LITERATURE REVIEW: THE THESIS COMPASS
It’s been a long break. Welcome back to your favourite online writing class. We apologise for the break and to compensate you our wonderful followers, we are giving you two lessons at once. We are continuing our series on Thesis Writing and our next two lessons would be on Literature Review! Yes, we know- that part of the work that seems to take so much time and effort. We hope you enjoy it. Let’s have feedback; ask us about anything in thesis writing you are don’t fully understand.
We would like us to remember that the intention of these series is to help make writing thesis as simple as possible to the ordinary student or reader. We will, therefore, try to reduce the technical words as much as possible in our explanations.
At this stage, we assume that you have gone through the step of choosing a topic and the topic has been accepted and approved by the supervisor and the school. It is important that the topic is approved, otherwise you are not ready to start the thesis proper.
The thesis is basically usually divided into five (5) chapters: Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, Presentation of Data and Discussion, and Summary and Conclusion respectively.
The natural thing to do after selecting the topic is to start writing a research proposal or an introduction (chapter one) of the thesis depending on the guidelines of your school (We will look at the difference between a proposal and an introduction in our subsequent series). However, we suggest based on experience that after settling on your topic, one should focus on doing an in-depth literature review (normally the chapter two of the thesis). Doing your literature review after your topic will serve as a ‘compass’ for your research. A compass is an instrument that helps to give directions or make choices about the right way to go. Starting your thesis without some certainty about what you are going to do can be frustrating and a good literature review helps give you some direction in your work. It is estimated that doing a good literature review will be about 50% of your thesis done. It serves as a good and solid foundation for your research.
The subject of literature review is a very broad one but we will try to touch on a few salient points to consider in the process.
- First, we define literature review as a critical analysis of literature related to your chosen topic and not just a description or summary of the literature. Critically analyzing literature involves comparing and contrasting the various literature related to your study. This means reporting on how the theories, methods, arguments and findings of the various researches are similar or different and what accounted for the variations.
2. Secondly, doing your literature review earlier will help you simplify the following things that will be required of you in the course of your thesis:
- Research Gaps: The research gap is simply the problem identified by the researcher which justifies why the thesis is relevant. This could be an issue, context, method or theory gap. Your research will have to seek to fill one or a combination of these gaps, that is solve the problem. Gaps can only be identified when the researcher does a good literature review. Even though your topic was selected after some literature review, doing an in-depth one after will help deepen your understanding and strengthen your justification for your gaps and further help you discover more gaps which were not spotted initially.
- The research method: Apart from gaps, the choice of methods you will adopt for your thesis is key and you should have a fair idea of which will be best for your work. The literature review will expose you to various methods adopted by past and similar studies to your thesis. The methods include: the population or sample, data type (quantitative, qualitative or mixed), analysis tools (regression, correlation, Structural Equation Modelling etc) among others to use for the thesis.
- Language of the research: Every field of research has its own language (jargon) that the researcher has to be familiar with and use when writing. For instance, a research in the field of ‘health and safety’ cannot do without the word ‘safety climate’. Conducting a good literature review helps the researcher to recognize some of the key terms in the field of choice.
In our next lesson, we will be examining some of the steps to putting together a good literature review.
We hope this lesson was useful. Just hold on for our next lesson. Have you missed our previous lessons in the series? Check out the last one on choosing a topic https://charismataediting.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/thesis-writer-ii-choosing-a-research-topic/ or our introduction https://charismataediting.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/charis-for-writing-lesson-63-thesis-writer-i/
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