Home Members Only Find Member News Join PaTLA Consumers Login Logout Renew

Registered Users Login
Members Only
Join PaTLA
Make LAWPAC Contribution
Renew your Dues
Consumers & The Press
Legal Links
Exhibit & Advertising Opportunities
Become PaTLA Partner
Privacy Statement
Contact Us
Staff Contacts
How to Write a Dissertation Literature Review: Stepwise Guide
40 Best Dissertation Topics in Education to Research
Methodology for Dissertation: All-in-One Writing Guide
Simple Tips on How to Write an Abstract for a Dissertation

What is RSS?

PaTLA: fostering public awareness and understanding of the role of the trial lawyer in the administration of justice.

How to Write a Dissertation Literature Review: Stepwise Guide

If you're unfamiliar with literature reviews, going to college would give you a crash course on them – but not in a good way. Most students get sick of hearing the word 'literature review' thrown around in college classes and never get to know what it truly requires, let alone where to start.

Not to worry - we've got you covered with this stepwise guide to writing a dissertation literature review. We'll cover some literature review basics and discuss its forms, so let's get started.

What is a literature review?

Conducting a literature review requires a critical appraisal of the sources you have acquired and read about around your topic. The review helps identify a "gap" in the literature that your study will aim to fill.

Since there are many misconceptions regarding what a dissertation literature review entails, let's start with a clear definition. A dissertation literature review is a straightforward summary of relevant sources in a dissertation. It often demands you to critically engage with the material to express your favorable or negative ideas about it.

Overall, a dissertation literature review demands extensive critical thinking to discover new perspectives and address gaps in the literature. You'll need to ask questions like; what is my take on a certain source? Is this interpretation significantly different from other points of view in the literature? And many others.

The primary goal of a literature review dissertation is to summarize and give a critical critique of the research arguments discovered in your readings without adding anything new to the literature.

How long should a literature review be?

The solution to this question is not a specific one. The literature review length varies based on its audience, the objective, and the student's degree of education. For example, a literature review produced by an undergraduate is always shorter than those submitted by Ph.D. students, and for essays, it's even less.

That said, the length of a dissertation literature review should be between 20 and 40% of the total project length. So, if you are asked to write a 10,000-word dissertation, you should provide a minimum of 2,000 words for the literature review. Regardless of the length of the literature reviews, make sure you stick to the correct literature review outline to score top marks.

Types of literature review

Primarily, your discipline determines the type of literature review you'd get to write. Performing an assessment work in your undergraduate studies, publishing a study in a journal, or working on your Ph.D. heavily influences the style of literature review you conduct.

A literature study for an undergraduate degree subject will not be as extensive as a literature review for a Master's or Ph.D. thesis. There are about four common types of literature reviews.

1. Narrative literature review

It identifies and evaluates published material on a wide topic. A wide range of relevant issues might be included. The review results are often reported in a narrative format.

2. Critical literature review

It answers particular, patient-oriented questions that often emerge in real-world practice.

3. Systematic literature review

It attempts to find, evaluate, and synthesize research findings to improve decision-making and define best practices. The technique varies depending on the type of study, which might include studies of efficacy, prevalence, qualitative research, etiology, diagnostic test accuracy, or economic assessment.

4. Abstract literature review

The abstract of a source is quite useful in literature review research. However, abstract literature reviews, on their own, focus on less particular and critical reviews.

How do you write a dissertation literature review?

Below, we dive right into how you write a dissertation literature review.

  • Start by identifying sources

To create a solid dissertation literature review, you need to have a strong notion of what sources you want to look at. If unsure, you might begin by obtaining a literature review template.

Ensure your sources are balanced; include a sufficient number of books, academic journals, and any valuable published work from recognized researchers. Consider the parameters and objectives of your study to assist you in selecting acceptable sources.

  • Examine your sources

It's time to look over your sources once you've identified and organized them. First, go through all the texts to acquire a feel of their overall substance and arguments. Then examine your sources more critically and thoroughly. Also, take detailed notes, and ask probing questions. This ensures that your literature review is more than just a summary of your readings.

  • Consider the research gaps

When conducting a dissertation literature review, it is critical to identify the research gap. Identifying the gap will emphasize the relevance of your study and address its needs. It is also an indicator of strong critical thinking and can get you extra marks.

  • Write your review

Now you're well prepared for writing. As you write, follow a sample dissertation literature review in your field to ensure you're on the right track. If you are unfamiliar with academic writing, reviewing samples will help you understand what is required. Take note of the academic jargon and formal manner employed. Remember to keep your topic as specific as possible. Also, make sure your sources are as up to date as possible.


The general form of your literature review will be heavily influenced by your study topic and the academic traditions that apply to it. Nonetheless, following these steps to write your dissertation literature review will give you the knowledge you need to develop a good piece.

PaTLA South Broad Street, Philadelphia
Tel   215.126.4551 Fax  215.546.5430
Copyright © 2004, PaTLA All Rights Reserved