Doctoral dissertation writing guide: where to get specific literature

After your dissertation’s introduction comes the part of your paper where you review the published work of others. This literature will be relevant to your topic and contain some supporting, and perhaps even some contradicting work pertaining to the research you’re about to delve into.

Doctoral students often wonder where the best place is to get literature that relates to their subject matter. Most will inevitably default to search engine research, but there are better ways to make your dissertation come alive.

First, a word on originality

Unless they have been given a specific research assignment, it is wisest for students to make sure that the research work they plan to undergo has not been done exactly the same way before. The literature you review should be related to your research, but should not be a duplicate of your own work. You may want to add some contributory data and research to something that has been done before, which is fine; but if at all possible, don’t duplicate someone else’s research.

Straight to the source

Google shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all when it comes to researching your doctoral dissertation topic. The first question to ask yourself when establishing what literature you need is, “Can I get this information straight from its original source.” For instance:

    - If you’re studying a historical person, are there any museums, monuments, statues, living relatives or even a gravestone that you can visit to get a better picture of their lives?

    - In the case of a location, can you go there yourself and take notes of the factors you will be writing on?

    - Are there any people you can interview who are experts on your subject and have published their own work related to it?

    - Are there any original manuscripts pertaining to your topic that are available and accessible to you?


This method of investigation is called the obtaining of site-specific literature. It’s the best method and should be utilized before any other options are considered.

Library archives

Sitting at a library and going through the computer archives will be extremely enriching to your doctoral dissertation journey. Newspaper articles, death certificates, police investigations and more will give the exploration of your topic a shot in the arm. This type of literature is way more valuable than online browsing and your paper will light up with fresh, worked-for data which no online encyclopaedia can replace.

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