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What is a Literature Review?

Writing a literature review is an integral part of completing the dissertation process. It’s also an area of considerable confusion for those seeking a doctoral degree.  Understanding the literature review, including what it is and why it’s important, can help you get through the dissertation process with much less stress.

Exactly what is a literature review?

Essentially, a literature review is an analytical overview that looks at all the relevant published information in a particular subject area. Many times this overview is also narrowed down to a specific time frame. So your literature review might look at published papers on the topic of new restaurant success rates from 2000 through 2015. By limiting the subject and the timeline, you're able to narrow your focus and concentrate your dissertation efforts.

What’s the point of writing literature reviews?

Writing a literature review may seem like extra work, but it is a vital part of the dissertation process. One of the top benefits of taking this step is that it can help you determine what has already been published about your chosen subject. If you're trying to cover new ground but find that there are already a dozen published works on the topic, you might want to go back to the drawing board. Additionally, the literature review helps you identify sources and find potential gaps in research.

How is a literature review different than an annotated bibliography?

Those accustomed to academic writing already cite their sources and create bibliographies.  It’s important to understand, however, that a bibliography and a literature review are not interchangeable. An annotated bibliography includes a summary and standard citation information. A literature review offers a critical analysis of how the material relates to your own research.

Who writes a literature review?

Conducting a literature review is a common step in research. It can be a part of the academic writing process and can even be treated as a writing project by itself. Most of the time, however, writing a literature review is a step of the dissertation process for those seeking a doctoral degree. They are considered essential in some areas of academia, such as the sciences, but are also used in the social sciences and humanities.

Writing your literature review may seem overwhelming or even unnecessary, but it can focus your dissertation efforts and save time in the long run. Our helpful dissertation guide can help you understand the entire process  - view it here.