.  The following outlines necessary key points on how to write a review of the literature in dissertation papers that will have you writing that portion with confidence.

First, Understand the Goal of Writing a Literature Review

  • A winning literature review not only exhibits your expertise on the existing body of knowledge available on your topic, it also includes your ability to critically analyze the existing research. This shows how your research relates to your topic, and demonstrates that you can formulate potential new future research.
  • Know who your readers are.  That is, know your audience.  Knowing your audience will help you determine what style of writing or tone to use.  For instance, if you are writing for experts in your field, then your style will include a literature review that shows you are equally an expert.  If your audience is less informed about your topic, then your job is to write with more of an instructional style.  Keep in mind though that most dissertations are indeed written for and read by experts.
  • Second, Find Optimum Keywords when Searching for Literature

    • The very first place to start finding the best possible body of completed research is to start with the best keywords possible.  This may seem obvious, however, not having good keyword usage from the start is often overlooked or not considered important.
    • Spend time with your keyword terms and phrases.  Experiment and try to find keywords that lead you to the best sources.  You want many, or all really, primary sources to cite rather than secondary or tertiary.

    Critically Analyze the Research

    • This was mentioned at the beginning when defining the goal of a literature review.  However, this is another key point that is often left aside.
    • Make sure you critically analyze the literature and research thoroughly before you include it and cite it in your own work.  Do not assume that the author got everything perfect.
    • You are an expert on this topic.  You should be able to go through existing research and determine if the quality meets your expectations.

    The fundamental points listed are points to know for writing an excellent literature review.  In fact, if you are writing your first literature review, you may think that this is the least important part of the paper.  However, in actuality, it is one of the most important parts of a dissertation.