Literature Review

What is a literature review?

The literature review is a review of the previous literature on your study topic. It looks only at secondary sources, so it should never be used for presenting your own results – that will come later in your own results section.

Why is the literature review important?

The literature review shows where your research sits within the context of your field of study. It demonstrates the previous research done in your area and allows you to identify or demonstrate gaps in the research that your study aims to fulfil. Finally, the literature review also provides information that you will use to build your own argument. You will  refer back to your literature review regularly throughout your dissertation.

You may also review literature on things not directly related to your topic, such as research methodologies.


You should try and get a good coverage of the previous studies in your area. It is important not to focus only on studies that appear to agree with your own hypotheses, but to include papers that might contain results that are not easily explainable with your hypothesis or that appear to contradict the consensus of opinion. Without testing your own results against the findings of such papers, the reliability of your work could be in doubt.

As the literature review is a major part of the paper, we will have a few posts on this issue, looking at where to find papers for a literature review, the various types of literature review and the differences between a literature review and an annotated bibliography.

Further reading

What next?

In the next post we will look at how to conduct a literature review, such as where to find papers and how to choose which papers to use.

This post is part of a series of posts about each of the sections of a dissertation. Get access to them all from here:

Dissertation Introduction

What is a dissertation introduction?

The dissertation introduction is the first proper part of your dissertation. First it sets out what the reader should expect from your research. Then it explains why you are conducting the research. It also gives an overview of the issue you are examining. Finally, it describes how you have structured your work.

The dissertation introduction usually contains the following sections:

  • Statement of the problem your study will address
  • A brief overview of how the study will be conducted
  • Why this study needs to be conducted and what knowledge it will contribute to the area
  • Constraints and limitations of the study
  • The structure of the dissertation, usually set out as an overview of what each of the chapters will contain

Why is the dissertation introduction important?

The introduction to a dissertation is important as it allows readers immediately to orient themselves. They will be given a clear overview of WHY the dissertation is being written,  and HOW it will be presented. The dissertation introduction therefore gives the reader a descriptive overview of the whole study.


When writing your dissertation introduction you should not go into too much detail. The aim is to present the information, not to go into a lot of depth explaining it. For example, if you are using a case study for your dissertation, you can simply write “This study will examine the problem using the case study approach”. You will go into a lot more detail about anything you say here later in the dissertation. Using the same example, the case study approach will usually be referred to in the literature review alongside a number of other approaches along with the reasons you chose that approach over the other possibilities.

Dissertation introductions are often written in the future tense, such as  “This dissertation will examine…”. This is because your dissertation introduction is talking about what the rest of the dissertation will hold. The assumption is that the introduction is coming “before” the study, even if it is being written after most of the work has been done.

Further reading

What next?

The next section we will be looking at in this series of posts on dissertation structure will be the literature review.

This post is part of a series of posts about each of the sections of a dissertation. Get access to them all from here:


What is an abstract?

The abstract is the first thing that anyone reading your dissertation will see. Although the abstract appears at the start of your work, it should usually be the last thing you write.

The abstract contains the overview of your complete document, including the following:

  • Motivations for conducting the study
  • The aims and goals of the dissertation
  • The methods used
  • An overview of the results
  • The conclusions of the dissertation

Why is the abstract important?

As mentioned above, the abstract is the first thing anyone reading your dissertation will see. It will give them a brief summary of everything you have done in your study. If you think back to when you conducted your literature review, you will remember that the process is usually as follows: conduct a wide search of the literature using related keywords; read the abstracts of the studies you find to determine which are relevant and discard those that are not; read the selected papers in more detail. The pivotal point in this is reading the abstracts – it is based on this that you decide whether a paper is suitable for inclusion in your review. You therefore need to make sure that you put sufficient information into the abstract to allow someone conducting a similar search to make an informed decision on whether to include your paper in their analysis.


The most common mistake people make when writing an abstract is to not include the results and/or conclusions. Not including these in the abstract means that no-one reading your abstract will be able to tell whether or not it is relevant to their own work. Remember, you are not writing a thriller and so you do not need to keep your readers in suspense. Thinking back to when you were conducting your literature review, if an article’s abstract did not give an overview of the results, you would most likely have overlooked it, as you did not have time to read through 20,000 words to determine if it was suitable. You can prevent this for your own work by ensuring the abstract contains all this information.

Writing your abstract should be the very last thing you do. Often you can then copy and paste relevant portions of the text you have already written to create it.

Further reading

What next?

The next section we will be looking at in this series of posts on dissertation structure will be the introduction.

This post is part of a series of posts about each of the sections of a dissertation. Get access to them all from here:

Dissertation structure

We will start our overview of dissertation writing with a look at the dissertation structure.

What is dissertation structure?

The dissertation structure is common to most dissertation, with a number of defined sections that must nearly always appear. The sections are as follows:

At the end of your dissertation you will have your references and any appendices.

This dissertation structure is common to nearly all subjects. Whether you are writing a scientific dissertation or a humanities dissertation the sections will still be the same, although the content will obviously be very different.

Why is dissertation structure important?

Having a good dissertation structure is the first step in the process of writing a good dissertation. Developing the dissertation structure should be the first thing you do when you start planning your dissertation, and you should follow the dissertation structure you have developed throughout the time you are writing your dissertation.

The idea of a dissertation structure is to help you lead your reader through your research in the easiest and clearest way possible. You take them from the ideas behind the research, through research that has previously been conducted, and then onto your own research and its findings. Without a good dissertation structure, no matter how well researched your dissertation is, your readers will have difficult following the arguments you present.


A good tip is to set up your document with the dissertation structure already written in as titles. As we go through each of the sections in more detail, you can add in more titles to these sections as appropriate. Only once you have the dissertation structure in place as titles in the document should you start adding the content.

Further reading

What next?

Over the next few posts, this blog will examine each of these sections in detail in order to help you build the best possible dissertation structure.

Now Read


Welcome to the blog.

We regularly get asked for advice on writing essays, dissertations and theses beyond what we offer through our proofreading service. Through this blog we aim to give tips and advice on every aspect of academic writing. We are going to start with a series of posts on writing a dissertation, as we know that many of our visitors are in the process of doing that at the moment. Although this is aimed at dissertations, the advice we offer will be applicable to any form of academic writing, from the shortest essay to your PhD thesis.

Please feel free to contact us through the comments if there are any questions you would like to ask, and please don’t hesitate to suggest topics you would like us to cover as we would like to make this blog as useful as possible to all students.