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What are the examiners looking for in the literature review?

(See also What PhD thesis examiners expect.)

A review of the literature should:

  • set up a theoretical framework for your research
  • show your reader that you have a clear understanding of the key concepts/ideas/studies/ models related to your topic
  • demonstrate that you know about the history of your research area and any related controversies.

In addition, it can:

  • discuss these ideas in a context appropriate for your own investigation
  • evaluate the work of others
  • clarify important definitions/terminology
  • show how your work will fill the research 'space' or gap which you have identified in the Introduction
  • narrow the problem, make the study feasible.

Citation of sources has many roles and purposes. The citing of others' ideas:

  • acknowledges the work of others and protects you against the charge of plagiarism
  • gives greater weight to the authoritativeness of your work
  • demonstrates you have a (critical) grasp of the field
  • demonstrates that you have the capacity to be critical of scholarly work
  • justifies the significance of your choice of topic
  • identifies a gap in current knowledge and thus prepares a space for your own work.
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