At long last I have finally finished my literature review and 11,000 words later I can attest to the fact that patience is a virtue – but undertaking a PhD is not a race and it is best conducted at a steady, consistent pace.
During my first year of PhD study I often felt that I was progressing at a snail’s pace, but on reflection I think that has been beneficial. Because looking back I can now see how my initial proposal has been refined and is much more tightly focused.
Using mind maps helped me visualise my ideas and move the component parts around on paper. But as I ploughed through books and journal articles, every so often something significant that I read would inspire me to add another dimension to my research, and so it went on.
Of course you never really stop reviewing literature because new books and journal articles are being published all the time and may develop an area of scholarship that is relevant to your research. But I found it hard to stop reading long enough to allow myself to start writing.
Even now books have caught my eye that I have ordered as I think a particular author has some interesting perspectives on issues that are relevant to my research, but I know I can add them later.
What is more important to me is that I feel my literature review performs the necessary functions which are:
- To demonstrate the depth of your knowledge in the field you are researching
- To demonstrate skills of critical analysis when reviewing studies and literature
- To highlight gaps in existing research in the field
- To highlight the contribution that your research will make to the discipline