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Dissertation Writing Methods for Students: How to Formulate and Structure the Literature Review

Dissertation Writing Methods for Students: How to Formulate and Structure the Literature Review

Complex challenges of a reading survey include processes of in-depth information seeking and exercise of critical thinking before research development can begin

A dissertation is a research essay; it seeks to respond to a doubt or a problem. In deciding your reading and research strategies you need to ask, where did the problem come from? What is already known about it? What other methods have been tried to solve it? The literature review seeks to indicate that you understand what, in the discussion of these questions, has been published.

Literature means everything that has been written in the field of inquiry, the recognized or respected writing on a given subject. Academic reading is in some sense respectable, worthy reading for academic study, and is specialized and technical. The purpose of this reading is to become informed about theories, debates, and perspectives in the field of inquiry. It has to precede your research because it assists in formulating ideas that will help you devise your methodology. If you’re seeking a more in-depth understanding, you might consider the option to pay to write an essay, dissertation, or review, which can provide valuable insights and perspectives on the subject matter.

A Literature Review Must

  1. be related directly to the argument (known as the thesis) that you are proposing
  2. Integrate reading into a summary of what is known and what gaps there may be
  3. Identify issues and debates emerging from the literature
  4. Formulate questions that necessitate more research

Expressing a theoretical framework often features as a function of writing up the literature review. In a theoretical framework, you would include an outline of existing theories that are relevant to your research topic. You could also indicate research projects similar to yours that have been written up.

Beginning the Writing Process

The literature you access will include recently published books and journals accessible through university libraries and bookshops, and older material archived in university libraries and online. This reading is challenging and the task of interpreting it and writing out the sense you make of it can prove daunting. The pitfalls you can stumble into include

  • Reading everything, rather than making critical judgments for selection
  • Reading but not writing
  • Not keeping full bibliographic records

It is helpful to compile a preliminary annotated bibliography summarising each book or journal article you read. Chapters in edited collections of essays may be treated individually – you do not have to discuss the entire book. Take copious notes, paraphrase the author’s argument, select passages to quote, and note the full reference for the author, date, publisher, and page number as you go.

  1. Summarise – What for your study are the most relevant points made
  2. Critique – Evaluate, and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the content
  3. Interpret how it succeeds or fails to support your hypothesis
  4. Synthesise – Reorganize the material and incorporate it into your argument

Organize the reading into sections that present themes or identify trends. Your writing should demonstrate that you are capable of thinking critically and conceptualizing issues raised by previous research. Grouping items into sections helps you indicate comparisons and relationships.

How Should This Material Be Organised?

A Literature Review looks like an essay for a college application or a chapter in a book. It is a piece of prose offering logical discussion, not a list describing or summarizing one piece of literature after another, so avoid beginning every paragraph with the name of a researcher or the title of a book. It must be defined by a guiding concept such as your dissertation research objective, the problem you are discussing, or your hypothesis. Your introductory paragraph should signal:

  • What you are going to cover in the review
  • The scope of your research
  • how the review relates to your research project

Open the introduction with a strong positive statement about your topic. Suggest how many themes your literature report focuses on and name these themes. Follow the introduction with the main body of the essay, properly paragraphed. End with a concluding paragraph relating to the introduction, and forward to the next chapter probably the methodology.

Reviewing the Final Structure

Your literature chapter presents your research topic as a narrative so that your readers can understand exactly what the work entails, and it demonstrates to your tutor that you have read appropriately within your field. It tells the reader of your dissertation how your thoughts have developed and of the limits of your research and provides them with the background information that they need to be able to understand what comes next.

Give this chapter a title appropriate to the research task (rather than just ‘Literature Review’).


Writing a dissertation involves undertaking in-depth research and critical thinking before the development of the actual research.

A literature review is an analysis of the already existing knowledge on a particular subject that is relevant to the dissertation research objective, problem being discussed or hypothesis formulated.

To begin writing, access books, journals, and older archived material that are relevant to the field of inquiry. Compiling preliminary annotated bibliographies helps in summary selection, paraphrasing arguments, selecting quotes, and keeping full bibliographic records.

Summarising, critiquing, interpreting, and synthesizing retrieved materials into sections helps organize and incorporate them into one’s argument.

A literature chapter should be organized as an essay or a book chapter with an introduction signifying topics covered in the review, a main body containing paragraph discussions, and a concluding paragraph along with an appropriate title.

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