How to Undertake a Literature Search for a Dissertation

Literature Search for a Dissertation
Literature review is an important part of any dissertation project. The student is intended to design his or her research based on information resources which help to shape other elements of dissertation. The materials that you have found for your dissertation will produce a literature review. 


This review will provide conclusions and analysis regarding the literature you have found.

Why is the literature search and review important?

Without academic literature any communication process in academic world would be impossible. It is supposed to connect your work with others in the field, demonstrate that you have fully understood the essence of your dissertation topic and that you are able to propose new ways of dealing with the problem.

Dissertation requires literature review because it:
  • Provides academic foundation to the research by students
  • Makes ideas and outcomes of research clear
  • Identifies research methodology
  • Describes possible problems with dissertation and your plans to solve them

How long does a literature search take?

Timespan required to find relevant literature really depends on the chosen topic. Keep in mind that: 
  • You need to think ahead. Make some time in your schedule to read it. 
  • You need to make time to get your hands on materials that are not available in your area. Some of the literature, when ordered, may arrive in several weeks. 
  • You should not leave literature search until the last minute. Otherwise, you won’t be able to cope with the stress and desired result will be impossible to get. 

Planning your literature search 

There are several ways to take in searching literature:
  • Systematic: research for all possible materials available
  • Citation: research of the references from materials on the topic area
  • Retrospective: research for the latest literature and moving to older sources
  • Targeted: research that restricts dissertation topic in order to narrow literature area Students often combine the approaches above in their research. It might actually be a good idea.
However, there are some recommendations to follow:
  • Use systematic approach in your search for literature in libraries
  • Research of journal publications may adopt retrospective techniques
  • Use citation approach when you need useful options or the topic is too broad
  • Use targeted approach when you know exactly what you are looking for
Choosing your Sources
Information can be retrieved from numerous types of sources. It is highly likely that you will use articles in journals and book, whether online or in print. Additionally, you may use data from government agencies to get qualitative or quantitative information regarding your topic. Finally, you may use online databases with journal articles which is provided by your university. They also give you references to other related works as well as useful information for your review.
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