How to review the literature to effectively address the problem statement and objectives of a thesis?

By Kinjal Aacha and Priya Chetty on October 15, 2021

The problem statement and research questions are essential in thesis research. They indicate the objectives that the thesis aims to achieve and provide a clear direction for the research questions. They are a part of the Introduction chapter of a thesis. Another important element of the introduction chapter is the problem statement. It provides a brief overview and background of the research. It is essential to not only frame these sections well but to also connect them to the literature review chapter of the thesis. The purpose of a literature review (LR) is to understand and establish a familiarity with the topic. It requires a thorough examination of books, articles, and scholarly articles relevant to a particular area of research. If the literature review is not in conjunction with the problem statement and research questions, then the problem statement won’t be effectively addressed. This article explains how to review the literature to effectively address the thesis objective and problem statement.

Connecting the literature review to the problem statement

A problem statement catches the reader’s attention and establishes the significance of the topic (Hart, 2018). The purpose of a problem statement is to transform the generalized issue or a problem into a well-defined problem. For this, it is essential to first identify the research gap. It is used as a medium for developing a sustained and complete study (Machi and McEvoy, 2016). The research gap is identified after conducting a thorough literature review. Therefore, it is the bridge between the LR and the problem statement.

  • First, select a question or topic of a specific area. For instance, while choosing the marketing field, the specific area can be “Consumer satisfaction with electronics from Samsung”.
  • Next, identify the keywords related to the study and search for relevant secondary studies on the topic. For example, in the above case it can be “Consumer satisfaction with Samsung electronics”.
  • The available literature should be thoroughly studied to identify a research gap. For example, there is not enough evidence in context of the country Kenya. Another possible gap is, there is not enough evidence from a particular demographic, senior citizens.
  • Now, frame the problem statement. A specific format is recommended for writing the thesis problem statement. Evidence from the review of literature review should be well connected to it. This can be in the form of statistics, theory, or concepts.

For framing a robust problem statement, at least 15-20 key studies containing empirical evidence related to the research area must be explored.

Connecting it to the objectives of a thesis

The most important indicator of a research’s purpose is its objectives. It lays down simply what the thesis investigation is trying to achieve. A thesis can have more than one objective. Ideally, a thesis has 1 main aim and 4-5 supporting objectives. While the thesis problem statement is written after a thorough review of the literature, the objectives are framed before it.

The objectives of an investigation can be aligned to the review of the literature with a conceptual framework. The conceptual framework comprises one or more concepts or theories and findings from the literature (Xiao and Watson, 2019). It generally defines the concerned variables of the study and draws out the relation to each other. Thus, a conceptual framework is a critical analytical tool having multiple contexts and variations. Align the thesis objectives to the review of literature by earmarking the key variables and expanding them. It is that way where ideas are arranged to achieve the purpose of the investigation. This is a general perception while addressing a research problem. Some critical components of a conceptual framework are:

  • defining the topic,
  • elements,
  • qualitative characteristics,
  • features, and
  • presentation.

Apart from this, another linking aspect is a hypothesis. It is a prediction made about the result of the study. A hypothesis statement is crucial in research (Pecher et. al. 2020). This helps in avoiding blind investigation. The significance of a hypothesis in research can be illustrated as focused research, describing the core concept and providing a scope. The hypothesis statement in a study is drafted as per the aim and objective of the study. It is beneficial in connecting the literature review and the objectives. This signifies the relationship between the research objectives in various aspects of the review of the literature. The hypothesis must outline the critical thesis objectively. The hypothesis is an explicit assumption or an idea developed to be tested to examine its trueness and relevance. It is tentative and helps to test the reliability.

Strategise how to review the literature effectively

It can be summarized that to address the problem statement of a thesis effectively, formulating a clear research question is essential. The thesis objectives and problem statements must be adequately explained, which helps the reader understand the researcher’s philosophy clearly by using an appropriate conceptual framework. The literature review is an overview of various arguments which are supported by the research questions. The main points to keep in mind while framing the objectives are:

  • identifying the variables that need to be measured,
  • establishing a limit and,
  • avoiding the collection of unnecessary data.

Moreover, the critical components of a literature review are the information section, the body of the study, and the conclusion. Planning, reading, and a good investigation is the key strategy review literature.

References

  • Hart, C., 2018. Doing a literature review: Releasing the research imagination. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
  • Machi, L.A. and McEvoy, B.T., 2016. The literature review: Six steps to success. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
  • Pecher, D., Chu, Z. and Byrd, V.L., 2020, October. Developing Research Questions: A method for transforming a question into a problem statement. In 2020 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE) (pp. 1-8). IEEE.
  • Xiao, Y. and Watson, M., 2019. Guidance on conducting a systematic literature review. Journal of Planning Education and Research39(1), pp.93-112.

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