The Literature Review chapter will offer an expanded version of all areas of the theoretical framework from the first chapter. These are topics that are unique to your dissertation, though some universities combine chapters one and two into a single introduction chapter. Topics should be based on the constructs included in the purpose of the study, research questions, hypotheses, as well as the theory or theories that support your design. If possible, adapt components from two or more theories. This shows creativity and prevents the possibility of being pressured into validating one particular theory.

Making the Connection

There is a connection between the theoretical framework section in Chapter One and the Literature Review in Chapter Two. Here’s the big connection. You should place the most critical and important theoretical and/or research studies in the theoretical framework section of Chapter One. That’s what the whole dissertation is based on.

In the Literature Review chapter it is important for the full theory to be explained, even if it is extensive. The longest Literature Review chapter I have ever seen was eighty-one pages. The average is about forty pages, though it is hard to get by with a literature review chapter under twenty pages. One common question clients ask me is how do I know when I have written enough in this chapter? Assuming that you have already started writing on the literature, one thing to do would be to make a list of all the topics you plan to include more it’s generally better. For each of these topics list all of the references you have. You could do this by author, year. Then it is a simple exercise to count the number of references you have under each of the topics. When you do this for the first time, there is a high probability that under some topics you have a excessive number of references, while under other topics you have just a few. This is a great way to remind yourself where you want to continue to search for new literature/studies.

Criteria for Evaluation

Your committee will generally evaluate the literature chapter based on a few obvious criteria: sections clearly relevant to your research; studies that are summarized and clearly explained; and studies that have been connected to the topic of your dissertation. You should expect to write introductory sentences at the beginning of each section that tell the reader the rationale for the upcoming studies to be presented. These are transitional sentences and sometimes paragraphs.


A Helpful Resource

A book by Victor C. Pellegrino entitled A Writer’s Guide to Transitional Words and Expressions. Among the categories he includes are: to indicate how or when something occurs in time; to provide an example; to conclude or summarize; to compare; to indicate cause and effect; to emphasize or intensify; and substitutes for said. With this as your companion, you will easily be able to improve the style and tone of your writing not just in this chapter but throughout your dissertation. I always suggest that you attempt to write more than you think is necessary at least in the initial phase of writing the literature chapter. The reason I say that is that is much easier to reduce what you have already written (if necessary) than it is to add additional material. Remember that most faculty will not place great emphasis on your literature review chapter, when they see that you have written it in a comprehensive manner and that you have validated and connected other sources to your own research.