A complete guide to writing a high-quality PhD literature review

Every PhD dissertation must contain a detailed and well-structured literature review, which serve the following purposes:

  • Provide the reader with a background of the previous research that has been done on the research topic that the PhD student is working on.
  • Makes a useful contribution to the understanding of the research topic.
  • Highlights the gaps in the previous research.

Thus, the literature review makes a significant contribution to your dissertation, and hence must be treated with importance. Listed below is the complete guide to writing an effective literature review:

  1. Select the specific research topic.

Starting from a broad level, narrow down to the specific research topic that you want to work on.

  1. Finding the literature resources.

You can either use Internet search engines or library resources to find the relevant literature for your research topic. From the Internet, download all the published articles written for your area of research. University textbooks and articles can provide background information of your research area. Read a lot of academic material to gain broad-level knowledge, and then narrow your reading to the specific technical matter. You can decipher the quality of any academic paper by the number of citations and reference material that it has used.

  1. Get the relevant excerpts from your literature.

After finalizing on the available research material, skim through each material to look specifically for any excerpts that provide information on:

  • Research findings and discussions that are relevant to your area of research.
  • Definitions of terms that can be used in your literature review.
  • Follow-up to the previous research work, that is pointing to your research project.
  • Limitations or disagreements

Make a note of each of these relevant excerpts, along with the author name, publication and the page number of the information.

  1. Group the most relevant excerpt information.

Filter your excerpts thoroughly and group those that build up an idea or research narrative. Separate those excerpts that have contradicting information.

  1. Write your literature review.

Identify the sub-sections of your literature review, and work on each sub-section deriving from your understanding of each excerpt group. Include citations of only those sources that contribute significantly to the reader’s understanding. You don’t have include large portions of information, only those that are relevant for your research.

In conclusion, a good literature review must contain the strong and weak points of the arguments put forth by previous researchers.

4 thoughts on “A complete guide to writing a high-quality PhD literature review

  1. Mohtadi says:

    I think that is very very important to get from review.

  2. Rafal says:

    Whatever information I needed is here, thanks!

  3. Ashaqat says:

    Thanks for sharing valuable information. Can you please tell me how can i use synthesis matrix for writing literature review.

  4. John Sanders says:

    Building up a synthesis matrix also facilitates the writing of literature review section.

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