Having stated your project objectives, it is now necessary to gather all the information required to satisfy them. This is achieved by reviewing existing literature, focused on your research area. If your project involves gathering some primary data, you may find that this data when analysed changes the focus of your project and you need to return to the literature to find other research that supports or disagrees with your findings (triangulation). This suggests that you might wait until the end of the project to write up the literature review. This is not advisable for a number of reasons:
1) Making notes on the literature as you read is one of the only ways you can ensure that you properly understand and absorb what you are reading.
2) In your MSc project you are marked on progress and writing chapters based on your literature survey may be the only hard evidence your supervisor has of your progress. This is particularly important if you wish your supervisor to give a recommendation for upgrade from PgD to MSc registration.
Your review of the literature should not be just a summary of the articles that you have read; your work should be critical and analytical. Ask yourself (and attempt to answer) questions such as:
- How does this article relate to my project objectives and can I use it to develop my theories/hypotheses? You should then explain in the dissertation, how you intend to use this information.
- How does this article relate to what I already know about the subject and how does it compare with that written on the same topic by other authors? Again, you should explain in the dissertation how this information agrees (or disagrees) with other published work.
Try to combine/compare/contrast the ideas and views from different authors - don't just repeat what one author says, then follow it with a summary of the work of another author.
Further guidance of undertaking (and hence writing) your literature review will be provided in your Study Skills/ ReMe modules.