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Review of Literature

The review of literature is one of the important early sections of a dissertation. In the review of literature, the student surveys research papers, dissertations, theses, and any books that are relevant to his or her dissertation topic and presents a discussion of the current body of related knowledge. One reason for including a review of literature in the dissertation is to highlight what has been covered in the literature as well as any questions that remain yet unanswered. It is these unanswered questions that new dissertations must address.

In order to craft an effective review of literature, the student must build an extensive list of related research and literature in his or her field. Checking the reference lists in the research papers and dissertations he or she has read as part of regular coursework is an excellent place to begin. These reference lists will be full of relevant research papers that speak to the student's topic. Each paper the student studies will have its own review of literature that will reference relevant research as well.

The student will also find potential materials for the review of literature by searching the library. The reference librarian can assist the student in searching indices including the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature and Dissertation Abstracts International for relevant literature. The librarian can assist the student in obtaining hard copies of the literature on loan or in accessing scanned copies online.

Another key to a successful review of literature is refining the dissertation topic. As the student searches the literature, he or she will become aware of the vast amount of research that has been conducted in any given subject. If the student's topic is too broad, too many papers and dissertations will be relevant to it. In order to manage the scope of his or her review of literature, the student must narrow the topic and select the body of literature that is strongly related to it.

After searching and studying the body of literature available, the student will draft his or her own review of literature by referencing and discussing the most relevant points and experiments, constantly highlighting the ways in which the existing literature relates to the student's own dissertation topic.