What is a literature review?
A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question.
To create a hanging indent for your bibliography or reference list:
Dissertation word counts vary widely across different fields, institutions, and levels of education:
However, none of these are strict guidelines – your word count may be lower or higher than the numbers stated here. Always check the guidelines provided by your university to determine how long your own dissertation should be.
At the bachelor’s and master’s levels, the dissertation is usually the main focus of your final year. You might work on it (alongside other classes) for the entirety of the final year, or for the last six months. This includes formulating an idea, doing the research, and writing up.
A PhD thesis takes a longer time, as the thesis is the main focus of the degree. A PhD thesis might be being formulated and worked on for the whole four years of the degree program. The writing process alone can take around 18 months.
References should be included in your text whenever you use words, ideas, or information from a source. A source can be anything from a book or journal article to a website or YouTube video.
If you don’t acknowledge your sources, you can get in trouble for plagiarism.
Your university should tell you which referencing style to follow. If you’re unsure, check with a supervisor. Commonly used styles include:
Your university may have its own referencing style guide.
If you are allowed to choose which style to follow, we recommend Harvard referencing, as it is a straightforward and widely used style.
To avoid plagiarism, always include a reference when you use words, ideas or information from a source. This shows that you are not trying to pass the work of others off as your own.
You can also include page numbers to point the reader towards a passage that you paraphrased. If you refer to the general ideas or findings of the source as a whole, you don’t need to include a page number.
When you want to use a quote but can’t access the original source, you can cite it indirectly. In the in-text citation, first mention the source you want to refer to, and then the source in which you found it. For example:
It’s advisable to avoid indirect citations wherever possible, because they suggest you don’t have full knowledge of the sources you’re citing. Only use an indirect citation if you can’t reasonably gain access to the original source.
The main difference is in terms of scale – a dissertation is usually much longer than the other essays you complete during your degree.
Another key difference is that you are given much more independence when working on a dissertation. You choose your own dissertation topic, and you have to conduct the research and write the dissertation yourself (with some assistance from your supervisor).
Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference in meaning:
It’s important to assess the reliability of information found online. Look for sources from established publications and institutions with expertise (e.g. peer-reviewed journals and government agencies).
The CRAAP test (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, purpose) can aid you in assessing sources, as can our list of credible sources. You should generally avoid citing websites like Wikipedia that can be edited by anyone – instead, look for the original source of the information in the “References” section.
You can generally omit page numbers in your in-text citations of online sources which don’t have them. But when you quote or paraphrase a specific passage from a particularly long online source, it’s useful to find an alternate location marker.
For text-based sources, you can use paragraph numbers (e.g. ‘para. 4’) or headings (e.g. ‘under “Methodology”’). With video or audio sources, use a timestamp (e.g. ‘10:15’).
The Scribbr Knowledge Base is a collection of free resources to help you succeed in academic research, writing, and citation. Every week, we publish helpful step-by-step guides, clear examples, simple templates, engaging videos, and more.
The Knowledge Base is for students at all levels. Whether you’re writing your first essay, working on your bachelor’s or master’s dissertation, or getting to grips with your PhD research, we’ve got you covered.
As well as the Knowledge Base, Scribbr provides many other tools and services to support you in academic writing and citation:
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A Harvard in-text citation should appear in brackets every time you quote, paraphrase, or refer to information from a source.
The citation can appear immediately after the quotation or paraphrase, or at the end of the sentence. If you’re quoting, place the citation outside of the quotation marks but before any other punctuation like a comma or full stop.
Reliability and validity are both about how well a method measures something:
A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population. Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research.
For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.
Statistical sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population. There are various sampling methods you can use to ensure that your sample is representative of the population as a whole.
There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:
Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.
Harvard referencing uses an author–date system. Sources are cited by the author’s last name and the publication year in brackets. Each Harvard in-text citation corresponds to an entry in the alphabetised reference list at the end of the paper.
Vancouver referencing uses a numerical system. Sources are cited by a number in parentheses or superscript. Each number corresponds to a full reference at the end of the paper.
|Harvard style||Vancouver style|
|In-text citation||Each referencing style has different rules (Pears and Shields, 2019).||Each referencing style has different rules (1).|
|Reference list||Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2019). Cite them right: The essential referencing guide. 11th edn. London: MacMillan.||1. Pears R, Shields G. Cite them right: The essential referencing guide. 11th ed. London: MacMillan; 2019.|
Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research. Developing your methodology involves studying the research methods used in your field and the theories or principles that underpin them, in order to choose the approach that best matches your objectives.
A bibliography should always contain every source you cited in your text. Sometimes a bibliography also contains other sources that you used in your research, but did not cite in the text.
MHRA doesn’t specify a rule about this, so check with your supervisor to find out exactly what should be included in your bibliography.
Footnote numbers should appear in superscript (e.g. 11). You can use the ‘Insert footnote’ button in Word to do this automatically; it’s in the ‘References’ tab at the top.
Footnotes always appear after the quote or paraphrase they relate to. MHRA generally recommends placing footnote numbers at the end of the sentence, immediately after any closing punctuation, like this.12
In situations where this might be awkward or misleading, such as a long sentence containing multiple quotations, footnotes can also be placed at the end of a clause mid-sentence, like this;13 note that they still come after any punctuation.
In Vancouver style, you have some flexibility about where the citation number appears in the sentence – usually directly after mentioning the author’s name is best, but simply placing it at the end of the sentence is an acceptable alternative, as long as it’s clear what it relates to.
The words ‘dissertation’ and ‘thesis’ both refer to a large written research project undertaken to complete a degree, but they are used differently depending on the country:
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