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Our consultants can help you review published research for relevancy to your topic suggest topics related to the gap in the
knowledge that can be included in this chapter. Besides summarizing, your consultant can help you critically
analyze, compare, and synthesize prior research to form a foundation for your current research.


The purpose of the review of the literature is to prove that no one has studied the gap in the knowledge outlined in Chapter 1. The subjects in the Review of Literature should have been introduced in the Background of the Problem in Chapter 1. Chapter 2 is not a textbook of subject matter loosely related to the subject of the study.  Every research study that is mentioned should in some way bear upon the gap in the knowledge, and each study that is mentioned should end with the comment that the study did not collect data about the specific gap in the knowledge of the study as outlined in Chapter 1.

Unfortunately, some institutions have begun to “require” no less than 30 pages of literature review for a dissertation, which leads to students who write a textbook summarizing general information from the field of study, and advisors who overview this disastrous practice with righteous indignation if the student struggles to come up with the required number of pages. This leads students to “pad” the discussion with unfocused verbiage, and can result in students applying the practice of crating pages just to create pages. This may lead student to think a dissertation is a glorified term paper.  Requiring a set number of pages is fallacious. If the gap in the knowledge is, in fact, represented by an unbalanced or incomplete body of literature, then the review of literature might only require three pages of material from the only relevant empirical studies.

Too many institutions in the last 10 years are allowing graduate students to parse research that has already been done by taking an existing study and slightly altering one element, such as the geographic location, if the study is in the social sciences.  Changing the geographic location does not represent robust, original research.  Rare is a social sciences study today that encompasses a national or international study, particularly among the online universities. Leadership studies are rarely anything but redundant as leadership has a long, thoroughly researched history. Original research in the sciences is harder to parse; however, a sciences study can often be piggybacked on existing research if there are unknowns at the end of previous studies. The recommendations for future research at the end of a dissertation are a good place to find a subject that remains to be studied. 

The review should be laid out in major sections introduced by organizational generalizations. An organizational generalization can be a subheading so long as the last sentence of the previous section introduces the reader to what the next section will contain.  The purpose of this chapter is to cite major conclusions, findings, and methodological issues related to the gap in the knowledge from Chapter 1. It is written for knowledgeable peers from easily retrievable sources of the most recent issue possible.

Empirical literature published within the previous 5 years or less is reviewed to prove no mention of the specific gap in the knowledge that is the subject of the dissertation is in the body of knowledge. Common sense should prevail. Often, to provide a history of the research, it is necessary to cite studies older than 5 years. The object is to acquaint the reader with existing studies relative to the gap in the knowledge and describe who has done the work, when and where the research was completed, and what approaches were used for the methodology, instrumentation, statistical analyses, or all of these subjects.

If very little literature exists, the wise student will write, in effect, a several-paragraph book report by citing the purpose of the study, the methodology, the findings, and the conclusions.  If there is an abundance of studies, cite only the most recent studies.  Firmly establish the need for the study.  Defend the methods and procedures by pointing out other relevant studies that implemented similar methodologies. It should be frequently pointed out to the reader why a particular study did not match the exact purpose of the dissertation.

Classically, the Review of Literature should be written prior to Chapter 1 as it will ensure original research after all possible similar studies have been investigated, but inexperienced advisors allow students to set up all the details of Chapter 1 after only a very preliminary review of the literature. If the student finds a large body of literature about the subject of the dissertation, the chances are high that the subject of the dissertation has already been studied.

The Review of Literature ends with a Conclusion that clearly states that, based on the review of the literature, the gap in the knowledge that is the subject of the study has not been studied.  Remember that a “summary” is different from a “conclusion.”  A Summary, the final main section, introduces the next chapter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Barbara von Diether, EdD