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5 Literature Review Mistakes You Must Avoid

Literature review mistakes? Anyone who has tried writing a research paper, especially for the first time, has a unique story.

A worried researcher trying to write a literature review

A worried researcher trying to write a literature review

Literature review mistakes? Anyone who has tried writing a research paper, especially for the first time, has a unique story. Yes, the generic views people often share are the difficulties each section of the research presents.

As the core of the research paper, literature review poses many challenges to researchers, especially novices to research. In the “5 Literature Review Mistakes You Must Avoid,” I walk you through the five mistakes you should not fall for when writing your literature review for a thesis or dissertation.

Lack of Focus or Clear Research Objectives

One common mistake is having a vague or overly broad focus. Without clear research objectives, your literature review may lack direction and coherence. 

Ensure you define the research questions or objectives you intend to address in your review. A well-defined focus helps you select relevant sources and keeps your review on track.

Insufficient Synthesis and Analysis

Merely summarizing individual sources without analyzing and synthesizing them is a common pitfall. 

Your literature review should do more than just present a laundry list of studies. Analyze the relationships between different studies, identify trends, patterns, and gaps in the literature, and critically evaluate the methodologies and findings. 

Aim for a meaningful discussion that adds value to the existing knowledge.

Cherry-Picking Sources

Writing a literature review must be a meticulous work.

Another mistake is selectively choosing sources that support your preconceived notions or ignoring sources that present contrasting perspectives. While it’s natural to favor studies that align with your research, a literature review should encompass diverse viewpoints. Including various studies, even those that challenge your hypothesis, demonstrate a balanced and thorough understanding of the topic.

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Failure to Cite and Reference Properly

Inadequate citation practices, improper referencing, or unintentional plagiarism can undermine the credibility of your literature review. Always attribute ideas and findings to their original authors through proper citations. The truth is, the least you can do as a thank you to the author is acknowledge the works you have included in your literature review.

Please familiarize yourself with the citation style required by your institution and adhere to it consistently throughout your review. Plagiarism not only damages your academic integrity but also weakens the scholarly foundation of your work.

Neglecting to Identify Gaps and Limitations

Failing to identify gaps in the existing literature and limitations of reviewed studies is a significant oversight. Addressing these gaps is essential to a literature review, providing a rationale for your research. If you ignore gaps, your study may lack a clear contribution to the field. Additionally, acknowledging the limitations of existing research demonstrates critical thinking. 

To avoid these mistakes, it’s essential to approach your literature review with careful planning, critical thinking, and a willingness to engage deeply with the existing research. Take the time to outline your review, clearly define your research objectives, and create a systematic approach to selecting, analyzing, and synthesizing sources.

Check out a sample of the characteristics of a good and bad lit review

Regularly review and revise your work to ensure that you are presenting a well-structured, balanced, and thoughtful literature review that serves as a strong foundation for your thesis or dissertation.

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