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Literature Review – Overview

  1. Literature Review – Overview
  2. Part One – Literature Survey
  3. Literature Survey
  4. Efficient Ways Of Searching The Literature
  5. Where to Hunt
  6. Other Useful Info
  7. Citations And Notes
  8. Errors Of Judgment
  9. Planning Checklist

This business of searching and reviewing the literature. What literature is that”What am I supposed to find”Exactly what’s a “literature review””

The expression – the literature – typically refers to published writings in books, journals, and conference proceedings that relate to the field of investigation within which a student’s project lies. Such literature also includes unpublished theses and dissertations. However, there is no universal agreement among professors about (a) what should be contained in the student’s review of the literature, (b) what functions such a review should assume in the overall project, or (c) where the review should be located in the finished document. Therefore, you may find it helpful to be acquainted with alternative positions that advisors may hold in relation to such issues.The first section of this chapter sketches some of the more common viewpoints professors adopt. By understanding those viewpoints, you should be better prepared to discuss the literature review with your advisors and to argue your case if their ideas about the search fail to coincide with your own. The second section of the chapter describes ways that a literature search can be conducted efficiently. The final section describes a pair of avoidable errors of judgment – “lamentably dumb mistakes” – that students occasionally commit.


The most popular patterning of chapters in theses and dissertations goes something like this:

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Review of the Literature
Chapter 3: Methodology
Chapter 4: Results/Findings
Chapter 5: Analysis and Interpretation of the Findings
Chapter 6: Summary, Conclusions, Applications, and Recommendations for Further Study

Such a pattern implies that the entire collection of information from the professional literature belongs in Chapter 2. However, whether it’s wise to locate all references to the literature within a separate chapter is a matter of debate. Two questions worth answering are (1) What function is material from the literature expected to perform in your project”(2) Where in the final version of your thesis or dissertation can such material most reasonably be located”A typical answer to the first question is that faculty advisors want your project not only to display your ability to answer the particular question on which your research will focus, but also to demonstrate how skillfully you (a) situated your chosen topic within a relevant body of knowledge, (b) found in the literature a significant quantity of other studies that bear on your topic, (c) evaluated the quality of those studies (their strengths and limitations), (d) identified the linkages between your project and previous studies, and (e) showed what contribution your project can make to the field in which your work is located. Although these five functions can often be conveniently housed within the same chapter, there are also various other functions that the literature review can serve. Hence, it is useful to consider what those functions are and where material bearing on them can suitably be placed. Here are ten such functions.


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