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Literature Review: Types and Tips

Review paper writing


When you need to write a large-scale piece of work, you need to be highly proficient in this work, don’t you? And when you need to write a dissertation, you need to be more than just proficient, you need to keep yourself updated with all publications that relate to your dissertation. Just then, you come to an understanding of the fact that writing a dissertation is a lengthy and difficult process. It is hard to focus on this kind of work, especially when you have just completed your previous big paper, when you have published some of your articles, and when you have just applied for a full-time job to support yourself financially. No one denies the fact! Look here, there is always a beginning point of everything, and this kind of work isn’t an exception. Well-written and structured dissertation with adequate thesis, evident points, and credible and legitimate resources means success! It is a documentary proof of your proficiency, and it is a benchmark for your future research and exploration.

What is a beginning point of your work? Of course, your beginning point should be choosing a topic, and then you may proceed to writing a literature review. Many dissertations suffer greatly from poorly written and structured literature reviews. If your review is faulty, the whole work may be evaluated as faulty as well. This happens mainly because dissertation examiners tend to begin the evaluation of dissertations with examining a literature review. They look at it and find out that it is poorly written, structured, and conceptualized; it may spoil the whole work of a researcher.

In this article, we are going to discuss how to write a dissertation literature review, and what is a literature review in a dissertation.

First of all, let’s define what a dissertation is. A dissertation is a lengthy piece of writing that argues in defense of a certain point or several points, or theses that are mentioned in a dissertation. This kind of work requires collecting sufficient data and information that support your thesis; or vice versa, contradicts your point and you include it to your research as a counterargument or an alternative point of view.

A literature review is only a part of a larger work (in rare cases it may be a separate project, but this time it is not the case), a part of a research paper, a thesis, or a dissertation that sets a background for your paper, and tells you where you are with your research at the current moment. A literature review is a set of scholarly peer-reviewed works, previous dissertations related to this topic, relevant books, conference proceedings and other scientific credible documentary records that may be collected and used in a literature review and can create a reliable background for your further research.


Let us update you on a subject-matter of a dissertation literature review, its goals and its types.

The first reason for writing a literature review is to improve your understanding of a specific subject of your research, to expand your knowledge in the field of study, or to build expertise. Subsequently, the second reason is to demonstrate your knowledge or expertise to examiners of your dissertation, or to your readers (if you write a literature review as a separate piece of writing). However, there is the third reason that may be mentioned; it is to keep your readers updated on a certain topic. It is worth adding that a dissertation literature review has multiple goals, and these goals vary depending on your field of study, your discipline, and a topic of your work.

There are several types of literature reviews, and there are several categories defining these types. Below you will find some of them:

  • Narrative Literature Review;
  • Systematic Literature Review;
  • Meta-Analysis Literature Review;
  • Meta-Synthesis Literature Review.

However, types of literature reviews may be divided into another category:

  • Selective;
  • Comprehensive;
  • Part of Larger Project;
  • Separate Project;

Now, when you’ve learned what a literature review is, and what its types are, you need to start looking for an appropriate literature for your review. Where to begin?

As your aim is to provide your review with adequate and credible literature on a specific topic, you should look for appropriate documents by looking through some academic peer-reviewed sources, searching some private databases, attending various specialized libraries (by the way, librarians may help you find an appropriate literature related to your topic), looking through various specialized subscription journals.

What is your next step? Right, you should analyze and read through the chosen sources. However, do not spend too much time on reading all 200 sources because you have no time for it! This process should end faster than an ordinary book-reading process. You should look through a certain source, analyze it, define how important this or that source is for your dissertation, find some key concepts, relationships or patterns between the sources that directly related to your topic. Or, on the contrary, you may find some weak points in these sources and mention them in your review as supporting argument for the thesis of your work.

Another important detail of a good dissertation literature review is that you need to know how to structure and organize these sources, and how to present chosen key concepts, relationships or patterns of these sources. A structure of a literature review may vary depending on an educational institution, requirements of an instructor, etc. Nevertheless, below you will find a general idea of how you may structure and organize literature:

  • Chronological Pattern – you structure literature from the earliest findings and inventions to the latest ones; such group of sources may be added by stating what was discovered in a respective year, decade, etc.
  • Geographical Pattern – you structure literature depending on a specific region, i.e., a town, a country, a certain geographical region, or according to other geographical factors;
  • Advancements Pattern – you structure literature depending on advancements introduced by each author or authors; you point out a relationship / a pattern and group literature related to the problem, according to advancements from the earliest to the latest;
  • Question-and-Answer Pattern – you structure literature by putting a certain important question related to the thesis of your dissertation and provide an answer to such question by stating a group of respective sources, and so on and so forth. However, before doing so, you should check with your instructor whether such classification is appropriate for your paper. We do not want you to spoil your work by doing something inappropriate.


To illustrate how it should be done, below you will find an illustrative classification example of a dissertation literature review (this example may be applied to any other work where you need a literature review):

Chronological Pattern: Physiology as a Separate Field of Medicine

  1. Source 01
  2. Source 02
  3. Source 03, etc.

After that or before that you provide advancements and contributions of each author as an outcome of this group of sources; or you may discuss a certain problem before you provide the respective literature supporting a problem being discussed. It is not that difficult, huh? Examples of a literature review for a dissertation may be given by your instructor as well, so go ahead and ask him/her!

Let’s summarize all the previous information into several brief tips on that matter:

  1. First of all, choose a topic. This is a framework of your research, so be sure to make a right choice. Generally speaking, the success of your dissertation, and a literature review as a constituent part of this work, greatly depends on a dissertation topic.
  2. Focus and narrow a chosen topic of your dissertation. Focusing on certain aspects of research helps you to create a solid foundation for your work. If a subject of your research is rather big, you need to narrow a topic of your dissertation to make it more specific to be able to collect appropriate literature.
  3. A literature review has diverse writing goals. Moreover, a dissertation literature review has multiple goals. These goals largely depend on a topic of your work, your field of study, requirements of your instructor, etc. At the first place, you need to collect a certain number of sources to improve your understanding. Secondly, you need to demonstrate this knowledge to examiners.
  4. Look for scholarly credible sources. This is a rather complex and time-consuming process. You should be very precise when choosing sources for your literature review. Visit certain specialized libraries, access private databases, read through some subscription journals and magazines; all these resources may become a good foundation for your literature review.
  5. Analyze the collected sources. When you’ve already collected the necessary sources, you need to analyze these sources to make relationships, to find some patterns between the core ideas of different sources. You need to understand which idea you can use in your research, and which idea is weak and inappropriate for you.
  6. Structure the collected literature. To write a good literature review for your dissertation, you need to organize properly and structure literature. There are various methods of such organization; you may choose one of the methods mentioned above, or you can use a method required by an educational institution, or by an instructor. Group collected sources, according to the appropriate method. Remember, a literature review is not an annotated bibliography, it is not a list of literature; it is a literature supporting or contradicting a certain question or a point of view. You need to demonstrate relationships that you’ve found between different sources, and explain the nature of these relationships, and explain your choice.
  7. Document search procedures. It is recommended to make notes of your search procedures that were used to collect literature. This may also serve as a support argumentation in a discussion chapter of a dissertation.
  8. Ask for assistance. A dissertation is more complex than a course paper, so it is fine if you ask for assistance. Some advices may demonstrate a weak point of your work; or, on the contrary, some great thoughts may be advised to you, so you can use them in a paper.
  9. Do not overuse quotes. Examiners may check your work for plagiarism, and abundance of quotes may result in a high level of plagiarism. Furthermore, do not try to mix quotes of different authors because this may sound like a complete gibberish to examiners.
  10. Finally, proofread your literature review after a while. This is one of the key points on the way to well-done review. Re-read all the work once again and make sure that there are no mistakes in it. Proofread your work, or ask someone else to do it.

literature review for dissertation

Vince Lombardi, an American football player, coach and executive, once said that “the price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand”. This quote is the best motto of dissertation writers because hard work and dedication to your work always results in success.


Review paper writing

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