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How to critically evaluate the review of literature in a dissertation

The literature review is that part of a dissertation in which the writer justifies the need for the research by critically evaluating previous research. It is partly a personal judgment and partly an objective analysis of work done in the research area.

Structure of Literature Review

A literature review generally has Introduction, critical evaluation of each work and a summary.  It also has an overview of the research question.  It explains how each work is similar or different with respect to the topic. The literature review should have a personal judgment and evaluation and also explain the reasoning behind the judgment. E.g.  Do two articles conclude the same about role of Corporate Social Responsibility in business strategy? How does article A compares with Article B? Is the argument in Article B more convincing than that in A? Why? Etc

A literature review must do these things

  1. Identify areas that needs further work and pinpoint discrepancies in the existing literature
  2. Relate explicitly to current research topic
  3. Classify the existing body of knowledge in reference to what is already proved/known and unknown
  4. Formulate research questions that need to be worked further

Bootes and Beile (2005) have created a five-category rubric for evaluating a literature review. The categories are coverage, synthesis, methodology, significance, and rhetoric.

Within the categories, the literature review can be critically evaluated on basis of parameters given below:

 

  • Coverage
    • Justified criteria for inclusion and exclusion from review
  • Synthesis
    • Distinguished between what has been done in the field and what needs to be done
    • Placed the topic or problem in the broader scholarly literature
    • Placed the research in the historical context of the field
    • Acquired and enhanced the subject vocabulary
    • Articulated important variables and phenomena relevant to the topic
    • Synthesized and gained a new perspective on the literature
  • Methodology
    • Identified the main methodologies and research techniques that have been used in the field, and their advantages and disadvantages
    • Related ideas and theories in the field to research methodologies.
  • Significance
    • Rationalized the practical significance of the research problem
    • Rationalized the scholarly significance of the problem
  • Rhetoric
    • Was written with a coherent, clear structure that supported the review

References

  1. Boote, D. N., & Beile, P. (2005). Scholars before researchers: On the centrality of the dissertation literature review in research preparation. Educational Researcher, 34(6), 3-15.

 

 

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