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PhD Writing: Tips And Prompts

The Main Things To Keep In Mind While Working On Your Dissertation Literature Review

The literature review of your dissertation is your way of explaining to the reader what the existing literature says on the topic you are researching. It shows that you didn’t pull the topic from thin air and have an understanding of what your own research must take into account. Here are some things to keep in mind before you attempt to write one:

Find sample literature reviews

Seeing an actual literature review that has been masterfully put together can be much more helpful to you than merely hearing about the process from others. It can make any guidelines you have received much easier to understand. It can also alert you to errors you may have otherwise made. If you find literature reviews of less promising quality, these can also be used to show you what not to do.

Understand all facets of your topic

Having understood the sample literature review, you can turn your attention to the topic you chose for your dissertation. If you misunderstand it or are only seeing a few aspects of it, your review will not be as well put together. A skilled reader may notice these shortcomings immediately and the rest of your dissertation will be judged more harshly as a result.

Research it extensively

Once you understand the direction your topic is taking you can engage in research on it. This will lead you to the elements of your review. Look into all the relevant academic journals for your field and use search engines liberally to find any relevant information that could benefit your literature review.

Make notes as you go along

In the process of your research you may come across extra bits of information that if noted now can make your citation process much simpler. Ensure that all relevant information is stored with you especially if it comes from books you cannot remove from a library and thus may not be able to access last minute if you run out of time.

Review your notes periodically to get rid of unnecessary sources

Not everything you made note of will be useful to you. This will become more apparent as you write the actual literature review. As you go along, trim the fat from your notes so that all you have left is what you truly believe needs to be put in.

By doing just these things you can start your literature review and bring it near completion.

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