The literature review is the most difficult part of writing a dissertation because it mandates a writer to clearly define their topic, identify relevant sources, read large quantities of material, and communicate the amalgamation of this information in a intelligible and direct manner. The selection of the first portion of the dissertation as the most challenging is not an indicator of the scientific complexity involved in this introductory portion, but a number of psychological influences make the first section so daunting. In many ways, the methods and results sections of most dissertations involve more technical language and advanced calculations. Intricate tables are used to explain the findings to readers, while the literature review is usually summarized with text and the citation of multiple other authors who have also written on the subject. Still, by the time the methods, results, and discussion section are drafted, the writer has overcome the most significant barrier to the dissertation process-getting started!
Once a student overcomes the procrastination that has hindered many a great scientist, the discipline to maintain a well-focused writing style throughout the literature review remains difficult for many. It’s not unusual to cite over 20-30 sources for a dissertation and it’s tempting to meander around the introduction of a topic without ever clearly designating the topic of study. Students should evaluate their own tendencies to determine what they anticipate will be the most challenging section of their dissertation. Use strategies to overcome procrastination and harness the power of an outline to ensure the intended thesis statement of a dissertation remains intact through the lengthy review of related literature. It’s also helpful to speak to other students who have recently completed their literature review, data collection, statistical analysis, or even their entire dissertation. The frustrating experience of working on such an overwhelming project can be normalized by others. Once students have overcome their most challenging section, the rest is downhill!
Galvan, J.L. (2004). Writing literature reviews: A guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Pyrczak.