As a PhD student, you are expected to place your work in the context of current research. It will save you time and effort to develop a systematic searching and reviewing approach early in your career. Follow these three steps towards an efficient literature reviewing:
A search strategy can either aim to capture as much of the relevant literature as possible, known as high sensitivity, or to be very precise to ensure high relevance, often called high specificity.
Two widely applied methods of searching are:
More details on the search methods including practical examples from various disciplines are available on the Discovering your field page.
While you are searching, reading and evaluating, your search results or hit list will focus your search and limit the amount of text you will have to read. Evaluation is first and foremost a question of dicipline-based judgements. A systematic description of the process can include:
Citations are increasingly used for the purpose of evaluating research. The most common bibliometric measures are:
Your research is not done in isolation from previous research. At PhD level your inclusion of existing literature will show how well you know your field of research, as well as demonstrate that your research will fill gaps in the present knowledge. Your text should aim to:
“The most important things are first of all to know the state of research in what you actually do. And be able to place yourself in relation to what is going on in your field”.
PhD, social sciences
The writing may take the form of: