Dissertation Literature Review: 3 Best Focus Points

What is a dissertation literature review?

A dissertation literature review explores existing academic resources pertinent to a specific area of research. It also provides a context in a research project by evaluating past research on the current research project. Academic resources include journal articles, books, websites articles, other published dissertation projects, etc. A literature review offers new perspectives on the subject matter.

Purpose of a literature review

  • Provide intellectual context to your research and positions it with similar works on the topic.
  • Increase a scholar’s knowledge of the research pertinent to the central theme.
  • Gives an overview of what has been explored on the dissertation topic.
  • Identifies gaps in existing research that you can offer new perspectives on.
  • Help in the discovery of applicable research methods on your dissertation topic.
  • It provides the scholar with opposing viewpoints on the research content.

Before drafting your dissertation literature review, seek your supervisor’s consent on the dissertation topic. Be specific on the areas your literature review will cover and start looking for relevant research material.


A dissertation literature review is dependent on other chapters and variables in the dissertation, such as findings. For example, you may find that you lack enough evidence to justify the relevance of the source; hence you will alter the literature review.

The main part of the dissertation literature review is a discussion and analysis of the sources used. An introduction to the main discussion and a concise conclusion summing up the main points of discussion is included.

The literature review is introduced by:

  • Outlining the context of your literature review: Discuss how your dissertation topic relates to the subject matter in your sources.
  • Outlining the scope of your dissertation literature review: Mention the sources you will use books, journal articles, etc. and areas to be discussed.
  • Outline how and why you have selected the sources for review.
  • Provide a logic (aims and reasons) for reviewing the literature on the specific topic.

The main body comprises:

  • Critical evaluation and analysis of themes.
  • Integration of common themes to come up with detailed and well-reasoned conclusions.
  • Comparison and contrast of common themes to the research topic.

Below is a guide on the conclusion of a dissertation literature review:

  • Highlight how the literature review has met the aims stated in the introduction.
  • Offer suggestions for further research areas.
  • Summarize the main ideas related to the topic and research question identified in the dissertation paper.
  • Outline the significance of the identified themes for your dissertation topic.
  • Outline how your research aims to address the gaps in the sources.

Avoid the following common mistakes

  • Not linking the literature review to your dissertation topic: The literature analyzed must be pertinent to the topic.
  • Describing the literature word for word instead of analyzing the major themes relating to the subject matter.
  • Not discussing the literature sources in context: Analyzing content that is not relevant to the research topic is a mistake.

The presentation of your literature review must exhibit the following:

  • Selecting and quoting the most relevant material for your argument.
  • The quotation used must be within context and logical.
  • Introducing and integrating only relevant sources to the dissertation literature review.
  • The use of citations to emphasize the reported work by the author. Citations include:
  • Integral citations are where the name of the author is cited at the beginning of a sentence.
  • Non-integral citations refer to the author by the use of footnotes and parenthesis.

It is important to use headings and sub-headings in organizing the chapters in the dissertation to enable cross-referencing. Cross-referencing is vital as you refer to the literature gathered when explaining your findings.

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