Theses and Dissertations: A Guide to Planning, Research, and Writing

By R. Murray Thomas; Dale L. Brubaker | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Searching the Literature

"This business of searching and reviewing the literature. What literature is that? What am I supposed to find? Exactly what's a 'literature review'?"

The expression--the literature--typically refers to published writings in books, journals, and conference proceedings that relate to the field of investigation within which a student's project lies. Such literature also includes unpublished theses and dissertations. However, there is no universal agreement among professors about (a) what should be contained in the student's review of the literature, (b) what functions such a review should assume in the overall project, or (c) where the review should be located in the finished document. Therefore, you may find it helpful to be acquainted with alternative positions that advisors may hold in relation to such issues.The first section of this chapter sketches some of the more common viewpoints professors adopt. By understanding those viewpoints, you should be better prepared to discuss the literature review with your advisors and to argue your case if their ideas about the search fail to coincide with your own. The second section of the chapter describes ways that a literature search can be conducted efficiently. The final section describes a pair of avoidable errors of judgment-- "lamentably dumb mistakes"--that students occasionally commit.
FUNCTIONS OF LITERATURE REVIEWS
The most popular patterning of chapters in theses and dissertations goes something like this:
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Review of the Literature
Chapter 3: Methodology
Chapter 4: Results/Findings

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