5 To Do’s When Writing Your Literature Review


Posted August 26, 2013

Writing the literature review for your dissertation can be a daunting process. Students are told, “You should find everything published about your topic and review it.”  That can be overwhelming, as your dissertation may be centered on a broad or thoroughly researched topic where there is no shortage of literature.  There are things you can do to make this process much easier – here are five:

1.  Do your research!  This sounds simple, I know.  However, it is imperative that you include the necessary background research to show the reader why this variable is of interest to you and, more importantly, why it is important enough to be studied in this project.

2. Cite primary sources.  When doing your research, you want to find the primary (or original) source.  It can be extremely frustrating and confusing as a reader to read a sentence that says, “Roberts and Johnson (2004, as cited in Lee, 2009) said …” In this example, it seems that the author was too lazy to find the original source.  If your sentence was “Roberts and Johnson (1912, as cited in Lee, 2009),” it would be a bit more forgiving due to the 1912 date.  However, if Lee could find the original source for his 2009 work, why can’t you?  A literature review is a demonstration of tenacity and willingness to go the extra mile for your research study. You are trying to prove that these topics are beneficial to the entire field, should be studied now, and are worthy of consuming the next 12-18 months of your life.

3.  Organize your proposal! Try using a Table of Contents and section headings.  You will have to write a Table of Contents eventually, so you may find it to be easier to start it at the beginning.  It is perfectly okay for you to use headings in your paper, per APA requirements.  Using headings will allow you to see where there are large gaps in your work and to ensure each variable is discussed.

4.  Begin using APA format to cite your references correctly in the body of your literature review immediately.  It is VERY time consuming to try to include these citations after you have finished writing.  When you finish a proposal draft, you will be itching to send it immediately to your Chair, not sit down with your APA manual to determine correct reference format.  Instead, keep your APA manual beside your computer and cite your reference correctly the first time.  Once you correctly type a few of these, you will get the hang of it and can continue without difficulty.

5.  Proofread! Let me say that again – PROOFREAD!  Please do not send your proposal to your Chair for review without proofreading your paper.  Yes, you will miss some small mistakes because you are very close to the work, and you have undoubtedly read your literature review 15 times already.  However, your Chair should not find sentences repeated twice in a row, words in the middle of a sentence that do not belong there, or spelling errors.  If you are concerned, visit the Writing Center on campus for their assistance.  The less your Chair has to edit means the faster she can read your proposal and the more progress you make in a shorter amount of time.


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