Thesis Literature Review - Home
Classically, the Review of Literature should be written prior to Chapter 1 as it will ensure original research after all possible similar studies have been investigated, but inexperienced advisors allow students to set up all the details of Chapter 1 after only a very preliminary review of the literature. If the student finds a large body of literature about the subject of the dissertation, the chances are high that the subject of the dissertation has already been studied.
The Literature Review: A Few Tips On Conducting It
When writing your thesis imagine you’re telling a story. You start with the background and general area of the study and slowly progress towards the specific questions you are going to address. You then explain your methods, continually referring back to how these methods will answer the questions you want to address. In your results, show how your analyses answered your questions. Finally in the discussion show how your results fit within the published literature and then talk more broadly about what they mean for the subject area. Your questions and aims need to be clear throughout so make sure they are linked together.
Ridley provides many useful examples of uses of the literature in different, acceptable ways in the text. Chapter 8, "Being Critical," includes useful examples of different ways to organize literature reviews, including contrasting different interpretations, showing weaknesses of a particular type of study, showing connections between different source texts, and several more. She also discusses the variations among disciplines.
The purpose of the review of the literature is to prove that no one has studied the gap in the knowledge outlined in Chapter 1. The subjects in the Review of Literature should have been introduced in the Background of the Problem in Chapter 1. Chapter 2 is not a textbook of subject matter loosely related to the subject of the study. Every research study that is mentioned should in some way bear upon the gap in the knowledge, and each study that is mentioned should end with the comment that the study did not collect data about the specific gap in the knowledge of the study as outlined in Chapter 1.The introduction to a research report accomplishes two goals:
• the reader by providinginformation from the research literature necessary to understanding theproject;
• the reader that the researchquestion is valid by providing the gap in the literature.The length of the literature review is generally in direct proportion to the complexityof the research question and outcomes as they are represented in thepublished literature. How do you gauge this? Let the title be yourguide!
You might have noticed while reading in the research literature thatresearch reports tend to start immediately – there’s very little “warmup” material involved. However, we are so used to writing this way thatit may not be possible to just start at the beginning. If this is thecase, go back and cross out the first couple of lines.How are these goals accomplished? The writer provides a briefreviewof the literature in the correct order (given below!). The content ofthe introduction informs; the organization of the introductionpersuades.This is not as complicated as it sounds. You’ve got theannotatedbibliography to help organize the literature you’ve read. You’ve gotthe research question. The task is to join the two pieces. Beforeworrying about theorder of the paper, get the literature organized. Theoutline below is called a “topical outline” – its purpose is to helpwriters get organized rather than dictate order or hierarchicalrelationships. Using this outline, group together some of the articlesthat logically go together.
The second step to the introduction is to offer the first bit ofpersuasion to the reader: show the importance of the topic by offeringsomething of practical or research significance. However, it is veryimportant for the writer to understand that “significance” does notmean an opinion about why the topic is important. Rather, thesignificance comes from the research literature, too, and is usuallyestablished in terms of practical, clinical or research significance.Don't expect to write the book in order. One of my committee members told me that a dissertation is like sausage. You really don't want to know how it's made. SO TRUE. Post-prospectus (intro/rationale/methods), I wrote findings chapters 4-5-6, outlined the discussion (chapter 7), then revised the findings, then re-wrote the literature review (chapter 2), then outlined the conclusion/implications (chapter 8), then revised chapter 7, then updated chapter 2, then updated the findings, then wrote the introduction, then cut chapter 7, then revised chapter 8 (three times!), then updated the methods... See what I mean? Sausage.The Review of Literature ends with a Conclusion that clearly states that, based on the review of the literature, the gap in the knowledge that is the subject of the study has not been studied. Remember that a “summary” is different from a “conclusion.” A Summary, the final main section, introduces the next chapter.The main focus of an academic research paper is to develop a new argument, and a research paper is likely to contain a literature review as one of its parts. In a research paper, you use the literature as a foundation and as support for a new insight that you contribute. The focus of a literature review, however, is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others without adding new contributions.