The Literature Review, Part 1: What to Include

Posted November 9, 2017

This blog is about what to include in your literature review. In short, the literature review is a snapshot of the current state of research on your topic, including research on study variables and major concepts or theories of your study. The literature review also helps to support your research problem and rationalize why your study is necessary by identifying gaps in the literature and the methodological weaknesses of previous studies. Below is what to include in your literature review.

Include recent, peer-reviewed studies and articles. These are really the meat of any literature review and what your literature review should primarily contain. Any historical or informational material on the topic should be included in background sections of your Introduction chapter or in a brief setup section at the beginning of the literature review.

Articles should ideally be recent within five years of the time you anticipate completing your dissertation. This five-year window, however, is not always required. Some schools allow articles to be recent within five to seven years, and some schools have no requirements. However, the intention of the literature review is to give readers a sense of the current state of research on your topic. So, in the spirit of writing an accurate and effective literature review, recent sources are recommended.

Additionally, most, if not all, material in your literature review should be peer reviewed. Peer reviewed means the article has been reviewed and deemed worthy of publication by several experts in the field. Usually, these experts are professors and researchers who are published and familiar with scholarship in the field, as well as the nature of scholarly publishing. To discover if an article is peer reviewed, consult Ulrich’s guide to periodicals, which can be accessed through most university libraries.

In “The Literature Review, Part 2,” we will discuss what not to include in the literature review.

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