A literature review is an essential part of your dissertation writing. Sometimes, though, it can be the most difficult part. This is because it is mostly based on existing researches and very little of your own self.
One needs to be very systematic and thorough when working on their literature review. The following pointers may help in getting you started:
Choose Areas Of Research
You have probably already decided on a thesis or dissertation topic. However, in order to start writing your literature review, you need to narrow things down. There are several research methods and areas, and you can’t possibly deal with all of them.
Hence, it is better to choose your area beforehand. For instance, if you want a historical perspective on a topic, search for historical books and articles. You may come across some very interesting material that is not relevant, so set those aside. The more specific you can get, the easier your review would be.
Search for Literature
A bibliographic search for books and articles is now in order. You don’t have to buy every book you reference, nor read them all. You can search and download them or their abstracts online. Your college or university library may also be of help in getting you relevant works.
Searching for the right literature should not take so long. If you find yourself taking more than a few searching sessions, force yourself to stop. It’s time to select the materials you want and start extracting useful points from them.
You should skim each book and article you have and look for relevance to your subject. Relevant points include findings, conclusions, claims, definitions, and calls for follow-ups.
If you notice any gaps or loopholes in the material you have, these could be valuable and impressive points to write about. No thesis or dissertation is complete without a portrayal of the other side. Hence, you should also look for material that disagrees with your stance.
Once you find any of the above elements, type out these excerpts with the author name, book name, and page number. These would then go into your literature review as well.
Coding the Literature
Figure out the different themes of each excerpt you chose. Sort out the material you have under the themes you have worked out, and try to prioritize the main ones.
This way, you would have a neat pile of categories and topics to work on. These could be a separate part of your review altogether. Such a section would impress the markers and readers and probably green-light your research. These categories would show just how your work would fall into place and hence facilitate your writing process as well.
A literature review does sound monotonous in theory, but can be a most exciting part of your research. Finding books, articles, and other mediums to generate ideas is where you actually start your work. Be careful not to get distracted though!