The literature review is the heavyweight chapter of the dissertation proposal. It’s an exciting prospect, because you get to make your case for your doctoral research: which fundamental questions remain unanswered within your field, and which methodology and design will offer the clearest answers to these questions.
Of course, it’s daunting, too! Whether you’re a full-time doctoral candidate or completing your degree online while managing your career, the amount of time required to search for, review, and identify the necessary studies to develop a complete, scholarly literature review is quite extensive.
For programs that require 75 or more sources for this chapter, you should assume you’ll need to read and review at least three times that number to find the right 75 to justify your topic and research design. And of course, many universities have increasingly strict requirements for recent research, which present additional challenges for new researchers.
A typical literature review follows a “funnel approach,” beginning with an in-depth overview of your selected theoretical or conceptual framework. This theory or combination of theories describes the research problem your study will address, and is the primary area where older, foundational works by the researchers) who established your selected framework are allowed and even encouraged.
By selecting a theoretical or conceptual framework, you are situating your specific research within the broader context of your discipline. It’s important to remember, too, that this framework should be reflected in the language used to describe your research problem, purpose statement, and the specific research questions you hope to answer by conducting your study.
Once you’ve established the foundation for your research, you should focus on identifying key themes and methodological approaches to your topic throughout the remainder of your literature review. It’s important, when discussing so many studies, not to fall back on summaries of key findings, but rather synthesize these findings to support a specific and existing gap in recent scholarship. In other words, by the end of the literature review, you need to have “made the case” for your study and why it’s needed, by providing your readers with an organized and highly analytical discussion of current research on your topic.
We provide full consultation and literature research assistance for our clients, so that you save valuable time on initial broad searches and can focus on developing your specific, tailored literature review. We also provide literature review assistance as needed to make sure you reflect your theoretical or conceptual framework, discuss the key themes for your research, and craft a deep analysis of the research gap.