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Borders in Walter Scott Fiction

Literature Review
The purpose of a literature review is to ensure that students have familiarised themselves with
the current scholarship in their field and have begun to think through this material in the light of
the research questions posed in their thesis proposal:
A successful literature review engages students in a dialogue with writing and arguments in their
field and helps to set the pattern of critical thinking and good writing…. Students need to ‘read
themselves’ into the field of study in order to gauge where their own ideas fit, what can inform
them, what others think and have discovered, and in what ways their area of questioning and
research could contribute to existing knowledge. (Wisker 2005: 92–3)
By writing a literature review (3,000 words for MA students, up to 5,000 words for PhDs),
students are also encouraged to begin the writing process early in their candidature and
supervisors are thus better able to provide informed and constructive feedback based on a piece
of formal writing of reasonable length.
A literature review is not a series of summaries of everything you have read. It should, however,
indicate a thorough knowledge of the most recent publications in the area of your thesis. It may
be a good idea to focus more attention on the secondary readings that have been most
influential in the development of your argument or approach. You may find it useful to think of
your literature review as a draft of your first chapter, or a section of your first chapter.
A literature review needs to be structured and presented in formal essay style and include full
and accurate citation of all sources. So, a good literature review should:
• be more than a list of reading or a series of reading notes;
• establish background and context for your topic;
• adopt a critical, analytical approach;
• be relevant and focused (don’t include everything ever written on the topic!);
• show evidence of being abreast of current work in the topic;
• frame your overview of the field specifically in relation to your topic and/or approach.

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