What is a Literature Review Within a Dissertation?
A literature review is not a narrative essay, but rather investigates and synthesizes existing scholarship in a way that provides context for the research study and informs and eventually justifies the research question/s, theoretical framework, and selected research methodology.
A literature review is more than a summary of the sources, it has an organizational pattern that combines both summary and synthesis. It should not merely be descriptive—it should present definitions, theories, debates, and research data in the field of interest. It should be a fair representation of the perspectives and voices of a range of scholars across the field.
- What motivates your concern for this issue?
- As a body of work, what practical questions does this literature set out to address?
- What is the empirical range addressed in this issue, theme, or topic?
- Who are the most influential and most cited thinkers?
- What are the main theories, interpretative frameworks, or paradigms which order knowledge when addressing this issue, theme, or topic?
- What are the main issues arising for this issue, theme, or topic?
- What range of practices does this field spawn? What are its most exciting and promising areas of innovation?
- The are the main challenges to be addressed?
- What are the questions being asked by the intellectual and practical leaders in relation to this topic?
Checklist for the Literature Review
Note that your purpose and organization will shift as you progress from the General Field —> Special Field —> Dissertation. Be sure that you start with your General Field first before referring to your dissertation study.
Also, you can include tables, infographics, videos, etc., but be sure to source them and demonstrate their relevance by connecting them in the nearby text. Be sure to cite them in captions. Best practice is to number them based on the chapter (Table 2.1, Table 2.2 while in Chapter 2).
Literature Review Overview (Videos)
Additional Help Resources
Please keep in mind our Exam-Dissertation Sequence Literature Review requirements when reviewing these other sources
Additional Resources for Writing a Lit Review
- Demystifying the Literature Review (UofI Library)
- Illinois Library LibGuide Texts
- Michigan Library LibGuide Texts
- Writers Workshop website
- Introduction to Literature Reviews
- What Makes a Good or Bad Literature Review?
- What is a Literature Review?
- Write a Literature Review
- Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students (video)
- Literature Review Basics (link to more links)
- APA Citations (UofI Library)
- Write a Killer Literature Review (Udemy course)
- Strunk, William and E.B. White. 1979. Elements of Style. New York NY: Longman. (A classic!)
- Sword, Helen. 2012. Stylish Academic Writing. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
- The University of Chicago Press Editorial Staff. 2017. The Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press. Online edition.
- Coursera Academic Writing Course.
- Links to a variety of other resources
- Verbs for Reporting
- Important: we ask that you not use “noted”, “highlights”, “mentions” – be sure select evidence-based verbs
- When the examples say “Scholars say,” you should list the actual scholar(s) in that space like Bloom, Hasting, and Madaus (1971) claim formative assessment…
- Pay attention to the pluralization of verbs. Multiple authors claim; single author claims
- Academic Phrasebook: This book has examples of the kind of language that is used for literature reviews. Click on the book cover to purchase.