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The Southern California Institute of Law

Literature review for research proposal  for fruit battery experiment hypothesis

Literature review for research proposal 

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Dissertation thesis acknowledgement and literature review for research proposal 

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Purpose of Literature Review in Research Proposal


Research proposal literature review

Pulling together a literature review involves more than summarizing an article that you have reviewed, it focuses on a broad area and usually covers the relationship among different works and how they are related to the research you have at hand.

The most significant thing is to be clear about the purpose of your literature review, otherwise they are mind-numbingly boring and solid difficult to read if you’re lost with no idea whatever you’re reaching out for.

A literature review may aim to:

•    Identify what is missing in previous research (weaknesses and gaps) and give directions for future research.

           •    To cover all studies that related to the research to understand the current practices.

          •    To review the growing literature on a particular subject and investigate major research streams in the field.

         •   To show readers that you have read & have a good grasp of the published work concerning a topic/question.

•    To show different views among the authors

•    To give a history of the study and show how the thesis will contribute to weaknesses that need to be addressed

•    To show the significance of the research topic

•    To show the different methodologies used in carrying out the research

These are just a few goals of what a literature review may address depending on the reason for the assigned work. It is vital to note that the aim of a literature review is not to analyze the material and come up with your fresh perspectives; rather, you should note differences, similarities, assumptions or ideas in the sources at hand.

How to write a literature review  

Find out a great way of capturing the purpose and role of a literature review and a helpful explanation of what they should do, and how to create one.

1.    Go through the instructions

First and foremost, go through the provided instructions and ensure that you fully understand them. Note the writing format that you are required to use, number of sources required and any other additional information. If you feel something is not clear you can always ask for assistance to get further clarification if necessary.

2.    Brainstorm for a topic

When choosing the topic for your literature review, it is advisable to choose a topic that you find interesting as with most forms of academic writing. This is to ensure that you won’t get to the middle of writing and lack the drive needed to complete the work.

You should come up with a topic that is of importance so that it can attract a reasonable number of readers for your review.

Choose an issue that is well defined so that you can have enough material to research, and to avoid including unnecessary publications which will render your literature review useless.

Ensure that you narrow down the topic you choose to something manageable and precise to help make your work easier.

3.    Conduct some research

Having chosen a topic, you can now move on to the research phase. Identify all the sources that relate to the topic at hand. Remember to adhere to given instructions regarding which sources to use. Some studies may require that you use the most recent publications while others may require you to follow the history and show how ideas or views have changed over time. Carefully reading instructions will help you identify what is required in your literature review.

Get as much guidance as you can by using the library and the internet. You should also go through previous literature reviews to give you an idea of what is expected of you. Note down the references that are used in the reviews and make an effort to go through them since they might end up being used in your review.

4.    Find a focus

As you go through the sources that you have chosen, ensure that you identify the similarities or differences between the themes and ideas of different authors. Check whether your sources are all agreeing to particular ideas or whether they all have different views on the matter. Check whether something has been ignored or left out and ensure that you note it down. Be careful not to deviate from the topic at hand. If necessary, you should go back a few steps and check whether the themes you have identified are related to the topic you chose earlier. Make sure you write down the references so that you can use them later.

By now, you should have some short notes and points which will help in making your work easier and more memorable. 

5.    Come up with a thesis statement

Having found a focus, coming up with a thesis statement should not be a difficult task. The focus can help to guide you when choosing the thesis statement. The thesis statement in literature reviews is different from other forms of writing, in that the statement does not argue for a particular position or opinion, rather it argues for a certain perspective on the material.

6.    The writing process

Now that you have the focus, the thesis statement and your short notes, you can get to the writing phase. As with any piece of writing, the introduction is very important. It should give the reader an idea of what your literature review is about and should also include the thesis statement. Try making it as captivating as possible to help draw the reader in and capture their attention.

The body of the review should follow an ideal pattern and should group the points according to the similarities, for example:

•    Chronologically    - according to an era or changing trends over time

•    By trends               - according to patterns, different sources may have similarities in patterns

•    Thematically         - different sources may have similar themes

•    Methodologically – similar methods employed in research by different sources

Ensure that you show evidence to back up your claims by citing the relevant sources. Remember just like any academic research paper; claims should be backed up with evidence. Quotes should be used sparingly when it comes to literature reviews unless instructed otherwise by your lecturer.

Try as much as possible to use your voice by beginning and ending each paragraph using your own words and ideas. When getting to paraphrase a source that is not your own, ensure to represent the author’s information or opinions accurately but in your own words, that is, the necessary references.

The conclusion to your review should wrap up the whole paper by reminding the reader what was stated in the introduction and discuss what you have drawn from the research.

7.    Editing and proofreading (Revision process)

Having completed the writing process, the next important step is to go through the whole paper and ensure that everything appears as planned and also, in the correct format. Ensure that your final draft meets the requirements that were stated in the provided instructions. This is very important since you could end up missing out on a good grade due to missed instructions.

It is important also to ensure that your review has a good flow to it and that it builds as you go along reading it. Check for correct tenses and punctuation. Go through the paper as many times as necessary until you feel you are fully satisfied with the outcome.

Just a Recap:

2.    Choose a topic (Brainstorm for a topic)

7.    Editing and proofreading (The revision process)

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Grad Coach

Writing A Research Proposal

8 common (and costly) mistakes to avoid 🤦.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) & David Phair (PhD) . Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2021

At Grad Coach, we review a lot of research proposals , including dissertation proposals and thesis proposals. Some are pretty good, while others are, well, not fantastic. Sadly, many students only approach us after their proposal has been rejected , meaning they’ve wasted a lot of time and effort.

We’ll look at 8 common mistakes and issues we see cropping up in research proposals so that you can craft your proposal with confidence and maximise the chances of it being approved.

Dissertation and thesis research proposal mistakes

Overview: 8 Research Proposal Killers

#1: The research topic is too broad.

One of the most common issues we see in dissertation and thesis proposals is that the research topic is simply too broad . In other words, the focus of the research is not ringfenced tightly enough (or just not defined clearly enough), resulting in a proposal that has an unclear direction or attempts to take on too much.

For example, a research project that aims to “investigate trust in the workplace” would be considered very broad. This topic has no specific focus and leaves many questions unanswered, for example:

As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for a fairly narrow focus when you craft your research topic. Doing this will allow you to go deep and investigate the topic in-depth , which is what the markers want to see. Quality beats quantity – or rather, depth beats breadth – when it comes to defining and refining your research topic.

A related problem is that oftentimes, students have a more refined topic within their mind, but they don’t articulate it well in their proposal. This often results in the proposal being rejected because the topic is perceived as being too broad. In other words, it’s important to ensure you not only have a clear, sharp focus for your research, but that you communicate that well in your dissertation or thesis proposal. Make sure that you address the who , what , were and when, so that your topic is well defined.

Let’s look at an example.

Sticking with the topic I mentioned earlier, a more refined and well-articulated research aim could be something along the lines of:

“To investigate the factors that cultivate organisational trust (i.e. a customer trusting an organisation) within the UK life insurance industry.”

As you can see, this is a lot more specific and ringfences the topic into a more manageable scope . So, when it comes to your research topic, remember to keep it tight .

In your proposal, make sure that you address the who, what, where and when, so that your topic is well-defined.

#2: The research aims, objectives and questions don’t align.

Another common issue that we see with weaker research proposals is misalignment between the research aims and objectives , as well as with the research questions . Sometimes all three are misaligned , and sometimes there’s only one misfit. Whatever the case, it’s a problem that can lead to proposal rejection, as these three elements need to link together tightly.

Let’s look at an example of a misaligned trio.

Research Aim:

To identify factors that cultivate organisational trust in British insurance brokers.

Research Objectives:

To measure organisational trust levels across different demographic groups within the UK.

To investigate the causes of differences in organisational trust levels between groups.

Research Question:

What factors influence organisational trust between customers and insurance brokers within the UK?

As you can see, the research aim and research question are reasonably aligned (they are both focused on the factors that cultivate trust). However, the research objectives are misaligned, as they focus on measuring trust levels across different groups, rather than identifying what factors stimulate trust. This will result in a study that’s pulling in different directions – not good.

A related issue we see is that students don’t really understand the difference between research aims (the broader goal), research objectives (how you’ll achieve that goal) and research questions (the specific questions you’ll answer within your study). So, when you’re preparing your proposal, make sure that you clearly understand how these differ and make sure they’re all tightly aligned with each other.

Webinar - How to write a research proposal for a dissertation or thesis

#3: The research topic is not well justified.

A good research topic – in other words, a good set of research aims, research objectives and research questions – needs to be well justified to convince your university to approve your research. Poor justification of the research topic is a common reason for proposals to be rejected.

So, how do you justify your research?

For a research topic to be well justified, you need to demonstrate both originality and importance .

Originality means that your proposed research is novel , or at least that it’s novel within its context (for example, within a specific country or industry). While the extent of this novelty will vary depending on your institution, programme and level of study (e.g. Masters vs Doctorate), your research will always need to have some level of originality. In other words, you can’t research something that’s been researched ad nauseam before.

Simply put, your research needs to emerge from a gap in the existing literature . To do this, you need to figure out what’s missing from the current body of knowledge (by undertaking a review of the literature) and carve out your own research to fill that gap. We explain this process in more detail here .

Importance is the second factor. Just because a topic is unique doesn’t mean it’s important . You need to be able to explain what the benefits of undertaking your proposed research would be. Who would benefit? How would they benefit? How could the newly developed knowledge be used in the world, whether in academia or industry?

So, when you’re writing up your research proposal, make sure that you clearly articulate both the originality and importance of your proposed research, or you’ll risk submitting an unconvincing proposal.

You have to justify every choice in your dissertation defence

#4: The study has a weak theoretical foundation.

As I mentioned in the previous point, your research topic needs to emerge from the existing research . In other words, your research needs to fill a clear gap in the literature – something that hasn’t been adequately researched, or that lacks research in a specific context.

To convince your university that your topic will fill a gap in the research, your proposal needs to have a strong theoretical foundation . In other words, you need to show that you’ve done the necessary reading and are familiar with the existing research. To do this, you need to provide an integrated summary of the existing research and highlight (very clearly) the theoretical gap that exists.

Some common signs of a weak theoretical foundation that we’ve encountered include:

While it’s generally not expected that you undertake a comprehensive literature review at the proposal stage, you do still need to justify your topic by demonstrating a need for your study (i.e. the literature gap). So, make sure that you put in the time to develop a sound understanding of the current state of knowledge in your space, and make sure that you communicate that understanding in your proposal by building your topic justification on a solid base of credible literature.

The literature review knowledge gap

#5: The research design is not articulated well enough (or is just impractical).

Once you’ve made a strong argument regarding the value of your research (i.e., you’ve justified it), the next matter that your research proposal needs to address is the “how” – in other words, your intended research design and methodology .

A common issue we see is that students don’t provide enough detail in this section. This is often because they don’t really know exactly what they’re going to do and plan to just “figure it out later” (which is not good enough). But sometimes it’s just a case of poor articulation – in other words, they have a clear design worked out in their minds, but they haven’t put their plan to paper.

Whatever the reason, a dissertation or thesis proposal that lacks detail regarding the research design runs a major risk of being rejected. This is because universities want to see that you have a clearly defined, practical plan to achieve your research aims and objectives and answer your research questions.

At a minimum, you should provide detail regarding the following:

For more information about each of these design decisions, check out our post detailing the Research Onion.

Of course, your research design can (and most likely will) evolve along the way , but you still need a starting point. Also, your proposed research design needs to be practical, given your constraints. A brilliant design is pointless if you don’t have the resources (e.g. money, equipment, expertise, etc.) to pull it off. So, get detailed in this section of your proposal and keep it realistic to maximise your chances of approval.

Need a helping hand?

how to make literature review in research proposal

#6: Poor writing and sloppy presentation.

As with any document, poor writing and sloppy presentation can heavily detract from your research proposal, even if you tick all the other boxes. While poor writing and presentation alone probably won’t result in your proposal being rejected, it will definitely put you at a disadvantage , as it gives a negative impression regarding the overall quality of your work.

The main issues we see here are:

The good news is that many of these can be resolved by editing and proofreading your proposal beforehand, so it’s always a good idea to take the time to do this. It’s also a good idea to ask a friend to review your document, as you will invariably suffer from blindspots when editing your own work. If your budget allows, having your work reviewed by an academic editor will ensure you cover all bases and submit a high-quality document.

#7: Poor project planning and risk management.

While different universities will have varying requirements, there is usually a requirement (or at least an expectation) for a project plan of sorts. As I mentioned earlier, a strong research proposal needs to be practical and manageable, given your constraints. Therefore, a well-articulated project plan that considers all the practicalities (and risks) is an important part of a strong research proposal.

We generally recommend that students draw up a fairly detailed Gantt chart , detailing each major task involved in the dissertation writing process. For example, you can break it down into the various chapters ( introduction , literature review, etc.) and the key tasks involved in completing each chapter (research, planning, writing, etc). What’s most important here is to be realistic – things almost always take longer than you expect, especially if you’re a first-time researcher.

Gantt chart

We also recommend including some sort of risk management plan . For this, you could make use of a basic risk register , listing all the potential risks you foresee, as well as your mitigation and response actions, should they occur. For example, the risk of data collection taking longer than anticipated, the risk of not getting enough survey responses , etc.

What’s most important is to demonstrate that you have thought your research through and have a clear plan of action . Of course, as with your research design, plans can (and likely will) change – and that’s okay. However, you still need to have an initial plan, and that plan needs to be realistic and manageable, or you’ll risk your proposal getting rejected.

#8: Not following the university’s specific criteria.

While research proposals are fairly generic in terms of contents and style, and tend to follow a reasonably standardised structure, each university has its nuances in terms of what they want to be included in the dissertation or thesis proposal.

Some universities want more or less detail in certain sections, some want extra sections, and some want a very specific structure and format (down to the font type and size!). So, you need to pay very close attention to whatever institution-specific criteria your university has set out.

Typically, your university will provide some sort of brief or guidance document to direct your proposal efforts, so be sure to study this document thoroughly and ask the faculty for clarity if you’re uncertain about anything. Some universities will also provide a proposal template . Pay careful attention to any specific structure they recommend as well as formatting requirements (such as font, line spacing, margin sizes, referencing format, etc.).

If your university provides an assessment criteria matrix , you’ve hit the jackpot, as that document will detail exactly what you need to achieve in each section of the proposal. Study that matrix inside out and make sure that your research proposal tightly aligns with the assessment criteria.

Research proposal criteria

Recap: 8 Research Proposal Mistakes

We’ve covered a lot here – let’s recap on the 8 common mistakes that can hurt your research proposal or even get it rejected:

If you have any questions about these common mistakes, leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer. You may also want to have a look at some examples of successful proposals here . If you’d like to get 1-on-1 help with your research proposal , book a free initial consultation with a friendly coach to discuss how we can move you forward.

how to make literature review in research proposal

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

You Might Also Like:

Writing A Literature Review: 7 Common Mistakes To Avoid

Thanks a lot for sharing these tips, very usefull and help me a lot, Many thanks


I just want to express my sincere gratitude for everything you guys are doing. You held my hand when I was doing my dissertation. I successfully completed it and got good marks. I just got myself reviewing this so I could help others struggling. May God bless you. May he bless you abundantly.

Tilahun K Balcha

Thank you so much, I got it very important, and your presentation is also very attractive.

Torgbui Awusu

I find the text very educative. I am just preparing to start work on my PhD thesis. I must admit that I have learnt so much about how to organize myself for the task ahead of me. Thank you so much for being there to support people like me.

Hajara Salihu Bawa

I found this video highly educative, it gave me a full glance at what is ahead of me – starting my Ph.D. now! Thank you for these amazing facts.

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What to include in a research proposal

You should check with each department to find out whether they provide a specific template for submission.

The word count for research proposals is typically 1,000-1,500 words for Arts programmes and around 2,500 words for Birmingham Law School programmes. Each subject area or department will have slightly different requirements for your research proposal, such as word length and the volume of literature review required. It is a good idea to contact the department before you apply. 

Typically, your research proposal should include the following information:

2. Research overview

3. research context.

A well-written introduction is an efficient way of getting your reader’s attention early on. This is your opportunity to answer the questions you considered when preparing your proposal: why is your research important? How does it fit into the existing strengths of the department? How will it add something new to the existing body of literature?

It is unlikely that you will be able to review all relevant literature at this stage, so you should explain the broad contextual background against which you will conduct your research. You should include a brief overview of the general area of study within which your proposed research falls, summarising the current state of knowledge and recent debates on the topic. This will allow you to demonstrate a familiarity with key texts in the relevant field as well as the ability to communicate clearly and concisely.

4. Research questions

The proposal should set out the central aims and key questions that will guide your research. Many research proposals are too broad, so make sure that your project is sufficiently narrow and feasible (i.e. something that is likely to be completed within the normal time frame for a PhD programme).

You might find it helpful to prioritise one or two main questions, from which you can then derive a number of secondary research questions. The proposal should also explain your intended approach to answering the questions: will your approach be empirical, doctrinal or theoretical, etc.?

5. Research methods

How will you achieve your research objectives? The proposal should present your research methodology, using specific examples to explain how you are going to conduct your research (e.g. techniques, sample size, target populations, equipment, data analysis, etc.).

Your methods may include visiting particular libraries or archives, field work or interviews. If your proposed research is library-based, you should explain where your key resources are located. If you plan to conduct field work or collect empirical data, you should provide details about this (e.g. if you plan interviews, who will you interview? How many interviews will you conduct? Will there be problems of access?). This section should also explain how you are going to analyse your research findings.

A discussion of the timescale for completing your research would also beneficial. You should provide a realistic time plan for completing your research degree study, showing a realistic appreciation of the need to plan your research and how long it is likely to take. It is important that you are not over-optimistic with time frames.

6. Significance of research

The proposal should demonstrate the originality of your intended research. You should therefore explain why your research is important (for example, by explaining how your research builds on and adds to the current state of knowledge in the field or by setting out reasons why it is timely to research your proposed topic) and providing details of any immediate applications, including further research that might be done to build on your findings.

Please refer to our top tips page for further details about originality.

7. References

  Read our top tips for writing a research proposal

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Quality Assurance Specialist (Market Research)

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Associate Director/Senior Manager, Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute

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Research Assistant II (R7045) (Ref: 230018O)

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Market Research & Customer Insights Specialist

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Research Coordinator


  1. Literature Review in Research Proposal

    how to make literature review in research proposal

  2. Literature Review Adalah Pdf

    how to make literature review in research proposal

  3. Sample Literature Review For Research Proposal

    how to make literature review in research proposal

  4. Education Research Proposal Example

    how to make literature review in research proposal

  5. Literature Review Proposal

    how to make literature review in research proposal

  6. Sample Literature Review For Research Proposal

    how to make literature review in research proposal


  1. Researching Literature Presentation

  2. A 3-minute guide on how to write the perfect dissertation literature review

  3. Practical Approach in Developing a Research Proposal Part 1

  4. Color Coding Your Literature Matrix in Excel

  5. Generate A Research Proposal With Chat Gpt

  6. Secret To Writing A Research Paper


  1. Research proposal: Tips for writing literature review

    Writing a Research proposal and Tips for Literature Review By: Shantiram Dahal 1. Background Human being is the unique product of the nature. A research proposal is an overall plan

  2. Purpose of Literature Review in Research Proposal

    The most significant thing is to be clear about the purpose of your literature review, otherwise they are mind-numbingly boring and solid difficult to read if you're lost with no idea whatever you're reaching out for

  3. What to include in a research proposal

    The word count for research proposals is typically 1,000-1,500 words for Arts programmes and around 2,500 words for Birmingham Law School programmes. Each subject area or department will have slightly different requirements for your research proposal

  4. Literature

    One reason we conduct a review of the literature is to make sure that our research proposal is original and not just a replication of work already conducted. The literature review is a discussion of studies

  5. Research jobs

    Suggestions will appear below the field as you type. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Research Assistant / Research Officer (13 months gov contract) – HK$1,000 per day (5 days work)