Practical Advice On Writing A Strong PhD Dissertation Literature Review

Writing a defective literature review is one of the surest ways to thwart a dissertation. If the literature review is faulty, the rest of the paper may also be considered to be flawed. This is mainly because a researcher can’t perform any significant study without first having a clear understanding the literature pertaining to the field. It is therefore important to understand what examiners look for in a PHD paper literature review.

Purpose of Literature review

One of the important things you need to keep in mind when trying to come up with a strong PHD dissertation literature review is the main purpose of the literature review. To begin with, the literature review should serve a number of purposes and it should demonstrate that:

  • You are aware of the historical and most recent or latest happenings in the field
  • There is a theory base for the kind of study you are proposing to undertake
  • How your study fits in with the current literature
  • The significance of your work
  • How your work will contribute to the available knowledge

Theory Base

Any strong PHD thesis topic must be grounded on a sound theory base. This is the part that poses a serious problem to many students. The literature review should show that you not only understand the topic, but you can also draw relevant relationships between your work and the main theories underpinning whatever you intend to investigate.


A strong literature review for any PHD paper should be able to locate the work you are undertaking to the work others have done in the field. It must clarify to the reader how the research you are proposing to undertake fits with what has been previously investigated in the field. This calls for a clear and concise discussion of the works that are related to what you intend to do and a focus on the most closely-related. This is the only way to make the context of the study clear.


A strong literature review must be able to elicit some doubts in the readers’ minds that the study holds some significance or relevance. Although you would have already gone to great lights to establish this in your introduction, a strong literature review must ground your work within the context of the field or subject of study. In summary, there are numerous important things you need to consider when crafting a PHD thesis literature review. Some of the most important elements that offer your literature review an edge include understanding the purpose of the literature review and putting it into context. Lastly, you need to clearly establish the significance of the study with respect to what others have done in the field.