Meaning of a Dissertation: Literature Review

Writing a literature review is a must for any research work. Knowing how to write it properly and in which manner is a key to a quality review.

Every dissertation or thesis will invariably have a literature review in it. Usually it will be one of the first chapters. Although a literature review may form part of other documents such as a research proposal, an application for a grant from the government or another funding agency, or a scholarly article for certain academic journals, it is in dissertations and thesis that a literature review has its full significance. And a student can under no circumstances be exempt from the responsibility of writing a literature review if he or she is to submit a dissertation.

Now let us look at what a dissertation literature review means. It is not basically different from other literature reviews like those in a research proposal or a scholarly article. The main difference is that in a dissertation the literature review tends to be more comprehensive and exhaustive as it is a serious academic work. Another significant different difference is that the literature review in a dissertation or thesis will be longer as it must include all relevant literature available on the specific subject.

A dissertation literature review is only a comprehensive and systematic written summary of available literature on the subject. Or, in other words, it is the consolidated report on all related research work carried out so far on different aspects of the same subject. As every serious research work will have a written output what we get from past researches will be the reports, theses, dissertations, write-ups, notes, or other documents. Together they constitute the available literature on the subject. The research scholar’s responsibility is to collect all such data with meticulous care and to analyse and reorganize them to suit the specific aspect of the research problem he or she is dealing with.

As we have seen, in order to collect data and write the literature review, we will have to gather various sources such as books, ebooks, reports, theses, dissertations, newspaper reports, films, government or corporate documents, archives, different web sources, letters and emails, memoirs, interviews, diary entries, etc. Some of them may be very difficult to procure. Great care is necessary in collecting them and sorting them. Care is also needed to keep all information related to the data we collect for subsequent use when we write the literature review as part of the dissertation.