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Well, there is no limit to what the actual word count should be but if it is for academic purposes, the word count is given. However, if it is an independent research or thesis, it can be long or short given the topic’s complexity and your methodology.
If you don’t know how much literature review would be enough, some points can be considered while writing a literature review. These are:
- Finding and selecting material
- Ensure that you are clear on what you have been looking for
- What are the specific questions, topics, or focus of your assignment?
- What kind of material is required (e.g., theory, policy, empirical data)?
- How much relevant literature is available (e.g., journals, books, government documents)?
- Which type of literature is particularly authoritative in this academic discipline (e.g., sociology, psychology, pharmacy)?
How much data do you need?
It depends on the length of the thesis, the nature of the subject, and the level of study (undergraduate, Master, Ph.D.). You may choose roughly 8-10 significant pieces (books and/or articles) for an 8,000-word thesis, up to 20 major pieces of work for 12-15,000 words, and so on. Keep in mind that if your thesis is based mainly on interaction with existing research then you need a longer literature review and if it is a prelude to new empirical research. Use your judgment and ask your supervisor for guidance.
Where to find the proper material?
Your literature review should have a balance between significant academic books, journal articles, and scholarly publications. All of these sources should be as up to date, except ‘classic texts’ such as major works written by leading scholars setting out foundational ideas and theories central to your subject.
There are numerous ways to find suitable material such as:
1- Module bibliography:
For undergraduate research, first look at the bibliography provided with the module documentation. Pick one or two similar books or articles and then scan through the bibliographies provided by t these authors. Skim-read and look for clues and use these leads to identify key theories and authors or even track down other suitable material.
2- Library catalog search engine:
Enter a few keywords to capture a range of pieces but avoid a broad view, e.g., if you type in ‘social theory’ you are most likely to get a thousand results. Be specific. You should narrow the field of research just to obtain a few dozen results. Skim through quickly to identify texts which are most likely to contribute to your study.
3- Library bookshelves:
Browse the relevant subject area and examine the books that catch your eye on the library shelves. Verify the contents and index pages, or skim through to see if they contain related material and change them if not. If help is needed ask one of the subject librarians for further help. Your supervisor may also be able to put you in the direction of some important literature, but do remember this is your literature search, not theirs.
For the most recent journal articles, you need to use one of the online search engines. These can be found on Google Scholar, JSTOR, and other websites. You could also use online sources for quantitative data collection as many websites update people with the latest findings.