Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I have to have a literature review?

This is an important question to ask yourself. As well as helping you to write a good literature review, fully understanding the need for such work is what allows you to know you're on-track, why what you're doing is worthwhile, and that you do have a contribution to make. In other words, the literature review is integral to the whole thesis; it is not just a routine step taken to fulfil formal requirements.

You need a good literature review because it:
  • demonstrates that you know the field. This means more than reporting what you've read and understood. Instead, you need to read it critically and to write in such a way that shows you have a feel for the area; you know what the most important issues are and their relevance to your work, you know the controversies, you know what's neglected, you have the anticipation of where it's being taken. All this would allow you to map the field and position your research within the context.

  • justifies the reason for your research. This is closely connected with demonstrating that you know the field. It is the knowledge of your field which allows you to identify the gap which your research could fill. However, it is not enough to find a gap. You have also to be able to convince your reader that what you are doing is important and needs to be done.

  • allows you to establish your theoretical framework and methodological focus. Even if you are proposing a new theory or a new method, you are doing so in relation to what has been done.
The literature review becomes your springboard for the whole thesis.

* I have made several attempts at beginning to write my literature review but I keep changing it. Is there a 'correct' or proper way to organise it?
* Making sense of the literature.
* Making sense of the literature - first pass.
* Making sense of the literature - second pass.
* Making sense of the literature - final pass.
* Writing the literature review.
* Wrestling with the idea of making an original contribution possible.
* Some writing tips.

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