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How to write a literature review for a dissertation

In writing a literature review for a dissertation it's important that you understand two distinct aspects of the task. The first is that you need to be sure what the review of the literature will require as far as your duties are concerned. The second is that you need to be sure of what is contained within a literature review.

The duties or requirements of a writer of a literature review

  • Where does the literature sit in the world of current literature?
  • What are the significant issues discussed in the literature you are reviewing?
  • What have other reviewers of this literature had to say?
  • Has the literature you are reviewing made a contribution to your topic?

It is most important that you do not consider the work you are reviewing to exist in isolation. Yes you will be expected to review it as a stand-alone piece of literature but only in the context of other comparable or similar pieces of literature. If it is a novel which you are reviewing then you must examine it in light of other novels and particularly those of a similar genre or ilk.

You must clearly enunciate the significant issues or themes raised in the literature you are reviewing. And you must also be aware of any other reviewers who have made comments about the same material which is the basis of your dissertation. Finally you need to place the material you are reviewing in terms of its contribution to our understanding of literature and the world.

The content of your literature review

You will need to take a global view of the material in your literature review. Where does it sit in terms of the subject and content in the world of literature?

You will need to be able to compare the themes and content of the literature you are reviewing with other comparable works. Make a comparison between the themes and ideas you have commented upon with what other reviewers have said in other works.

You need to draw conclusions. You are writing a review, albeit of a piece of literature, and as such it requires an opinion. You must in your dissertation comment upon the literature and its contribution to the themes you have raised in your writing.

Remember that the material you are reviewing is one thing, your comment upon its contents is another.

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