How to Write a Review of Literature in a Dissertation: Important Rules To Be Observed

Writing a literature review for a dissertation seems to be a hit or miss situation for many candidates. The successes are large and the failures even larger. Working within literature for your dissertation will give you knowledge of the experts and researchers in the field. Knowing the formatting rules will show you how to present this knowledge from the experts and researchers.


There is a vast array of reasons to write a literature review. Remember, focusing on what you want to achieve is most important to actually achieving it with success. Some reasons for reviewing literature might be:

  • Searching for new lines of questioning and inquiry
  • Gaining knowledge into methodological concepts
  • Obtaining support for tried and true grounded theories
  • Identifying relationships between known practices and ideas
  • Rationalizing the problem while focusing on its importance
  • Understanding the structure and delivery of the subject

This is just a small sampling of the many reasons for writing a review of literature in a dissertation.


Cooper’s Taxonomy of Literature Review would need to be by your side and used as you write your review. The taxonomy breaks down the various characteristics important to the literature review:

  • Focus
  • Goals
  • Perspective
  • Coverage
  • Organization
  • Audience

Each of these six characteristic umbrellas has further sub headings and categories that must be touched upon for a thorough review. Problems seem to arise when writers deviate from the review guideline and begin to sing the praises of the author and his or her works.

Road Map

While using the above taxonomy as your map, you will want to cover the following five stages in your dissertation literature review:

  • The Problem Statement and Formulation
  • Data and research collection
  • Data and research evaluation
  • Interpretation and analyses of the collated data and research
  • Public presentation of your findings

This is just a listing of each of the stages. Each stage has a very complex infrastructure and guidelines that must be respected and followed. Your success depends on knowing the guidelines, stages, and all the sub directions and rules for writing a literature review.

Do not put pen to paper or begin step one of research until you fully understand the map that your literature review must follow. Understanding the rules and how to use them are as important as the research you will gather. Impeccable research gathered, but presented incorrectly, will not give you a successful paper.

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