Placement of traditional literature reviews

The placement of your formal literature review or where you engage with the literature in your thesis will depend on the purpose; as we've established, engagement with the literature can serve multiple purposes. If your aim in a literature review is to justify the need for your research, where you place it is important. In many theses, there is a brief literature review in the introductory chapter, then a longer literature review chapter after the introduction. In other theses, particularly in science theses, it may be sufficient to only have a literature review in the introduction.

If your research draws on a range of bodies of literature that are very different and relate to just one or two chapters each, you could consider having a brief, overarching literature review in your introduction, then smaller literature reviews within each chapter. If so, in your earlier literature review it may be necessary to signal your intention to reserve more detailed discussion of points or aspects of studies for relevant chapters.

At the level of the chapter, you could undertake detailed discussion of aspects of the literature relevant to the specific objectives of the particular chapter that you are writing. Your use of the literature in specific chapters is likely to be integrated throughout your discussion to advance and support points you are developing.

Your choice about the literature review placement depends on the nature of your question and how you go about writing up your research. Don't be afraid to test out different options, to help you to decide what will be easiest for your examiners to understand, and what will help you to demonstrate your contribution to the field. You can show your different options to your supervisor, a friend, or Academic Skills to help you figure out what works best.


Structuring a literature review>>