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DCCL Orientation & Dissertation Workshop

Guide to FLITE's resources for DCCL students, especially those working on their dissertation.

Welcome to FLITE & the Literature Review

Welcome! You are in the process of learning a lot about crafting your dissertation - developing a research question, determining your methodology, and analyzing your results - and I'm here to talk to you about the literature review portion of the dissertation. 

You may have experience conducting library research, but it probably has not been for a dissertation-level literature review which needs to be relevant and comprehensive. Many doctoral students find this to be a tedious and frustrating activity. I hope I can help minimize this concern by addressing some possible issues and pitfalls in advance.

When you analyze other dissertations, take a look at the length of the literature review. Because dissertation literature reviews are so lengthy, they often have to be divided into sections to maintain a sense of organization.

Two common ways to arrange a literature review are chronologically and thematically.

In a thematic literature review, sources are clustered into topic sections that the student first needs to synthesize individually and then weave together into a coherent whole. This type of structure works well for interdisciplinary and exploratory studies. The downside of this structure is that information may require more reading. Students using this format must be very organized to present the information clearly to follow the inherent argument of justification. 

In a chronological literature review sources appear oldest to newest. This structure works well for those studies drawing upon an already existing research stream and the results of the dissertation will be one more rung on the ladder of understanding where each new piece of information hinges upon what occurred before. The downside to this format, however, is that students have a tendency to just create a times of the studies and events and not critically examine the sources thoroughly.