Write a Literature Review for a Dissertation

July 13, 2023 | George Orwell | 2022 views

A literature review is an overview of the knowledge that you already have and it provides scope to identify similar theories, methods, and gaps in the existing theories and researches.

Why do we write a literature review?

While writing a dissertation, research paper, or a thesis, we provide a literature review to locate our existing knowledge. Writing a literature review can help in

  • exhibiting the familiarity with the topic
  • developing a theoretical framework and methodology
  • positioning yourself with the other researchers
  • showing the contribution to the field.

How to write a dissertation literature review?

There are various ways a literature review can be written and generally, these steps are followed to write a literature review:

Step 1: find relevant literature

you are writing the literature review of your dissertation or research paper you should have a clearly defined topic and you must have a research question or problem around which you’ll be searching.

Research question example-

What is the pattern of daily city commuters in using the mode of transport

List of keywords

Writing and making a list of the keywords around your research question is helpful. Write the synonyms of the keywords and also, you can add new words later while searching the literature process.

Keywords example:

a metropolitan city, city daily commuters, public transportation system, private transport, city transportation system, modes of transportation, the bus system in city, metro, taxi system

Searching relevant system

By using the keywords start searching for useful sources. Some databases commonly used for the research purpose are.

  • your university library
  • Google Scholar
  • Project muse (humanities and social science)
  • Medline (life science and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering, and computer science)

You can use Boolean operators for a specific search

  • Use AND to search for more than one keywords
  • write OR to search for either of the keywords
  • Use Not to exclude the keywords from the search

To get an idea of whether the article or research is relevant to your keywords or not read the abstract of the same, you’ll get the idea. Check the bibliography of the articles or the research paper to find out some more relevant sources.

Step 2: Evaluate the sources

It is not possible to read everything which is ever written and discussed in the particular field so you must evaluate that out of all which sources are most relevant to be included.

So there are various questions you may need to ask yourself before including any sources. Make sure the sources are credible and you can check the citation scorer of any sources in google scholar so you can get ideas from there. The more the citation score the more no. of times it has been cited which denotes that it might be a good source to be included.

Taking notes and citing sources

It is a good idea to take notes while you are searching for the sources so that you don’t miss any citation to avoid the plagiarism.

Step 3: Identifying connections and relationships

Based on your readings you need to understand the connections and relationships the sources. You need to identify

  • The themes of the questions and concept
  • The gaps in the studies or research
  • Trends and patterns which has changed over time
  • Remarkable publications in the particular field
  • Debates and conflicts over the same topic.

Identifying the above-discussed points will help you structuring and writing your literature review.

Step 4: Define your literature review structure

There are several ways in which you can write the structure of your literature review, it depends upon the length of the content. You can use a combination of the below-discussed techniques

Chronological order

This is the simplest form in which tracing the development of the topic is done from the initial stage. Analyze the pattern, the turning points, and key debates that have formed the direction of the field.

Theme based

If there is a repetition of the central theme you can create the subsections and define the aspects of the topics in your literature review. 


There are chances that you’ll collect the data from sources which has used different research methods and in this case, you’ll have to compare the results from the different approaches.

Define and compare the different approaches, divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources.


The literature review is the foundation of the theoretical framework. Discuss the theories, definitions, and models of the concepts.

Step 5: Writing the literature review

As every academic text, the literature review should also have the introduction, the body, and a conclusion


It should clearly state the purpose of the literature review.


Depending upon the length of the body you can write it in a subsection using any of the desired approaches.


In the conclusion, you should summarize the literature review and mention the key findings.

After you have completed writing the literature review for your dissertation. Revise and proofread before submitting it.

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