Dissertation Writing Hints: How to Create a Literature Review

A literature review surveys books, articles, dissertations, and other works related to a particular topic or subject. Its main purpose is to provide a comprehensive overview of the major works of literature on that given topic or subject. It’s often a common approach by many graduate students in working on their dissertations. Here are some hints you should know about creating a great literature review:

Understand the common structure

Your discipline, subject, and topic will all go into determining how your literature review should be structured. It’s a good idea to talk with your graduate advisor to get some idea about what he expects from you in this as well as the other sections. You will want group things in the most logical way possible, but sometimes this may not be too apparent to you without first brainstorming with someone who has more experience.

Decide what needs to be read/reviewed

Next, spend a day or two at the university library deciding on the literature works you will need to include in your research study. A lot of people complete this before they write dissertation proposal, but very few of them go on to complete their graduate projects without making several revisions to the list. This being said it’s okay to come up with only a partial list when you’re first starting. Your graduate advisor just needs to see what direction you are heading in, so that he can provide you with recommendations.

Include an introduction to the section

A short introduction of about four or five sentences should provide the reader with a simple outline for how your review is structured (e.g., chronologically, logically, etc.). The introduction should also give the reader a summary of the topics that will be discussed as well as a short explanation or rationale for your approach. Remember that this isn’t a detailed paragraph – you don’t need to list your choices for review. You only need to state the broader topics that make the inclusion of your literary review selections necessary to complete your study.

Provide clear links to your argument

Your writing must be academic and provide clear links to your main argument. The reader must fully understand why you have elected to include specific works for review and how they work in proving your thesis statement. The easiest and most effective way of doing this without confusing your reader is to provide a short summary after each material listed. Don’t write more than three or four sentence for each and include simple and clear quotations when it’s appropriate.