How to Write a Literature Review — Dr. Guy E White

How to Write a Literature Review — Dr. Guy E White

(light tapping) (loud zoom) – Hey everybody, this is Dr. Guy E. White. I am founder of And I wanna welcome you to this really in depth look at the
dissertation literature review and how can you write a literature review in perhaps a single draft without taking much more
than a handful of weeks of your time. That’s really the aim
of this presentation. So this is gonna be an in depth look at the dissertation literature review and how can you apply mindset into your work on your literature review in a way that would benefit you. And when we think about
the literature review, quite often the reaction is, “You want me to write how
many pages of this thing?” And quite often when dissertation writers, if you’ve had this experience
you’ll totally agree. Quite often what dissertation
writers find is that when they write their, what
they call their first draft of their literature review, what they quite often find is that there is information that
is being requested of them by their chair afterwards
that should’ve been requested from the get-go. And most dissertation
writers say that if they knew the expectations of the
literature review beforehand, they feel like they would
have a much greater likelihood of producing a quality
draft the first time. And a lot of dissertation writers also say that if they just knew how
to write a literature review, how to write even the first three chapters of their dissertation, then they would be able to
actually do it much more quickly and with much less
effort really in the end. So in general, you might
have had the experience of feeling exceedingly
capable as a human being, exceedingly capable as a student. Yet for some reason when it
comes to this dissertation and writing a literature review, there is this feeling of
feeling less than capable. Think for a moment, is that something that you have felt in
your doctoral journey or in your writing of the dissertation where you feel capable of many things in many areas of your life. But when it comes to
this project, it feels, for some reason, exceptionally
difficult and almost hazy, like there’s no clear path forward. And specifically you feel like, for something that’s been
done for so many people, you almost feel like
there’s not a clear roadmap to go forward. There’s no way to actually get ahead in a way that makes complete sense. It’s almost like I’ve bought lots of these dissertation-related books and I read it, and I kinda get what they’re saying. But when I actually sit
down to do the writing, something is not clicking. The roadmap is not working for me. So if you had a roadmap, you might feel like, wow, if I just have the right roadmap then I could actually make progress on this thing. And similarly you might have felt that this literature review thing
is just such a mammoth task. It’s one of the most
biggest papers, perhaps, that you’ve ever written. And it feels as if if
you just knew what to do, it’d be easier. But right now it just feels
like this gargantuan thing that I’m adding to all the time. And I have to go find things and put this into this document and yet
it still doesn’t make sense. You might even say to yourself, I’ve written 30 pages of this thing but it still doesn’t
feel like it’s clicking. And have you experienced
this thing that if you just felt that if you just knew the steps, if someone just told you the steps that you could take them and that you could
actually finish this thing? And that’s why you’re watching this video. If you’re watching this video and you felt any of those things, then
you’re in the right place. When you and I are talking
in the coming weeks ahead and if you add your comments
to the comment field below, call me Dr. Guy. And this presentation is about how to write the dissertation
literature review. And in my opinion win big, avoid insanity, and be a pro. And I just had to work in
some pictures of my kids here. This is on the left here. This is my daughter, Lizzie Snow. And on the right here is my son Guy V. And the reason I include them here is whenever I’m approaching any project, there’s that reality that I was spending time away from my family. And even though this project might be one of the top goals in my life, whatever this project
is, like a dissertation, it’s taking away from those things that are my number ones. For you right now, think about
what are your number ones. What are the things that this project is keeping you from, this
dissertation project. For me whenever I’m working
with doctoral candidates, whether we’re doing a seminar together or whether we’re working
one-on-one with one another in a coaching relationship, or if I’m a chair or a committee member of any of my doctoral candidates, for me, what’s always on
my mind is the number one. Who is your number one? And what is this project
preventing you from doing and moving forward in your life? And that’s the seriousness that we bring to this presentation today
is that there’s so much that is waiting for you out there. And if you just finish this thing, you can make it forward
and keep going forward ’cause you know that if you did not finish this dissertation project, as much as you could probably carry on and feel just grand about yourself, there’ll be just a little piece of you that felt like you didn’t
get what you had wanted. What you want is to finish, and that’s what this whole
presentation is about. And that’s really what is about is about enabling doctoral
candidates to finish and providing them a
roadmap to move forward. And so that’s what we’re
discussing with you here today. I wanna thank you for allowing me the honor of being on
your screen right now and allowing me to be someone
that would present to you the fact that you’re taking the time. It takes personal commitment, what I call wherewithal, like the guts to actually be someone that actually would watch a video like this. Not many doctoral candidates
would spend the time to do something like
you’re doing right now. And what I wanna say is
that I’m fully committed to do whatever that I
can in this limited time that we have here on this video to give you as much blessed content as I possibly can to make a difference in your doctoral journey. And at the end of this presentation, I’m gonna tell you about a kind of a way that we can forward and we can move ahead with one another and some
next steps that you can take. So bear with me here. Just a little bit about me
is I’ve written three books, the most recent of which at
the time of the recording of this is “Building the
World’s Greatest High School”. An awesome book with my co-author. And I run the most comprehensive dissertation training on the web. There’s lots of trainings out
there and they’re fantastic, many of which are fantastic, I should say. But this one is by far
the most comprehensive. If you do a comparison, I hope you’ll come to the same conclusion as well. I’ve served on dozens of
dissertation committees as a member of a dissertation
committee or as a chair. So I have the practical
experience of being serving directly with doctoral candidates in those capacities. And when I actually,
when I actually sat down to write my dissertation sometime ago, it took less, really
when I put my mind to it, really when I start to work on it and work on it well, it only took me, it took me less than
nine months to complete. And what’s shocking to
most doctoral candidates is the average road. I don’t know if there’s
any research about this. But in my experience the average road to finish a dissertation
without the proper guidance can range from never finishing. But really the average is somewhere around 18 months to three years
after finishing course work, meaning that you’re totally dedicated a dissertation project
and it takes 18 months to three years without
the proper guidance. And so my hope here is to provide you some opportunities, some
guidance really about how to make waves and to actually make progress fast. And really to set the frame for this, I wanna tell you this
quick story about myself which is that for me I just
finished a master’s degree. And for various reasons,
which I won’t get into here, I found myself during most of my free time taking little jaunts through
Central and South America. And I was having a grand
old time as a single dude out in the middle of nowhere
just enjoying my life. And yet there felt like
there was something a little missing, maybe
something big missing in my life. And fortunately through
a set of circumstances, I met my beautiful bride Kristen. And the picture on the right
is probably my favorite is that these are people
throwing the bouquet at her at a wedding. For me I feel like so much happened, so much wonderful stuff
happened so quickly in my life. And the reality was that
I wanted to be with her and be with my new family
as much as I possibly could. But the reality was that I
had other responsibilities. We got married and we
had an amazing wedding. And we were living in
that kind of that pre, that early, excuse me,
that early marital bliss of hanging out with one another and enjoying just the new possibilities of what could we build with
one another in our lives. It’s like standing at the
threshold of possibility. I mean, think about it. Like if anything was possible and you were done with
your doctoral journey, what would happen? What would happen if you
were quickly able to move on and move forward in your doctoral journey. Like me and my wife, we got married and there
was all these possibilities that were present there
because we had gotten married. And similarly if you were
to finish your dissertation, what would happen for you? This presentation is for you if you wanna finish your dissertation quickly and well. There’s lots of people
out there in the world that will say that they will hep you finish your dissertation quickly. And the caution that I
always throw out to people who hear that type of message is that it shouldn’t be just quickly. It needs to be quickly and well. Because well is what finishes. Well is what defends well. And so that’s what I want for you. This presentation is also for you. If you wanna move on
with your professional and personal life, just
like my lovely bride and I, we got to the altar, we got married, but the reality was that I
wasn’t done with my doctorate. And so I had a journey
to go through still. What would happen if that
part of your journey, your doctoral journey, finally
was able to come to a close? What would be available to you? And if you wanna cut through
the clutter of information and get a clear roadmap forward, this presentation is for you. Are you interested? Well then let’s get to it, shall we? By the end of this talk,
you will most definitely have a clear roadmap of how to finish your dissertation literature review and know the steps that you need to take on a very foundational level to finish your literature review in less time than if you were just
left to your own devices. So, to start us off today, I just wanna tell you in general what we’re gonna be talking about. We’re gonna be talking about
really how to know exactly, how to know exactly what needs to go into a literature review. I don’t want you to waste
time looking for material to go in your literature review. And I don’t want you to waste time writing your literature review. So we’re gonna be discussing that. We’re gonna talk about how to actually get the information that you’re seeking and organize it so good that the writing becomes
really the secondary activity. The writing is the easiest part of this. So after you gather the materials the writing becomes the easiest part. That’s what we’re gonna be discussing in the middle of this presentation. And also we’re gonna be talking about how can you communicate with your chair and your committee about
your literature review that will actually minimize the chance that they’re gonna ask you
for a revision of some kind. And if you’ve ever had
the experience of getting, what I call, a left hook
from a committee member, that is someone brings in the strange idea that you have to
integrate into your paper. That can cause you months
and sometimes years of time. So I wanna just show
you a way of minimizing the opportunity for that. So, my promise is I’ll be giving the best that I can give you today, and that at the end of this conversation I’m gonna give you the
information that you need to take this further if
you’d like to go further. So I’m gonna give you
lots of great stuff here and then we’ll take it forward. So with that, let’s talk
about this first major topic that we’ll be discussing
in this presentation today of what needs to go into
a literature review. Really this is the cure for
wasting your valuable time. If you imagine, the literature review, if you know what exactly needs to go inside of a literature review
in a very detailed way, then you won’t waste any
time finding that material and putting it into your dissertation. It’s so important not to waste time. And the literature review really is just a collection of some
very specific information organized in that specific
way which we’ll be discussing. And if you are able to
gather that material and put it in there quickly, then it’s not gonna be such a big deal. But without the proper guidance and without knowing
what you’re looking for, you can spend and write
a draft of a literature. And you can be 50 pages long but it’s still gonna miss the mark. And really what it all comes
down to is knowing what to get and where to get it. And if you know what to
get and where to get it for your literature review,
you’re gonna be in a great spot. Far more, far more of a good spot than the person who just
goes and writes 50 pages because that’s not the goal
of this to write 50 pages. The goal is to create
something very specific. And a lot of people don’t
know what needs to go into a literature review. And so that’s where we
need to begin today. So really the start, most
candidates make the mistake of sitting down to write a dissertation. And they just sit there and they write. Specifically when it comes
to literature review, most doctoral candidates make the mistake of thinking that the number one task of writing a literature
review is to write one. And what I wanna say to you is that that is the least productive way you could go about writing
a literature review. If you are just sitting down at your desk or out of table or wherever you sit and you are cracking open books and typing them into a
Microsoft Word document that you call your literature review, that is the least productive way of producing a literature
review only second to you sitting there in a library or classroom playing Candy Crush Saga. That makes no sense. Clearly there’s a step, there’s a step before writing
your literature review called the literature search. And if you don’t search, that is you don’t engage in a gathering step, you don’t gather all the materials that you need for your
literature review first, what you’ll find is that you’ll
just spin in the writing. You might be able to write
50 pages or you might not. But it’s not gonna produce
the type of literature review that actually will muster going through a committee, a quality review process, an IRB, or even defending. And that’s the worst one. If you actually get through a proposal, you present your proposal,
you advance the candidacy, you get everything done and also you get in your oral defense. And then something goes wrong there. We don’t want that to happen. We want you to be able to write something that really on the first or second attempt quickly gets through. And if you just knew what
needs to go in there, it would be much easier. And really what the starting point here is that you must first
engage in a gathering step. Most people when they sit down to the dissertation project don’t realize that a dissertation really is a maze of nuanced connected sections. Different sections feed other sections. From the outside, it almost looks like a dissertation is a chronological document written from chapters one to chapter five. And really that’s not true. Certain sections are built directly using components of others. So for example there’s like
brother-sister sections where they’re almost like twins. So for example your research questions, for example, often get copied directly verbatim between
all different sections of your literature review. Brothers and sons, brothers
and sisters, excuse me, tend to mimic one another
in their behavior. And so chapters one for
example and chapter two, there’s a mimicry that occurs
between those two chapters. There’s mother-son
sections that is mothers give birth to sons and some sections of your literature review
give birth to others. And if you just knew
really this arrangement of which sections feed other sections, you’d see that there’s
really some initial steps that you must conduct before you go and you just into the writing
phase of a literature review. So really what it starts with is you begin with your purpose statement. You and your chair need to
come to a complete agreement before anything else of what
your purpose statement is. If your purpose statement is unsteady, if you cannot say that
this is your final draft purpose statement, then
there’s really no point in moving forward. We first need to hone that down because the purpose statement really defines the variables or the theory areas that you’ll be working
with in your dissertation. And that, those theory areas or the variables actually end up feeding chapter two in the sense
that they actually define what historical periods and
what historical background we need to be researching. So for example if your purpose statement, I won’t make one up now, but if your purpose statement dealt with high school activities directors, and you’re looking at
leadership behaviors, you’d want historical background about activities directors and you’d want historical background
about leadership behaviors, these two different pieces. So you’d have two different major pieces in your literature review. And what goes into a literature review, what are you gathering? Well, you’re gathering all
research from the past, all research from the past. And it’s placed and it’s organized
in a chronological order. There’s this fake, well, a falsehood, there’s a falsehood floating out there that a literature review
only can have sources that are like less than five years old. Well, that’s not exactly true. When it comes to mentioning
the most current research, yes, you most definitely need to include the most recent research that comes from these different theory areas. But the reality is a literature
review is all the research. It’s all the findings,
it’s all the history of a time period going
back to the times of yore all the way to the present. So we need to find
those seminal documents, that’s what they’re called, to actually give us hints
about where all this started. And then you work up to today’s research and specifically what those researchers recommend that we study. So notice what we have here is, one, we start from the purpose statement which defines these theory areas. But really what I want you
to get out of this slide is that we start with the most recent, excuse me, start with the oldest research, the oldest historical documentation about a specific area of interest like leadership or high
schools, things like this. And we work forward to
the most current study. And so really what needs to
happen is we need to gather all of those materials. So do you see how big the
literature review really is? Do you see how the gathering step is really the biggest step? Because if we’re gathering
all the research, as much as we can that is,
from way back to the present, then the writing part is
really only a secondary piece. If during my first second
year of my doctoral journey, if someone had told me that my activity as a dissertation person
would be much different, rather than sitting there trying to write chapters one and two over and over again, trying to make progress of some kind is only finding myself
bored and distracted. I would know that my
job was to actually go and gather the oldest
information out there. Well, my wife and I, we both were working on our dissertations around the same time. We ended up just sitting in the same, we’d sit in our house, and we just work. We’d work, work, work, work,
work, work, work, work. And over time I realized
that had I just organized and gathered the material ahead of time, what would have ended up happening is I would’ve been able to write a literature review much quicker. The gathering step became
the most important step because when you gather the information, when you gather all the information first, then what ends up happening is the writing becomes the secondary thing because quite often you might have had the experience of writing
a literature review and then all of a sudden you realize, wow, I really don’t know, I really don’t know where this thing fits, like where I found this thing, some kind of quotation and the source. And I don’t know where
this quotation fits. If you’re finding
yourself experiencing that as you’re writing, something’s
gone seriously wrong. I was able to quickly manifest and create a literature review because of the fact that I had actually designed. I had actually, excuse me, actually gathered all the
materials ahead of time. And then I was able to put
them in a specific order and put them together. What ended up happening, of course, is that things finished fast. I was able to finish a draft of my full, I was able to submit a
proposal quite quickly. And I was able to finish the
entire dissertation process really when I sat down
to start working on it really in full, with a full effort. I wasn’t playing with the dissertation. I actually was writing it for real. Took less than nine months to do it. And I just wanna say I can’t tell you exactly the sense of accomplishment that I had sitting with my friends and my family at my doctoral graduation and experiencing what it felt like to truly be done. Now just done with course
work but completely done. And the doneness, though a lot of people help me along the way, the doneness really was
a result of my hard work. And me using smart ways of working to actually get ahead. And that’s why you’re
watching this presentation, I hope, is because you wanna work hard. But you’re looking for a
smart way of getting ahead. If you had the information ahead of time of what you need to put
in to a literature review, how could that change your
process going forward? There’s such a sense of accomplishment that you will feel when
you finally graduate. And I’m so happy you’re
here investing the time to actually get there. So the question then really if really the first step in a literature review is to gather the right materials, then the question really then becomes how do I get that information? How do I find the information
that I’m looking for? How do I gather it in the first place? And then how do I
organize it in such a way that it would allow me to
write a literature review in a first or second draft quite quickly. And I mentioned the second draft because you can write the best
literature review out there but your chair and your committee are still gonna have some input
into what you’ve included. And chances are you might
make an APA error somewhere and you might have to change it. So when I say writing a
great literature review on the first try, that’s my hope is that you’ll be able to write
a great literature review on the first try. Many of you that are watching this might have already written
a literature review. And the hope is that revisions are small because when revisions are big, that can cost many
months or years of life. So our goal is to organize
the material ahead of time. So you have some idea now
of what you’re looking for. We know that the purpose statement gives birth theory areas or variables. So think about your purpose
statement if you have one. One of the big areas of your literature or of your purpose statement, are there one, two, or probably two or three areas that your literature review will
need to cover because your purpose statement
mentions those, right? So for example if we’re
talking about high school activities directors
and we’re talking about leadership behaviors, those
are two different things. We know what I’m looking for. I’m looking for historical documents and up to current research
about activities directors. And I’m looking for historical up to current research documents about leadership behaviors. But that’s only a small piece of it. Now that I actually know
what I’m looking for, unless I know how to go out
and look for those materials and how to actually gather
them and organize them, that’s really only a
small part of the battle. And so really this entire section, this presentation is talking to you about how do you go about
gathering this material this material and organizing it. And for me the metaphor of building a house is very valuable. I want you to imagine that for some reason you’re building a house
and you might not have any building experience. But that doesn’t matter. This is a metaphor. I want you to picture
there’s a vacant lot. And it’s your job to build a house. And what you do is you
start building this house piece by piece. But here’s the catch is that every time you need a new piece, you have to run to the
local do-it-yourself store to go gather that piece. Can you imagine how long it would take to build that house? You’re laying the cement
for the foundation, you’re like, oh, I need
a hose to wet the cement. So you run and you go and you get a hose and you come back and you’re
like, oh wait, I need a trowel to actually smooth out the cement. I’m gonna run back to the
store and I’m gonna go get it. You get the idea. I mean, you make so many trips back and forth to the store that
you’re gonna be spending most of your time tripping to the store than you are actually building the house. And quite similar to
that, there’s many of you, there’s many literature review writers. You might have the
experience of feeling like you get to a section of
your literature review and you run back to the store, that is you run back
to your research online or some books and you try to
figure out what goes next. Can you imagine how slow the literature of you writing process goes if you keep having to run back and forth to online resources, online research, back to your books, then to your document and back and forth, back and forth. That is a complete waste of time. So naturally the best way
to build a house probably is to gather all the
materials ahead of time before you build it. So that way they’re
all sitting in the yard waiting for you to build that house. Now think about it from the
literature review perspective. What if you gathered all
the materials you needed for the literature review first and then you start to write
the literature review? Most of us think that
writing literature review is a writing task, and
it’s not a writing task. A literature review is a reviewing task. It’s a searching task. It’s you on your own
searching and reviewing personally the literature. The written portion of literature review is just you reporting
out in an organized way what you found. So where do you go then
to get your materials? If you are gonna engage in the step of gathering all your materials first into the yard before you build this house called a literature review,
what do you need to focus on? And for my, the people that
I work with, that I coach one-on-one, the people that
I work with in seminar, or if you’re one of those people that is one of my dissertation candidates, I’m your chair, I’m one
of your committee members, I always emphasize this that really there are some sources that
are more useful than others. And quite often literature
review writers take the, they actually flip this over and that’s where they get into trouble is they’re focusing on
gathering the wrong things. The first thing you should
be looking for are books. You should be focusing on gathering the best most notable books in the theory area that
you’re researching. So let’s say leadership is something that you’re researching. Rather than going to the
most latest documents or articles about leadership, I want you to find the oldest books that you possibly can
and the newest books, and I want you to find all the books from all the different time
periods regarding leadership. And the reason why is because articles are often born from researchers and from books and from journal
articles and dissertations. These things, books typically come first in the order of things. If you think about all the amazing books that have been written
about leadership lately, if you’re into that sort of thing, those books came from somewhere. And most likely the content of those books is built off previous books. So you wanna gather those books first. Second are dissertations. There’s lots of doctoral
candidates like you out there that are writing dissertations
about similar topics. And they could probably guide you those dissertations can guide you towards sources that
will be useful to you. Clearly you cannot copy from them. But you can definitely get a guide to where they found their resources so that it can lead you
to further resources. Journal articles are also useful. But in my opinion,
they’re the least useful when we’re writing a
comprehensive literature review because journal articles
are really the research, typically what’s happening
now and that’s important. And every single literature review, every section of a
literature review typically ends with talking about
the most recent research. But really you wanna start with the books. You wanna start with the oldest and work your way to the present, just get all the major
books for your theory area from all time periods. And then you get dissertations then you get journal articles. And then there’s other print articles like magazines, newspapers. But those aren’t scholarly
resources most of the time. So really that’s the
last thing that should be on your mind. Now what do you with these? When you get them, there’s a process, so it’s almost like you process them in. You’re taking them in
and then you’re doing something with them and then
you’re processing them out. You’re sending these resources back where you’re organizing them if it’s something you get to keep. So what do you do? First thing right when you
get any of these things, a book, a dissertation, a
journal article, whatever, I want you to immediately
photocopy the copyright page and/or title page. Usually the copyright
page is the most useful because it has the title
and it has the year which is so important. It might even have an ISBN number. If it’s a book that’s been written in the last many decades. And you also wanna copy
the works cited page of all those documents right away. Because what happens? Two things, number one, is we lose things as
we’re doing a dissertation as you’re writing one. And so you need to have the title page, so that way you have all the citation, excuse me, the copyright page. So that way you have all
the citation information that you need for writing
your works cited page and properly citing your sources. But the works cited
page, why would you copy the works cited page of
a book or a dissertation? Well, because they are gonna tell you where to find other
information about your topic. In fact, most dissertation
writers are suddenly shocked. The first time they get a
great book into their hands, they go to the works cited page and that works cited
page could list hundreds of other works that are related to the same stuff that you’re researching. So wouldn’t it be useful
to know what other people have looked at and are looking at, so that way you can forward
your own search as well. Isn’t this useful to go through this here? Now, it’s an assembly line, that’s what you need to start. Everything needs to be a process. What I hope you kinda gathered is that if you go back and forth between tasks, that’s why you lose time. Things don’t work very well if you’re going back and forth
doing tasks over and over because it’s actually, the changing of task is
actually what wastes time. So if you like do like
tasks at like times, that is you group similar tasks together, you do only one thing at a time, you’re gonna have things
move quite more smoothly and things are gonna
happen much more fast. So what you do is you get
sources into your inbox. Now I highly recommend
actually having an inbox, an actual cardboard box, a milk crate, a cart, something. And you receive your sources. So if you’re fortunate
enough to be at a university that does inter-library loans, this might be your inbox, your email box, you might print things if
you’re that sort of person. It could be if your
university has a premium inter-library loan service, that is they actually ship you books. I was so fortunate to go to a university where they actually would
ship me books for free. Then yeah, I would put them in my inbox and order them when I receive them. I put them in my inbox. First thing I do, photocopy
the copyright title page and the works cited page. And I would staple those together and put that in a file which
is a totally different story. But the easiest way to do
this is just alphabetical by last name of author. What I would do is I’d read the source. So id actually, let’s say it’s a book, I’d read the book. Personally I just visually scan the table of contents with my eyes. I’d look through the table
of contents and index, and I look for the things
that I’m looking for, those pertinent topics, theory
areas, different information. I’d locate the sections of the text that were applicable. Sometimes what I would do is I’d put in Post-It notes to actually allow me, and most my candidates do this, they use Post-It notes of
various colors and kinds to actually put in the book and label the different theory areas. But really what you’re
doing is a quick scan. And then what you’re gonna is
you’re actually gonna read. That’s the last step. Once you’ve identified
the areas of the book that you’re actually gonna focus on, ’cause you can’t read
the whole thing, guys. So what you’re gonna do
is you’re gonna go in, you’re gonna read, and you’re gonna decide on at least five quotes from this course that
are of significant value. You might not know why this source is of significant value to you. But you have a feeling that it’s something worth writing down. So what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna type it in to your literature matrix. And the literature matrix is just simply an Excel spreadsheet or a
Microsoft Word-based table that you create. You’re gonna type in a few pieces of pertinent information
which I’ll cover momentarily. And then what you’re gonna do is you’re going to type in the quote, type in the citation. And then you’re gonna process
the source in your outbox, that is you’re gonna put
that book into an outbox, and then you’re going
to return those sources. So each one of these tasks is separate. What I would say is get
something in your inbox and just focus on doing
these steps with that source. This is how to get rid of a source, right? And this is what a
literature matrix looks like is you have, these are the things that all the people that I coach and I work
with find most useful is we have these different columns here. We have the year column,
we have the different type. What is it? A book, an article, a dissertation, the actual citation. Full citation. Do it now so you don’t have to do it later and so that way you
don’t lose your source, or God forbid, forget to cite the source and get accused of plagiarism. Write in the topic of that
specific type of source, and then you actually type in the quote. You actually write out the quote long form and include the citation
if you possibly can. Make sure you always
include the page numbers in your literature
matrix when you’re doing a direct quote. And frankly always include the page number in your literature matrix. So that way you have that
information in the future. So this is what I should look like. So that’s what the process looks like. And so for me, my process was I just noticed there’s some
beer there in that picture. What I did was I bought some water. I love Pellegrino. And so what I would do
is I shipped all that, I went to the store, grabbed it, and I had rented an office space. In fact, rented is not even fair to say. My father-in-law, God bless him, gave me use of one of his offices. And so what I was able
to do is I just took all that water and there’s
lots of restaurants around his office, so I just went there. And I would work between
six and eight hours a day, a couple of days a week at least to work on this literature review process. And so what you’re seeing in front of you like on the right-hand side here is me processing books then. What I’m doing is I’ve
received all those books, I’ve gone to the library,
you see my cart there. I brought these books directly here. And then what I’m doing is right here I’m looking at the title
page, I’m scanning it, I’m copying the works cited page. And then I’m processing forward. And what ends up happening is over time, and this is a little bit crazy, I mean this is the
method that I recommend. This is old school, but man, it works. Is what I do is I type
out my literature matrix. What my candidates often do
and what you’re seeing here I think are some candidate’s work. And what you do is you actually take, you take your literature matrix, you print it out long form, you cut it up into little strips of paper, and then you organize it. And what you end up is you end up with these lists and lists of sources that actually fit with one another. And it’s like you might
have three sentences that say the same thing
but they say the same thing from different sources. That means you’ve synthesized
the work together, right? And then you’re taping it all, what I’ll do is I would
tape it all together. And what this candidate did clearly is he taped it all together. And then he put it on to some paper and then he put it up on the wall. And this is a literature
review in process. This is what the gathering, we’ve gone from gathering at this point, they’re done with the gathering. Now we’re in the organizing
step, they’re organizing. And then finally the last step
is to actually type it out. So your brain is probably
spinning a little bit. So this last part here we’re not gonna spend much time on, but it is by far one of
the most important things we can discuss, one of
the top three things we can discuss is how can you communicate with your dissertation chair and your committee in such a way that revisions are minimized? The key is is that whenever
you’re working with another human being, they can sense that if you communicate with
them in the wrong way, they can sense that maybe you’re
not ready to move forward. And so when you are ready, we wanna make sure that
you’re communicating with your chair and your committee members in such a way that communicates I’m ready. I’m moving forward, versus I’m confused. I don’t know what to do. So let’s get into this a little bit and talk about what I mean. I want you to imagine for a second that you’re a dissertation chair. That you’ve graduated and you’ve moved on, and that someone’s actually asked you to be a dissertation chair. You work perhaps for a university
or something like this. And this email is what you receive. And I’ll read it to you, right? Doctor John, how’s it going? Hey. I know we haven’t talked for
about a year since the fire. My cats are find now. But, man, I’m stressed. I’ve not been doing much
writing until yesterday, but I was able to finish
20 pages in two hours. Wow, I’m ready to graduate now. Let me know what you
think of my dissertation. See attached. Later. Signed naive doctoral learner. Just imagine if you’re a chair and this guy or this gal
here has been off the map for like a year, right? We haven’t heard from him in a year. And all we’re hearing is that he has been doing his writing well, and that all of a sudden he feels like he’s made significant gains in
a very short amount of time. Doesn’t this seem a little, I mean, aren’t you just
skeptical just listening to it? I mean if the guy says he
finished his dissertation and he hasn’t been
heard from in some time, and if you finish 20 pages in two hours, what’s that even mean? Now, you might not ever
write an email like this to your doctoral chair. But elements of this you might actually be communicating in your communication. Notice for example that there’s been a lack of communication and you’re kind of doing
the whole catch up thing. When you’re playing
catch up with your chair, that’s probably a bad sign. Communicating that not much
writing has been doing, done, and telling that life’s
been getting in the way. And just notice how as a doctoral chair, dissertation chair, you could be thinking, okay, but what’s gonna happen from that? I mean, life does happen
and chairs know that. But just feel that, what
it feels like for a chair. And there’s kind of the finality of it. Like I’ve made sudden
progress and I’m ready to go. That doesn’t always seem
like a sure footing. It’s almost like you want a
clear like strong foundation, and then all of a sudden,
if there’s progress, it’s always best if it seems like it’s come from a strong place as opposed to a sudden like place, right? And just notice that
what’s this even asking? Let me know what you
think of my dissertation. That’s not a request
that we make of chairs or of committee members. There’s some specific
things we wanna communicate to each one of these. And that’s what I wanna say is that if you communicate the wrong way to a dissertation chair
or committee member, that unsureness can be very revealing of where you are. You never wanna lie to a doctoral chair or a committee member. But what I wanna say is
you wanna communicate strength and strongness and where you are and communicate directly. The way that you communicate with them says a lot about you and where you are. Let’s look at each one
of these statements. If it says, “Could you look at this draft “and see what you think, am I done?” I mean, this is an actual email that I’ve received personally, or something at least
paraphrased like this. And notice that what it
communicates is this question of am I done, right? Well, you tell me, right? You’re the person
writing the dissertation. Are you done or are you not done? And how long do you think it
would take for me to finish? This is an actual question
that I have received numerous times from
different doctoral candidates that I’m their chair or
their committee member. Now, the people that I coach and the people that come to my seminar would never ever ask this question ’cause you know it’s not
a good question to ask because, of course, the obvious answer is whenever you finish, right? Communicating I’m lost. I’m lost, what do I do next? Remember, this is your
dissertation process and project. It’s okay to feel lost. It’s okay to communicate
this feeling of lostness, and yet where’s the ownership? The ownership isn’t on the chair
or on the committee member, or isn’t on the doctoral
learner or the person writing the dissertation to
make some suggestions about how to move forward and how to get unlost. So just notice the unsettling feeling that all these statements have. And we wanna avoid these, right? And in my opinion we wanna
communicate strength. We wanna communicate where we are and make a direct request of the person that we’re working with. So this is an example of
I think an ideal email. And it sounds like this. I’ve worked very hard for these past weeks to hand you a polished draft. I think that we are ready to move forward towards formal proposal or advancement to candidacy, whatever you
call it in your university. As you can see, it’s as my final draft, it says this draft is
this final draft quality as I possibly could create. I respect your time. So whatever you see here is
the best I have to offer, I mean probably at this time, right? I’m ready for your input
and to take action quickly. I’m poised to make my
formal proposal presentation and start collecting data. And look at that draft. I love paper. I always recommend sending paper to your committee if possible. I mean, what you see here in
this picture is you don’t see like a word document
that says chapter one. No, this is a printed document that is laid out like a dissertation. It includes all the table of contents, all the front matter pages. It includes all the tables, it includes the reference pages, it includes everything. And look, it’s even
tabbed for easy reading. It’s clipped together and
looks just like this hulking one or two inch thick stack of papers. And it feels like it’s final. And naturally you don’t wanna do this if you’re not feeling this way. You wanna get to a
point where you actually have something substantive
to offer your doctoral chair and your committee. But just notice the
sureness that’s in this. You know as a dissertation writer that you’re ready to submit. And that’s the goal of all your work is to actually get to
a place where you feel like you’re ready to go. And imagine you’re in
this position, right? Where you’re able to communicate, look, this is how ready I am. You send each one of
your committee members a paper copy of your finished
proposal ready to go. IRB application attached,
fully filled out, with little tabs of where they can sign. And what they get there with
an introduction letter from you saying how sure you feel that you’re ready to move forward, if truly you are. And you can even communicate with them, look, I’m already poised
to collect my data. I have all my survey
instruments ready to go, and/or at least I have
my envelopes stamped and ready to go and things like this. And just notice the power and the sureness that that communicates to your committee if you’re ready to take that step. Versus what do you think about my writing. Notice the difference of how that feels. And so that’s what you wanna communicate with your chair is really where are you. No matter what step you’re in of the dissertation process, where are you in the process
and what are your plans? Keep it short, keep it direct, and just simply say what
you’d like to accomplish, where you’re ready to head next. And if you’re ready to move to proposal, tell them that you feel like you’re there. For me being able to reach
that point of finishing was probably the, you know, top five moments of my life. I have children now, so the
top three are really easily taken by me getting married and having these wonderful kids. But being able to graduate, being able to graduate close
to the same time around that my wife graduated, two doctors working with one
another, what a cool thing. And I just want you to imagine, what would it be like to sit
in that position yourself. What would it be like to
be able to finally finish and move forward? My hope today is that you’ve learned some amazing tools,
things that you can apply in your own dissertation journey. And I just wanna quickly
tell you how you can take what you’ve learned today
and apply it moving forward. Specifically as you can see by the, if you have not already done this, I just want you to
notice that there’s some, there’s some URLs at the
top here and the bottom, I recommend you browse
there and you sign up for my free information. And you continue to receive those. I encourage you to get
a goal of processing at least five sources a week, that is getting five books
or five dissertations or five articles a week. And from each of those,
I’d like you to get five quotes from each of those. So five quotes times five sources, that’s 25 quotes a week. And if you were to keep that step, you would have around
400 quotes after about, somewhere between 15 and 20 weeks. And that’s a good number in getting ready to write a dissertation is around 400 great quotes or sources. Now you’re definitely not gonna
direct quote all of those. But those are the necessary pieces. I would encourage you
to build an environment in which you can write your dissertation. And if you can spend as much time there as you possibly can each week, and I say if you can I mean, gosh, if you can spend six to eight hours there three days a week, that’s golden. And I encourage you to
put your dissertation project first in your day if you can. Give your first energy
to your first priorities. And if your dissertation is
one of your first priorities, give your energy there. So again I’m Dr. Guy
and it’s been a pleasure working with you today and
presenting this to you. And my hope is that you’ll
look at and continue your doctoral
journey moving forward. And let me know what
you think of this video. Below there’s a comment field. Please leave me some comments. What was useful of this video? And how could I have improved it? And what are some ideas
that you’re gonna be using going forward from this point? Again, thank you. (light tapping) (loud zoom)

100 thoughts on “How to Write a Literature Review — Dr. Guy E White”

  • Dr. Guy, This is SO much more than "just" a literature review video! It reminds us of the value of life, time, people…family and helps us to sort through those who may derail our thoughts. This presentation is well worth it's time in gold. THANK YOU!

  • This was outstanding in every way. It filled the gaps and was presented in an exceptionallly congenial way. Would love to study and be mentored by you because I think I would learn so much more faster. Which University do you work at? Steve Gebert, PH: 240-300-1242, [email protected] Respctfully thanks!

  • Dr. Guy, I found your video very helpful; especially starting the literature review as a gathering stage.  Collect all of my information and research upfront and organizing the information in a timeline from oldest to the most current information.  This will help me a great deal to organization and visually see the timeline and write in that order.

  • I have been well informed by your lectures about purpose and problem statements and about writing the literature review. Thanks for your imput it has been a blessing to me.

  • Amazing…I can't believe that I'm nearly done with my coursework, and yet I've never learned these things before. I started my literature review matrix, and I'll be calling the university library as well as my local library to begin gatherinig books. Knowing what to do feels empowering…thanks, Dr. Guy!

  • Aloha,
    Very helpful. I am completing my Comprehensive Exams. I want to complete my Dissertation in 9 months or less. to move forward to continued teaching! You touched on every area I am dealing with now. I will review this several times. Mahalo

  • Dr. Guys thanks alot for this informative presentation. i am a masters student but this particular lecture has shaped my appetite for doing my doctorate. I'll keep asking you in the future as I begin the journey of my doctorate.

  • Thank you Dr. I can relate to everything you have stated. Love the story line and presentation. You are a life saviour! Will continue to view your presentations too!

  • I am currently working on my undergraduate thesis and I am in a desperate time already and watching your videos really helped me clarify things and move forward. Thank you so much Dr. Guy 😀

  • Wonderful information. Thank you for sharing your own experience that sincerely. I will copy your matrix.

  • Wonderful one. Could you please show me an example of literature review on second language acquisition?

  • You are so true about the road mapping. I wrote my introduction/problem statement first and then I was reading for my literature review. It really influences my initial thoughts about my paper. After having this video, things are even more clear.

    Thank you DR. Guy!

    God bless.

  • Dr. White, you have nailed it! I have looked at every book, website, etc about this "mystical" process to the point of cynicism until now! Thank you.

  • Well done! Thanks for your video. Just a small suggestion ( also saw some comments above), will it be better if you split the first 15mins as a seperate cast as “ personal mindset of a PhD”? Regards

  • Guy White, please try to be brief and to the point in your next presentations. Eight minutes into the presentation here, and you are still setting the scene for your talk. If I were you, I would try to be crisp, sharp, and brief in telling the audience what I want to talk about and who are the expected audience. It takes 40 to 60 seconds at best. Main point: it's nice to value people's time by being brief and to the point. Excellent presentation on the whole. Thumbs up!

  • Thank you for this video. I am in the proposal stage at my college and created a 'literature matrix' of my own by sticking annotations of prior research in a long papyrus! I really liked the method of quotes and including page nos (which I had overlooked)that I will apply in my review. The overall synthesis matrix looked very neat and organized and I intend to apply the methods as presented.

  • This is just the information or rather guidance that I needed to move forward. Its been six months with no progress to say but the least with my master thesis. I felt lost on several occasions, but now I realize all the wrong things I was doing. This video has both inspired me and reignited in me the spark I needed to gain momentum and Am sure I will do this! Thank-you Dr. Guy. It is videos like this that give me hope

  • It was really an eye opener for me because i was confused watching your video. it has really helped in structuring my write up. Thank you so much and keep the good work giong

  • Hi all, I am hear to say that it CAN BE DONE. I did use Dr. Guy's advice in several areas. I finished the dissertation and successfully defended the research on June 21, 18. Call me Dr. J.B. Remember everyone, you can keep dwinking with the work until the cows come home. FINISHED is BETTER THAN 'Perfect.'

  • Dear Dr. Guy,

    Thank you for taking the time to make this video. I have found your tips extremely useful and while I have already implemented some of the tips before watching this video, I will be making use of your advice, especially with regards to the organisation aspect of the research that I have collected in my searches. Your video has helped me re-focus my direction and I am thankful that I came across it!

  • Great Work. I am doctoral student right now in south of France also having 2 kids and a wife waiting back to my country Pakistan. I be starting my 3rd year of PhD next week. It is really a very helpful video giving lots of tips and tools for doing Hard work but in a smart way. Thanks a lot this video touched me a lot and will be helping to make effective use of available time.

  • the benchmarks and timeframes were very helpful. Also, the framework of sources and the outline provided great direction.

  • omg…. could you just stop straying…… the unnecessary talking is a deterrent. We are already stressed, anxious and time-constrained.

  • Very Good Lecture in a organized way… I learned a clear road map how to proceed with writing the literature review…
    Thanks for the video..

  • Writing the dissertation has been foreboding…to this point. Your youtube presentation has been provided as a "resource asset" by my doctoral university. The information provided is exceptional. I plan to review it once more and thereafter, visit your website.
    Thank you for conceptualizing and executing the creation of this very useful "tool" designed to aid naive doctoral candidates to become doctoral graduates!

  • Thank you for helping me with some of the anxiety I have been feeling about re-starting my journey. This video has help clear up a lot of information that I wish I would have known when I started this journey…

  • Superb as a new UK year 3 Student! This video Raises confidence levels. A great presentation and speaker many thanks, i will be watching more!

  • Well, I consider this discussion of tips or guides useful, before writing a literature review and after preparing a proposal, particularly communicating with particular persons who will be working with the researcher/s.

  • Hi Dr. Guy,
    Many thanks for this interesting and useful video. I have two questions:
    A lot of information for my research come from online and digital sources, as I'm doing new research in my field, and there's very little actual academic literature on my proposed sunject.
    In addition, there is quite an amount of non-academic literature – more populist and very useful, but not peer reviewed. It seems to me to be a chicken and egg situation. Any ideas, comments or suggestions please? Many thanks!

  • Dr. Guy, listening to all the guidance and tips that you shared have been very useful.. have been following you, Alhamdulillah very good effort put. God bless your family.

  • Good day, I need someone to guide me please, I am doing my Honors research in "The depiction of Mental Health in African Films" I want to do well in this, it is my first research ever and I feel very overwhelmed. please reach me at comriyoc at gmail dot com. Many thanks and well wishes.

  • Dr. Guy:  Thank you so much!  I am buried in literature and can't seem to make heads or tails.  Actually, I am focusing on certain things but your advice certainly provides organization and sanity to the process.  I'm in a dissertation prep class and my instructor talked about a matrix – probably much like you provided as an example here but I didn't have the back story on how to set it up and what to do with it.  Again, thank you.

  • Dear Dr. Guy. You are the best. Am in Nairobi, Kenya, Africa at 1:00 am glued to my chair. You are very convicting. Especially when you tell to do away with this thing…

  • Hi Dr Guy, this video presentation is simply perfect and what I needed this long, I thank my best that I found this as perfect information needed for me to moving forward, I am just a few months into my PhD. I really found useful the organising table you used an example to sort out the Year, Type, Citation, Topic and Quote. Can you please discuss which one to use the most in writing review among these three (Quotation, Paraphrase and Summary) also the best ways to paraphrase in dissertation writing? in the meantime, I am on my way to my University library and ensure I have at least four 4 quotations per day). Thanks and your response.

  • Man!.. I have enrolled in a Doctoral program at NCU and failed to complete my dissertation. I wish my chair would provided me with the mentor and guide as you have stated in your video here that I needed to be successful in my dissertation. I have come all the way by passing every single class, completed my comprehensive exam to my dissertation, spent a lot of money for the I call "my life journey" and failed my Doctoral dissertation and not completed my program. If she would just gave me a phone call, or personal email and direct me in the right direction or to your video, I'll successfully completed my dissertation and completed my doctoral program. Thank you Dr. Guy for your explanation. My next journey I will not be the same and I will be more ready and be successful. Boun Xiong.

  • Great input. I loved the point of setting organisation strategies in place before commencing any writing. Thank heaps.

  • thank you so much Dr Guy for these advices espicially the recommandation to study 5 sources/ week. I want to have a model of plannig, how much weeks to spend in every step of the dissertation

  • thank you! I was feeling lost and in doubt of what I was doing then you came up and validated my process!

  • Can you please make a video on methodology? Especially for Social Sciences – Survey and Interviews as methods

  • Currently at the prospectus stage. Watched this video and took notes on 5-index cards!!! Great presentation! Thank you. Always, felt my chair was not giving me her all. Now, I have to start back over at square one with a new chair when I return in the fall. So disgusted that my money and time have been wasted. With your help, I pray to be further along in the process when I return.

  • Great video. I have learned in this video more than I learned in the last 20 videos I watched before Dr. Guy. You are fantastic.

  • Thanks a lot for the wonderful process of writing a literature review. This is my first introduction to write a literature review

  • Introduction was lengthy yet it was interesting to set the tone of the session. Source gathering technique was informative. My expectation was how to write the lit review paragraphs, its flow , length of each para, conclusion etc. But it was good to know the priority setting importance for timely completion of the thesis writing.

  • Don't make the adequate the enemy of the good, or the good the enemy of the perfect. Another issue is dependency and just the habits you have had up to this point. These issues don't go away no matter how old you get. I'm writing an M.A. thesis in American literature right now at the age of 71. I got the primary reading and intro (10 pages) done before the end of the spring term and promised my graduate and thesis advisor (they are the same person) two more sections out of the proposed four done by the start of the fall term (2019). My habit is always to turn everything into a long, dark night of the soul, mine and everyone else's. Only now it was the summertime and there was no else around to drag into the picture. So I had to do it on my own.

    That is what a thesis or dissertation often is, I believe. Working on your own in a bigger way than you have before. Having completed a novel or a non-fiction book or working for years as a reporter doesn't change that because these are different activities. All I am going to say is that a major part of my topic is a concept in literature which is considered slippery and notoriously difficult to define. But it has to be defined before its application to the works I am writing about can proceed, not because it couldn't write about them in the chosen context anyway but because this is what you do when write a thesis. I might be able to get away with less at my institution but after waiting 45 years to get here, I am not going skip steps.

    It took six weeks to write one page and the issue was alway there even when I was listening to some video on some outre topic or reading a paperback in McDonalds. Sometimes it does take that long. This just got done, that one page, by my experience says, now the work will fly.

    That's how it goes. When you have difficulties, define what those difficulties are and you will know what to expect, including knowing that you have the possibility of spending a long doing what seems like very little. As a former reporter, i can tell you, the story grows out of the lead. Most news story leads are easy, if you know how to write one. When you are dealing with an intellectual topic, it gets harder. Your lead has to very precise or what follows from it will not work very well. Even in something as subjective as literature, it will not work.

  • Dr. Guy, without reading yr teaching on the air, I can't pass through the oral defence. finally I can kick off the proposed thesis topic- exploring manifestation of Faith and work integration in banking, finance, insurance sector >.! thanks for yr motivation … this raises me up fm the failure last yr!

    Thanks a million Dr. Guy, I lost on how to proceed but made look so easy. I am registering on the website immediately.

  • Thank you soo much for taking the time to develop this platform. I am only 6 classes into my coursework, but this helped me move from a stuck place from writing a literature review in my courses, so it will definitely be useful in writing one for my dissertation. I took notes throughout the video and will be using all of the pointers that you offered. Thanks again for your time and expertise, definitely a life changer!!

  • someone just clarify this for me that ok now m starting to write my literature review or lets say the introduction part
    So for that, do i have to rewrite the theme of a relevant abstract of an article in my own words having the appropriate results or do we copy the theme from the conclusion and rewrite that in to our introduction part?

    i have been trolling myself and dont know where and what part of an article goes into my literature?
    the theme of the abstract or the conclusion part?
    kindly help me out

  • This is a really informative video on the literature review. I learned much that will help me in my literature review. Is there any difference when one is writing a literature review for a qualitative review for a qualitative research?
    Lenox A.

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