Literature review for a thesis

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Conducting an extensive and elaborated Literature Review for a thesis is a highly challenging task for any thesis or research paper. This essential part of your theoretical chapters grounds and justifies your selection of a thesis topic and involves a comprehensive analysis and evaluation of the present state of the art, wrapping up the literature which is related to your research. 

Crafting a Literature Review is daunting, especially for students who are new to research or still need to improve their skills and gather experience. However, it is a crucial step in developing a well-informed and well-supported thesis. This post thesis offers an all-round introduction on how to conduct your Literature Review for a thesis, approaching and guiding through this chapter by providing valuable tips and advice, helping you to identify the most relevant sources, analyze the information, and synthesize the findings to support your thesis to ensure that yours will be a success.

How do you write a Literature Review for a Thesis


Writing a literature review for a thesis is one of the most important parts of the research process. Defining it in short, it is a comprehensive summary of extant literature and recent research that has been conducted on a particular topic. It is an essential element to establish the credibility of your thesis and demonstrates that you have a thorough understanding of the existing literature on the subject. 

How to approach it? Here are some steps that you can follow to approach the outline of a literature review for your thesis:

Step 1: Define your research question and know every side of it. Before you begin writing your literature review, you need to define the research question that you are seeking to answer, and further its focus, aims, and objectives. This will help you to identify the key themes and concepts that you need to explore in your review.

Step 2: Conduct a comprehensive search for relevant sources. Once you have identified your research question, it is time to realize a comprehensive search of the literature to identify relevant studies, articles, and other sources. You can use online databases, academic journals, and other relevant sources to find the literature that is relevant to your research.

Step 3: Evaluate the sources. Once you have identified the pool of extant publications, continue with an evaluation to determine their relevance to your research question. You should critically look at your sources to crystallize their arguments, strengths, and weaknesses, and identify any gaps or inconsistencies in the research.

Step 4: Organize and classify the literature. Structuring your sources and references is an essential step in crafting a literature review. Here, you need to group the studies, articles, and other sources into themes and concepts that are relevant to your research question. This will help you to identify the key themes that you need to explore in the best manner to write the Literature Review for a Thesis.

Step 5: Approach writing. Once you have organized your literature, you need to write yours. A Literature Review for a Thesis should be well-structured, and include an introduction, body, and conclusion. Similar to your thesis introduction, this opening part of your chapter leads smoothly into the section and provides an overview of the research question. The body should explore the key themes and concepts in the literature. The final part should summarize the main findings of the literature review and highlight any gaps or inconsistencies in the research.

In conclusion, writing a literature review for a thesis is a critical part of the research process. By following the steps outlined above, you can ensure that your literature review is comprehensive, well-organized, and relevant to your research topic and research question.

Discover the 3 main parts of the Literature Review for a Thesis


A literature review is typically divided into three parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.

  1. Introduction: The opening section provides context and background information on your research problem. It should introduce the topic and provide a rationale for why the literature review is necessary. It should also define the scope of the review and provide a clear objective or research question.
  2. Body: The body of the literature review is the main section, where you evaluate and synthesize the existing research on the topic. It should be organized thematically or chronologically, depending on the research question. The body should critically analyze the literature, identify gaps, and highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the studies reviewed. The researcher should also note any contradictions or inconsistencies in the literature.
  3. Conclusion: The conclusion section summarizes – similar to your Thesis Conclusion – wraps the main findings up and concludes the review. It should answer the research question and provide recommendations for future research. The conclusion should also highlight the significance of the review and its implications for the research problem.

In summary, a literature review is a critical component of any thesis or research paper, and it is typically divided into three parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction provides context and background information, the body evaluates and synthesizes the existing research, and the conclusion summarizes the main findings and provides recommendations for future research.

What has to be included in a thesis Literature Review


A literature review is an essential component of a thesis, and it is a significant part of the theory section, backing up your frame. As a comprehensive summary of existing literature on a specific topic, it helps the reader to understand the context and relevance of your research problem and helps to establish the credibility of your project.

Literature review for thesis

The literature review section of a thesis must include a range of sources, including academic journals, books, and other scholarly publications which need to be treated and referenced very transparently to avoid any type of plagiarism. The review should provide background information on the topic and identify the key research questions. Additionally, it should summarize and analyze the existing literature on the topic, crystallizing key themes and debates, and highlighting any gaps or limitations in the existing research to identify areas where additional research is needed.

The literature review should be organized thematically, rather than chronologically, to demonstrate a clear understanding of the different perspectives and debates on the topic. 

To showcase your ability of critical thinking, the review also needs to include a critical evaluation of the sources, addressing their strengths and weaknesses, and showing, how they contribute to the overall understanding of the topic.

Finally, your literature review should conclude with a summary of the key findings and conclusions, highlighting the significance of the research problem and how the study will contribute to the existing body of knowledge. The literature review section of a thesis is essential for establishing the rationale for the research, demonstrating the researcher’s understanding of the topic, its ability to, and identifying the research gap that the study will address.

How long is the Literature Review for a Thesis?


The length of a Literature review in a Thesis and its final number of pages differs depending on factors such as the research question, area, methodology, and scope of the study. Generally, your literature chapter should be comprehensive enough to cover all the extant relevant publications on your topic or research question.

In terms of word count, a literature review can range from 1000 to 10,000 words or more, depending on the specific requirements of the thesis. However, the focus should be on the quality and relevance of the literature rather than the word count.

It’s essential to note that a literature review is not a summary of all available literature but a critical analysis that synthesizes and evaluates the existing literature. It should also demonstrate how the literature relates to the research question and how it informs the research design and methodology.

In conclusion, the length of a literature review in a thesis depends on various factors, but the focus should be on the quality and relevance of the literature rather than the word count. A literature review should be comprehensive enough to cover all relevant literature on the topic and provide a theoretical framework for the study.

Conclusion: 8 Components and Structure of a Literature Review


A literature review is not only an essential component of any research project but particularly of a thesis. It requires your ability to critically thinking and the skill of analyzing and evaluating the extant state of the arts on your topic to identify gaps in the knowledge base, highlight the most relevant studies, and ground the theoretical framework of your research. 

To give you a concrete example, the literature review for a thesis may be structured as follows, containing the following eight components:

  • Introduction: The introduction provides an overview of the research topic, its significance, and the aim of the literature review.
  • Search strategy: The search strategy outlines the databases that you apply to search terms and identify relevant studies during your visit to the library.
  • Inclusion criteria: The inclusion criteria describe the characteristics of the studies that were included in the review.
  • Exclusion criteria: The exclusion criteria outline the reasons why certain studies were excluded from the review.
  • Data extraction: Data extraction involves recording key information from the studies, such as the author, year of publication, research design, sample size, and main findings.
  • Analysis and synthesis: The analysis and synthesis summarize the key findings of the studies and identify patterns and themes in the literature.
  • Critical evaluation: Critical evaluation involves assessing the quality of the studies included in the review and identifying any limitations.
  • Conclusion: The final part summarizes and wraps the key observations up.

In conclusion, a literature review is a crucial element of any thesis. It not only helps to provide a context for your research but also to identify gaps in the existing literature that your research can fill. A well-conducted literature review can also be key to establishing the credibility of the research and demonstrating the researcher’s understanding of the topic. It is important to approach the literature review systematically, by selecting appropriate sources in relation to your research topic, arguments, and thesis statement, reviewing them critically, and synthesizing the information to create a cohesive discussion. Following these tips helps you create a literature review that effectively supports your thesis and adds value to the existing body of knowledge.

About the author:

Dr. Friederike Jurth
Dr. Friederike Jurth

Possibly you already heard of me through different media channels. My name is Dr. Friederike Jurth, and since 2010 I give lectures on Methodology, Empirical Research, Anthropology, and Transcultural (Music) Studies in collaboration with universities in the United States, Germany, Spain, and Brazil. In 2010 I started to carry out 7-year-long fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro and to present my research at conferences all around the world, such as in Japan, the United States, Australia, Brazil, Thailand, Switzerland, and many others. In addition, I worked as a lecturer and researcher with Germany’s famous UNESCO Chair.

After finalizing my doctoral dissertation with summa cum laude, it became my aim to unite, condense and share the steps, ways and details of my unique methodological and structural approach that I could develop and elaborate during my Ph.D. and that finally helped me to achieve this result. By concentrating and putting them together to an elaborated academic conception, MyThesis Academy was born. Motivated by the only aim and objective to help my students through all steps and stages of their thesis journey, it enables them to achieve their best possible result in shortest time, independent of their specific area of research.

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