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.
Literature Review Workshop Videos
Please watch these videos prior to attending the live session where we will do some hands-on exercises and work on your draft together
Part 1: Dr. Kalantzis discusses in this video the purpose and content of the literature review
Part 2: Dr. Kalantzis discusses in this video the literature review genre and the type of writing that is required
Note that all of this should be based on what has been revealed by the literature reviewed
- As a body of work, what practical questions does this literature set out to address?
- Who are the most influential and most cited thinkers?
- What are the main theories, interpretative frameworks, or paradigms when addressing this issue, theme, or topic? What has the literature revealed? (not what do you seek to discuss)
- 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?
But this structure does not mean the exact headers
Academic Phrases and Evidence-Based
This academic phrasebook can help you diversify how you present the findings from the literature that you have reviewed.
Tables, Figures, and APA
Tables and Figures
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).
Please ensure that your literature review and full manuscript aligns with the current version of APA.
Additional Help Resources
Please keep in mind our Exam-Dissertation Sequence Literature Review requirements when reviewing these other sources
- Writing a Literature Review by Jane Webster & Richard T. Watson
Additional Resources for Writing a Lit Review
- Demystifying the Literature Review (UofI Library)
- 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.
- 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.
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.