Literature Review: Sound Advice for Your Dissertation

In your early college years, the Literature Review may have simply been a summary of sources used for your paper. In some cases, you might have even included material that was never mentioned in your paper for the sake of adding to the list of sources consulted.

But in the dissertation, things are different. Your Literature Review cannot just be a recap of what was said in each source. You need to discuss the sources together, explaining how the different studies support or contradict one another according to the important themes you will discuss in your paper. By presenting the existing viewpoints, the reader is given a background of your field of study that allows them to know how your research fits in, which is why you cannot just pad your Literature Review for the sake of adding more material.

So read on to have a clearer view of what you need to do for your dissertation’s Literature Review.

1. Consult a variety of sources

A dissertation is supposed to be an exhaustive research. This means you need to consult a wide range of resources including academic journals, books, and other material.

Aside from your librarian, your advisor should be able to point you towards available resources that he or she is aware of as well as the online journals that the university subscribes to. And as you read, you can also consider the sources mentioned by these other researchers.

2. Really read and analyze your sources

For a dissertation’s Literature Review, it is not enough to just skim through the material. You need to read, take notes, analyze what is being said, and determine how the author’s thoughts fit within the themes you are studying. If not, you will not be able to present a coherent picture of what researches support a theme and which ones contradict it.

3. Determine the gaps in the other researches

A research gap is the area that the study does not address. The gap can incur in the population studied, extraneous variables not considered in the experiment, errors in the theoretical framework, or other limitations. Pointing out the gaps in the review of literature shows you grasped what you’ve read. And by understanding the gaps, you can assert how your research fits in.

4. Follow an example

If things are unclear, it helps to follow an example. Find two or three dissertations, view their Literature Review, take note of similarities and differences, and follow the one that seems easier to do. Another option is to follow the Literature Review that is better organized as some present their sources according to particular themes, making the flow more comprehensible to the reader.

5. Include a short conclusion

To wrap things up, your Literature Review should recap the major points of what you discovered from others, making the arguments and counterarguments, and strengths and weaknesses of particular studies clearer to the reader. This summary should also connect what you have found to your dissertation, presenting how your research aims to fill in the gaps of the literature presented.


A Review of Literature that has been done well can strengthen the purpose of your dissertation, making it clear to the reader that your work is important. So spend quality time making this section as it will greatly help your paper.