Learn what can go wrong with this important part of your dissertation.


1. Too descriptive

A literature review must go beyond a mere summary of what was reported by other researchers. Look for any drawbacks or limitations in their methodology. Comment on why you may be reluctant to trust their conclusions – perhaps because of a small sample size or vague measurements. That’s the criticism that all tutors want.⠀


2. Lack of quality sources

You are expected to use at least 10 scholarly references per 1,000 words. Most of these should be peer-reviewed articles published within the last three years, with occasional theoretical books and research reports. Textbooks, magazines, newspapers and blogs are not appropriate sources for a literature review.

3. A by-article structure

It’s always a temptation to discuss one article in one paragraph and then proceed to another – this is the easiest way to write a literature review! But do resist it. Along with descriptiveness, the by-article structure is what most tutors disapprove of strongly. Compare and contrast the findings from three or more articles in each paragraph.


4. No link to research question

Using a good range of scholarly sources and evaluating them critically is not enough. Explain how these findings help you answer your research question, what they teach you about your topic.⠀


5. Un-grounded statements

When critiquing the work of others, it’s easy to become judgmental. Back any statements you make with a reference to other sources so your readers can see you’re not just expressing a personal opinion. For example, “Collecting performance data from employees themselves is a problem in this study because it could have resulted in a same-source bias (Saunders et al., 2016)”.
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