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The Literature Review: A Few Tips On Conducting It

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What is a literature review?

In Social Sciences, a Masters thesis shows that you understand the relevant research in some depth and that you can also apply this research to some specific problems or questions. In contrast, a PhD dissertation needs to contribute to research in some important way even if the contribution is narrow or small. There are no widely accepted rules for what is appropriate for Background or Literature Review chapters, or whether your thesis should include either or both.

A Background chapter is best used to present contextual or prerequisite information that is important or essential to understand the main body of your thesis. Perhaps there were some historical developments that set the stage for your research questions or thesis. Perhaps there was some debate over key terms or scope of your subfield.

Perhaps you are bringing together several disciplines, and you need to explain which aspects of each discipline you are including and not including. A Literature Review chapter builds a conceptual structure that ties together all the key ideas from all the relevant literature.

By "conceptual structure" I mean an organized way of linking individual ideas together so that their relative importance and interrelations are clear and obvious to the reader. What are the main ideas? What ideas support these main ideas? What are the contradictory ideas? On what basis to people decide what ideas or positions to support or oppose?

Viewed this way, what becomes clear is that a Literature Review chapter is less about "literature" and instead is mostly about "review". For what it's worth, in my dissertation I will not have either chapter. Instead, I've decided to have a chapter called "Foundations" to cover both of these needs. Roughly, the background explains what the reader needs to understand the problem, and the related work explains and critiques what others have done to partially solve or discuss this problem or related problems.

I agree that there is no absolute way to write the research background and literature review chapter. Meaning that, write your research topic general then go specific to your topic. I take one example of finance research topic which is education loan, and it is a quantitative study has dependent variable DV and independent variables IV. In the background of study, paragraph i will discuss in general about education loan including the countries that offers the edu loan, the design of loan scheme etc.

UK , put some statistic, or statement from prime minister or anything else as the evidence that default is really a problem in the UK. While, in the literature review, I will be more specific about the relationship between attitude and intention to pay loan. Take a look at the list below. It is your step-by-step guide on how to write a dissertation literature review. One of the main things to understand about writing a literature review is that it is familiar to the process of performing primary research on your topic.

In fact, a literature review secondary research is a modified primary research. The key components here are the following:. Conducting a literature review, you cannot just read all the sources, take some brief notes, and put them into a literature review. Instead, you should develop a narrative summary of each document including basic ideas and facts that should be taken into account.

Literature Review Section Writing a literature review for a dissertation is one of the main ways to demonstrate that you have made a strong research for your dissertation and have a strong academic background in your field. What is a dissertation literature review? Example A good sample literature review for dissertation is a analytical overview of the literature on your topic.

The purposes of writing a literature review are: Indentifying gaps in the previous research; Helping to avoid the topics and questions that do not require any research; Setting the background on the areas that has been already explored; Helping to identify similar works in the subject area; Allowing to set the intellectual context with previous related research; Providing a writer with the opposite points of view; Helping to define effective methods applicable to your project.

It is important to keep control of the reading process, and to keep your research focus in mind. Rudestam and Newton It is also important to see the writing stage as part of the research process, not something that happens after you have finished reading the literature. Wellington et al Once you are part way through your reading you can have a go at writing the literature review, in anticipation of revising it later on.

It is often not until you start explaining something in writing that you find where your argument is weak, and you need to collect more evidence. A skill that helps in curtailing the reading is: Decisions need to be made about where to focus your reading, and where you can refer briefly to an area but explain why you will not be going into it in more detail.

The task of shaping a logical and effective report of a literature review is undeniably challenging. Some useful guidance on how to approach the writing up is given by Wellington et al In most disciplines, the aim is for the reader to reach the end of the literature review with a clear appreciation of what you are doing; why you are doing it; and how it fits in with other research in your field.

Often, the literature review will end with a statement of the research question s. Having a lot of literature to report on can feel overwhelming. It is important to keep the focus on your study, rather than on the literature Wellington To help you do this, you will need to establish a structure to work to.

A good, well-explained structure is also a huge help to the reader. As with any piece of extended writing, structure is crucial. There may be specific guidance on structure within your department, or you may need to devise your own. Once you have established your structure you need to outline it for your reader. Although you clearly need to write in an academic style, it can be helpful to imagine that you are telling a story.

The thread running through the story is the explanation of why you decided to do the study that you are doing. The story needs to be logical, informative, persuasive, comprehensive and, ideally, interesting. It needs to reach the logical conclusion that your research is a good idea. If there is a key article or book that is of major importance to the development of your own research ideas, it is important to give extra space to describing and critiquing that piece of literature in more depth.

Similarly, if there are some studies that you will be referring to more than to others, it would be useful to give them a full report and critique at this stage. As well as using tables to display numerical data, tables can be useful within a literature review when you are comparing other kinds of material.

For example, you could use a table to display the key differences between two or more:. The table format can make the comparisons easier to understand than if they were listed within the text. It can also be a check for yourself that you have identified enough relevant differences.

An omission will be more obvious within a table, where it would appear as a blank cell, than it would be within text. Almost all academic writing will need a reference list. This is a comprehensive list of the full references of sources that you have referred to in your writing. The reader needs to be able to follow up any source you have referred to. A bibliography is not usually necessary or relevant, unless you have been asked to produce one. This experience is common in PhD study, but it can happen at any level, and can feel as if you have wasted a lot of effort.

Looking at this positively, however, you have probably read more widely than you might otherwise have done. That probably confirms that it was a good question to ask!

Although this can feel very disappointing at first, it can often be transformed into a benefit. It is important that your research fits logically within the existing research in your area, and you may have found an ideal study to link with and to extend in some way. Firstly, this is unlikely. Perhaps if you modify your search strategy you will find something.

Check out whether there is an important reason why the research has not been done, which would make it sensible for you to choose a different focus. If you do decide to go ahead, then take extra care designing your research, in the absence of guidance from previous studies. Ploughing a little-known furrow as a novice researcher is going to be very difficult, and you may find it difficult to get much support or help.

What is a dissertation literature review? Example

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Determine which literature makes a significant contribution to the understanding of your topic. Point the way to further research on your topic. Content of the Literature Review. The Literature Review must be well structured, and your ideas must flow logically from one point to the next. Ensure sources and references are current and relevant, cited .

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What is a Literature Review? A literature review surveys scholarly articles, books, dissertations, conference proceedings and other resources which are relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory and provides context for a dissertation by identifying past research.

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Randolph, Dissertation Literature Review framework for the self-evaluation of literature reviews concludes the article. Purposes for Writing a Literature Review Conducting a literature review is a means of demonstrating an author’s knowledge about a particular. When to review the literature. With small-scale writing projects, the literature review is likely to be done just once; probably before the writing begins. With longer projects such as a dissertation for a Masters degree, and certainly with a PhD, the literature review process will be more extended.

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Writing a Literature Review in a dissertation 4 | P a g e your dissertation topic and field of study Headings/Sub-headings In order to allow cross-referencing of chapters/information in your dissertation, it is important to structure the chapters/sections of your dissertation using numbered headings and sub-headings. A good sample literature review for dissertation is a analytical overview of the literature on your topic. Pay attention to your future reader. In case if your audience knows less than you know on the topic, you become an instructor.