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Guidelines for Students Getting Started on a Literature Review for Their Dissertation

Northcentral University graduate student James Gigliello, currently in the dissertation phase pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Psychology, Gender Diversity, says, “A literature review is not some magical overwhelming term. It’s simply a review of the research that has been theorized and performed on your own dissertation topic.”

Gigliello says he has found several guidelines that have helped him stay organized as he goes through the process. “First, get a topic you feel passionate about and that you won’t get tired of researching, because it is a lot of researching.” As Gigliello went through writing a literature review, he found it helpful to keep a journal. “Frustration will happen,” says Gigliello. “Venting them out helps so much.”

As far as the literature review methodology, Gigliello suggests creating and using an annotated bibliographic filing system. “You know exactly where your articles are and you know exactly what you are looking for. Color code them so you can separate topics.”

Gigliello says his best tip for new doctoral students starting into the dissertation phase is to set up a bibliographic filing system. “I wish I had begun a bibliographic filing system earlier because the earlier the better. I had my topic chosen from my first course. I would recommend that you find a topic as early as you can. Even though you will likely revise and refine it, having that topic of choice is important so you don’t end up rushing your literature research when you get to it.”

NCU students can find out more details about the dissertation process online in the Guide to Dissertations, with details on choosing the topic, writing the proposal, and more.