Dissertation Writing Retreats
The Graduate School Ofﬁce of Professional Development is pleased to offer multiple writing retreats for dissertation writers each year. Open to graduate students from all departments who are at the dissertation-writing stage, these retreats offer extensive structured time to write and develop effective writing strategies alongside fellow dissertators.
During the retreat, graduate student writers will:
- Have sustained writing time to develop effective rhythms for writing and make significant progress on a lengthy piece of writing.
- Participate in a community of writers: discuss their writing process, share goals, and offer support to build structures of accountability.
- Experiment with best-practice writing skills for things like drafting, goal setting, and time management.
2024 Retreat Dates
- January 22-26, 2024 - APPLY HERE!
- March 18-22, 2024 (Spring Break)
Why Would I Want to Participate?
Multiple participants have described the retreats as “transformative”!
Although it is only a one-week commitment, students complete an extraordinary amount of writing. Some cite the retreats as the “single most important thing in helping me get my dissertation completed” and others claim that they “got more done in four days than in the previous three months”!
Perhaps more importantly, participants join a community of writers and learn strategies for making progress. Writing a dissertation is hard and often isolating. The retreat has helped many strengthen their confidence and motivate them toward the finish:
"Without the retreat, I would still be struggling with drafting my third dissertation chapter. Instead, I've left the retreat with a complete draft, and have a much clearer understanding of the writing habits and strategies that work best for me. I'm also leaving the retreat feeling more satisfied and optimistic about where I am in my dissertation writing process.” “The retreat taught me the necessary strategies and skills to effectively maintain progress on my dissertation and feel positive about the process.” “Participating in the retreat renewed my confidence in my writing ability and gave me the tools I needed to finish the dissertation process.” “[This week was] helpful to reflect on your own writing habits and connect with other graduate students regardless of your background or stage in the process.” “Yes, you'll get a lot done but, if you're like me, even more worthwhile will be the self-confidence you'll gain in finding a community that shares your same anxieties, fears, and goals.” "Having the space and time to write, the focused and supportive environment, has allowed me to experience the most productive time and output since I started my doctoral degree at UMass. The retreat has allowed me to reflect on practices and habits and, most importantly, to apply them and get a feel of the benefits they can provide. I cannot recommend the dissertation writing retreat enough!” "By participating in the writing retreat, I was able to learn new practices that better helped me structure my writing goals and break down my writing into tasks that are sustainable. It's maybe a little cheesy - but I feel like I have "more wind in my sails" and I can actually see how I can break everything down to actually finish my dissertation."
How Do I Apply?
Acceptance in the program is competitive, and acceptance is based on the strength of the completed application form. We prioritize applicants who are actively writing dissertation chapters as full-time UMass graduate students and who express interest in having sustained writing time, participating in a community of writers, and experimenting with best-practice writing skills . Participants must commit to attending the entire retreat to be considered for acceptance. Preference is given to PhD dissertation writers. MFAs, master’s students, and those at the prospectus/proposal stage, as well as prior participants, will be considered if space is available.
Applications are solicited a few months before each retreat (approximately October-November for Winter; January-February for Spring, and March-April for Summer). This timeframe allows the accepted applicants to plan the logistics of being on campus that week and prepare their research for an intensive writing week. When an application period is open, a link to the application form will be posted above.
We cover best writing practices in a three-hour Bootcamp on Monday morning. Then, the rest of the week, from 9am-4pm, will be structured time to work, reflect on, and experiment with best practices. Lunch, coffee, tea, and snacks are provided.
Attendance all day for the entire week is mandatory, and participants should not plan to arrive late or leave early.
These writing retreats are offered at NO COST through the support of the Graduate School. Childcare scholarships for up to $150 per family are available from the Graduate School.
opdwriting [at] grad [dot] umass [dot] edu (Contact us for more information) on the Dissertation Writing Retreats.
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Writing Retreats are two-day hands-on writing experiences for any masters, doctoral or postdoctoral scholar to make progress on a major writing project in a supportive community. The retreat features dedicated working time (“writing sprints”), advice on time management and goal setting as well as opportunities to learn about relevant campus resources to support you throughout your writing journey. It is designed for participants to focus on a major writing project such as an article manuscript, dissertation, thesis, or capstone paper.
Two, two-day writing retreats will be offered in fall and spring semesters and one retreat will be held over the summer. These retreats will alternate between in-person and virtual Zoom sessions to extend the benefits of writing community to the greater Gradpack. Details about the retreats will be posted each semester.
Participants who attend four days of the writing retreat (ex. two, two-day retreats) can count the experience towards the new Writing Certificate.
Click the button below to view information about the current writing retreat on the registration page:
Contact Dr. Katie Homar with questions. See FAQs below for more information.
Fast Facts and Questions:
When does it take place.
Two, two-day writing retreats will be offered in fall and spring semesters and one retreat will be held over the summer. To make this retreat accessible to our “Gradpack,” some of these retreats will be virtual (Zoom) and some will be held in-person. Information about each specific retreat will be announced closer to each event.
Who can participate?
The Writing Retreat is open to all masters, Ph.D., and postdoctoral scholars in any discipline who are working on dissertations, theses, capstone projects, and other large writing projects. Participants who get the most out of this experience are working on larger writing projects that they intend to finish. Since the retreats are intensive, two-day commitments, we also ask that participants have permission from their advisors to attend the writing retreats.
How do I apply?
- Registration information about each retreat will be posted each semester approximately one month before the event.
- The capacity of in-person writing retreats is limited to 30 participants.
- All participants selected to participate in the writing retreat must have permission from their advisor since this is a two day commitment.
- All participants selected to participate in the writing retreat must commit to attending the entire two-day session (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) and sign a statement of expectations.
Is there a cost to participate in the writing retreat?
- Virtual writing retreats will be free.
- Participants in the in-person writing retreats will pay a $40 non-refundable fee to cover the cost of food, refreshments, and venue reservation.
Dissertation writers’ retreats.
Information about upcoming or recent retreats can be found below.
2023-2024 Dissertation Retreat Schedule
- Fall Break Dissertation Writers Retreat (Two-Day) – October 19-20, 2023 (registration open through Friday, Oct. 6)
- Spring Break Writers Retreat (Two-Day) – March 11-12, 2024
- Summer Dissertation Writers Retreat (Five-Day) – TBA
Registration links to be posted as retreat dates approach!
Fall Break 2023 Dissertation Writers’ Retreat
Sponsored by the Graduate School and the College of Arts and Science Dean’s Office
When: October 19-20, 2023 | 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM each day
Where: The Writing Studio (1801 Edgehill Ave., Suite 112)
Registration required: Complete the Retreat Registration Form by Friday, October 6.
Join us as the Writing Studio hosts a two-day Dissertation Writers’ Retreat over Vanderbilt’s fall break, October 19-20. Our retreats are designed to provide dissertating students with a community of support and opportunities for goal setting and skill building alongside loosely structured time to work individually on writing projects. Lunch and snacks will be provided.
We also welcome participation from graduate and professional students working on master’s theses and other advanced writing projects as well as postdoctoral fellows.
Questions? Please email [email protected] .
Typical Daily Retreat Schedule
- 9:00-9:20 AM – Small Group Check-In with Daily Goal Setting
- 9:20 AM-12:00 PM – Independent Writing Time
- 12:00-1:00 PM – Lunch (provided)
- 1:00-2:00 PM – Optional Daily Writing Workshop
- 2:00-3:50 PM – Optional One-On-One Writing Consultations
- 3:50-4:00 PM – End-of-Day Small Group Check-In
Dissertation writing retreat.
- Academics & Research
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The Dissertation Writing Retreat provides up to 19 participants with structure, time, and encouragement to make progress on their doctoral dissertations in the company of other writers.
The retreat is co-sponsored by the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning and the Graduate School, and is led by Charles Carroll, Assistant Director of the Writing Center. Graduate students must apply to participate.
There will be a pre-retreat workshop on Zoom on Thursday, July 7 from 2-4 pm (required for all participants). The retreat will be held from Monday, July 11 through Friday, July 15, 2022, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Who can Apply?
All doctoral students who are in the process of writing their dissertations; that is, students who have had their dissertation proposals accepted and have sufficient research completed and/or data collected to proceed with writing.
Apply online by June 17, 2022. The retreat can host up to 19 participants.
What is the Format?
Here is the schedule for a typical day during the retreat (the first and last days of the retreat will vary slightly):
- 9:00-9:15 am: morning goal setting and cohort check-in
- 9:15 am-noon: independent writing time
- Noon-1 pm: lunch (some lunches will have programming related to dissertation writing, while others will be purely social).
- 1-3:45 pm: afternoon cohort check-in
5th Floor, Science Library
- Attend all five days of the retreat (9:30am - 4:00pm, Mon.-Fri.) and participate in all morning and afternoon group meetings.
- Take breaks as needed. We suggest stocking up on coffee and tea in preparation for the retreat!
- Keep what happens during the retreat at the retreat.
Contact Charles Carroll , Assistant Director of the Writing Center, Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning
Previous Retreaters have Experience
What previous retreaters have said about their experience
Goal setting is so important. I have been able to set a personal schedule for myself and learned how to adjust to the time of day and other commitments that compete with my time, while also feeling good about my progress because I learned to set realistic goals."
"I recognized that some days are great for deep work and some are not, and there is a need to roll with the punches accordingly.The retreat served as a needed reset for my usual writing plan
I enjoyed meeting other PhD students working on their dissertations. It's nice not to feel 'alone' during the writing process.
This retreat not only provided a supportive and helpful community, but also gave me a consistent schedule and space to work. What's more, due to the food and tea, I did not need to leave that space, but rather could concentrate that time to work. I also found the skills I learned from the other writers to be incredibly productive.
The deep work presentation and the recent dissertators presentations were the most useful! Also, the timing was really great (starting the week with deep work analysis and ending with the dissertators showing us it will get done!).
--Isabelle R. Notter, PhD candidate in Sociology
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Thesis and Dissertation Writing Programs
In addition to one-on-one writing appointments, the Graduate Writing Center has a number of programs and workshops that offer support to dissertators and thesis writers.
During the academic year, the GWC offers single-session overview workshops on master's theses, dissertation proposals, and dissertation writing. Click our current schedule or browse past workshops to see when these topics may be offered. We also encourage you to look at relevant workshop videos .
The Graduate Writing Center sometimes organizes writing groups of various types (online writing groups, facilitated writing groups, or independent writing groups). We are also happy to help groups of graduate students self-organize into writing groups. For best practices on setting up writing groups, see our writing groups resource page . For information about writing groups currently being offered or organized by the GWC, see our writing groups web page.
Master's Thesis Mentoring Program
The Graduate Writing Center offers a program to support graduate students who are working on master's theses (or other master's capstone projects) and doctoral qualifying papers. The program provides workshops and one-on-one writing appointments. For more information, read Master's Thesis Mentoring Program .
Thesis Writing Retreats
The Graduate Writing Center offers writing retreats for graduate students who are working on master's theses, dissertation proposals, and dissertations. These programs are usually offered in spring break and summer. Retreats are open to all thesis and dissertation writers, as well as graduate students working on manuscripts related to their thesis or dissertation. For more information and registration instructions for spring break thesis retreats, scroll to the bottom of this web page and click on the relevant program. For programs offered during to the summer, go to the summer boot camp and thesis retreat page.
Summer Dissertation Boot Camps and Thesis Retreats
The Graduate Writing Center holds a number of programs during the summer to help graduate students who are at the dissertation and dissertation proposal stages. We also offer dissertation/thesis retreats during the summer. See our most current summer dissertation boot camp and program offerings for more information.
Online Summer Writing Retreat (All Fields)
For program information on the 2023 Summer Thesis Retreat, go to the 2023 summer dissertation program page here .
If you have any questions, please contact [email protected]
The Writing Center
- Summer Dissertation Retreats
For Summer 2023, we will be offering a virtual retreat in June and an in-person retreat later in the summer.
June virtual retreat dates: June 19-June 30 .
August in-person retreat dates: July 31-August 11
All PhD candidates at any stage in the dissertation process are eligible to participate. For more information, see below.
To request a spot: Email Rob Patterson, director of The Writing Center at [email protected] . Please include information regarding your program, where you are in the dissertation process, and a timeline for the work you hope to complete this summer. Please be sure to indicate whether you’re applying for the virtual retreat in June, the in-person retreat later in the summer, or both. The deadline to apply for the August retreat is Friday, June 30.
Cost: The retreat is free to participants.
What: Dissertation writers from across the university coming together for two weeks of concentrated dissertation-writing time each morning in a supportive group setting:
- Morning meeting with brief warm-up activities designed to jump start writing
- Focused, sustained work on dissertations in scheduled blocks of writing time
- Two workshop discussions on issues and strategies related to dissertation writing (each Wednesday around lunchtime)
- Priority access to one-on-one dissertation consultations with Writing Center staff
- Advice and support from fellow graduate students
- Brief cool-down activities designed to facilitate the next day’s writing
- Goal-setting and supportive accountability
Why: To help dissertation writers
- Maintain their writing momentum over the summer, OR
- Gain momentum from a less-than-productive spring and head into the summer having produced quality writing
- Build supportive, interdisciplinary relationships among dissertation writers
- Learn balanced and effective writing strategies and habits that continue post-degree
- Learn how to provide productive feedback to peers
Virtual Retreat in June: Monday, June 19-Friday, June 30 (except Saturday and Sunday). We begin each day at 9 a.m. central time and end at noon. One-on-one support available each afternoon. This option will take place online via Zoom.
In-person Retreat in August: Monday, July 31-Friday, August 11 (except Saturday and Sunday). We begin each day at 9 a.m., break for lunch, and resume for afternoon writing sessions until 3 p.m.. One-on-one support is also available each afternoon. This option will take place in The Writing Center on the lower level of Mallinckrodt.
Questions: Email [email protected]
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- / Spring Dissertation Writing Retreat
The University Writing Center, with support from the Graduate School , will host its tweflth annual Dissertation Writing Retreat in person May 15-19, 2023. We encourage all writers currently working on their dissertations to apply. In past retreats, we have worked with writers representing a range of disciplines from Public Health to Engineering to Social Work to Humanities. Some of these writers had just begun writing, some were in the middle of their writing projects, and others were getting close to completing their dissertations. Regardless of where they were in the process, all the participants made progress on their dissertations and left with a set of writing strategies that would help them maintain their momentum on their projects. Learn about the experiences of participants from past retreats .
This year's retreat will occur May 15-19 daily from 8:30 am to 4:15 pm in the University Writing Center in Ekstrom Library (room 132). Each day writers will write for several hours, take part in short, writing-focused workshops, enjoy lunch, and meet with a writing consultant. The University Writing Center consultants who work during the retreat are experienced writing consultants and teachers; many are also PhD students currently working on their own dissertations. Each participant in the retreat will be paired with the same consultant for the entire week. There is no fee for participating. Participants must be willing and able to participate for the full retreat.
The deadline for applications for the Dissertation Writing Retreat is Monday, April 3, 2023 .
Completed applications are considered and accepted on a rolling basis, in the order in which they are received.
A completed application consists of the following materials:
- A letter written by the applicant to the retreat coordinators, stating the reasons for applying for the retreat and goals for the week.
- A letter of support written by the writer’s adviser/director.
- Documents to demonstrate progress and status of the dissertation, (drafts, proposals, etc.).
Priority will be will given to applicants who have not previously participated in a Dissertation Writing Retreat.
The deadline for applications has closed for Spring 2023. Please check back for future retreats.
If you have questions about the retreat, contact the University Writing Center at 502-852-2173 or [email protected] .
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Dissertation & Thesis Retreat: Boot Camp and Writing Sessions
- Spring 2023 Schedule
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Previous Boot Camp Links
- Boot Camp Schedule from Spring 2020
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Fall 2022 Schedule
Fall 2021 program.
We will not record the sessions.
- Full Program & Schedule Description of each session and the schedule
Summer 2021 Agenda
*These sessions will be recorded and recording link posted to this guide
Summer 2021 Virtual Writing Retreat
What: Each semester, FSU Libraries hosts a Writing Retreat to support graduate scholars as they finish their degree requirements. This week-long event features Zoom-moderated blocks of time to get your writing projects completed, be it a Dissertation, a Thesis, a publication, or a class project.
When: For Summer 2021, sessions will take place Wednesday, June 23rd through Wednesday, June 30th. Multiple time slots are featured on most days, please see the table below. You can sign up for 1, 2, 3, or all. The choice is yours!
Where: All writing sessions will be online, via Zoom.
How much is it? Registration is FREE for this event!
How To Register: Click on this link to register for this FREE event.
Please note: times are still being confirmed, but will be set asap
Spring 2021 Boot Camp Agenda
*These sessions will be recorded and recording link posted to this guide within 1 week of the Boot Camp.
Spring 2021 Virtual Writing Springboard
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- Last Updated: Apr 1, 2023 10:45 AM
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The Writing Place
Writing retreats faq, what can i expect from writing retreats.
Writing Retreats take place on Zoom, and each last four hours. During optional check-ins at the beginning, middle, and end of each retreat, students can respond to writing prompts, discuss writing and the writing process with peers, and reach out in the group chat for help with specific writing challenges. Use of camera and microphone is optional. While participants are encouraged to attend entire sessions, they are welcome to drop in or out at any time.
How do Writing Retreats differ from Interdisciplinary Writing Groups or Dissertation Boot Camp?
Writing Retreats provide a flexible but regular (virtual) space and time throughout the quarter for graduate students to write together. Unlike Writing Groups, Writing Retreats establish a consistent and concurrent writing time for you to work alongside other students. Participants are encouraged to discuss writing, but these conversations are not mandatory. Unlike Boot Camp, Writing Retreats run throughout the quarter, and students can participate in as many or as few as they like!
When are Writing Retreats, and how do I participate?
All graduate students are welcome to drop in at any point during Writing Retreats, but registration is required for each. Register for individual Writing Retreats using the links below.
If you have any additional questions, please contact Dylan Rollo at [email protected].
- Writing Retreats
During summer sessions, the Writing Center offers writing retreats allow graduate student participants to devote a week to working on their dissertation, thesis, or other major piece of writing.
Participants spend a majority of their time writing; however the program sometimes also includes discussions on topics relevant to graduate student writers, including motivation, goal setting, and time management.
Participants benefit from the structure of daily writing sessions and the social support of other participants to facilitate progress on their dissertation. They do not receive feedback on their draft; rather, the Dissertation Retreat provides support for their writing process .
Check this page for information about upcoming writing retreats.
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Dissertation retreats are multiple-day, focused writing events to help you make significant progress toward completion of major projects. Graduate students in any discipline are eligible to participate. While priority registration is given to dissertation writers, those writing a master's thesis can be accepted if space available. You must be able to attend all days of the retreat. Space is limited so be sure to apply early.
When are the retreats scheduled?
A minimum of four dissertation retreats are held each year: fall semester finals week; spring semester the week before classes begin; spring break; and summer (where several may occur).
While retreats are not instructional workshops, they do provide the following:
- An intensive writing environment.
- A quiet, comfortable writing space.
- Writing strategies from writing consultants.
- Peer motivation and support.
- A structured writing schedule.
- Light refreshments.
The Graduate School co-sponsors dissertation retreats with the Center for Excellence in Writing.
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- Knowledge Base
- How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates
How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates
Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.
What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .
There are five key steps to writing a literature review:
- Search for relevant literature
- Evaluate sources
- Identify themes, debates, and gaps
- Outline the structure
- Write your literature review
A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.
Table of contents
What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.
- Quick Run-through
- Step 1 & 2
When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:
- Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
- Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
- Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
- Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
- Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.
Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.
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See an example
Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.
- Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
- Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
- Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
- Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)
You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.
Download Word doc Download Google doc
Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .
If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .
Make a list of keywords
Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.
- Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
- Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
- Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth
Search for relevant sources
Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:
- Your university’s library catalogue
- Google Scholar
- Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
- Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
- EconLit (economics)
- Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)
You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.
Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.
You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.
For each publication, ask yourself:
- What question or problem is the author addressing?
- What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
- What are the key theories, models, and methods?
- Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
- What are the results and conclusions of the study?
- How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?
Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.
You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.
Take notes and cite your sources
As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.
It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:
- Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
- Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
- Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
- Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
- Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?
This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.
- Most research has focused on young women.
- There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
- But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.
There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).
The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.
Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.
If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.
For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.
If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:
- Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
- Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
- Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources
A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.
You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.
Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.
The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.
Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.
As you write, you can follow these tips:
- Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
- Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
- Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
- Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts
In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.
When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !
This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.
Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.
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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
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A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .
It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.
There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:
- To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
- To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
- To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
- To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
- To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic
Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.
The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .
A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .
An annotated bibliography is a list of source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a paper .
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Why participate in the Dissertation Writing Retreat?
Past participants have told us that the retreat was “invaluable”:.
- The structure and positive environment of the retreat made my work feel less burdensome and POSSIBLE! This is what I have needed most in my dissertation writing process: hope and confidence. The retreat has given me both of those things.
- I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to participate and work with the awesome consultants. This is only the beginning to me becoming a more confident writer. I'm that much closer to being a Ph.D. graduate.
- I gained some important trials (successes and failures) in carving out space for writing (or other dissertation work). I gained important daily structure that helped me place boundaries between work and life time (which was super helpful, coming so soon after prelims).
- Prior to the retreat my dissertation seemed huge and overwhelming. This retreat has given me skills to take on small chunks and work through my writing difficulties. I would like to thank you especially for providing us with resources that we can use now and in our careers. Because of this retreat I have learned to enjoy writing as much as research.
- The retreat has helped me to be even more organized about the dissertation process, particularly with respect to setting reasonable and flexible goals. Moving forward, I feel that I can even more clearly share my goals with my advisors.
- I feel like I gained: 1) joy in writing, 2) days of structured writing work, 3) sense of belonging, 4) many written pages, 5) aha! moments regarding my own struggles with engaging with the dissertation (to name a few).
When asked if they would recommend the retreat to other dissertators, participants told us...
- Yes! Great to connect with other dissertators, great to get some fresh perspective on how writing gets done. Great to have access to writing consultants, and to discuss my work with people outside my field.
- YES!! This is a great environment for any dissertator: the support from both the consultants and fellow writers is priceless.
- YES, because it has reminded me of my own value and voice, that I can do this thing!, and expanded what feels possible in the next year.
- Absolutely! I already did. I found it to be inspiring (in the sense of finally realizing that I could actually finish this dissertation—this is the first time I have felt like this is doable and that I WILL finish). The sense of community gave me the feeling that the worries and fears I had were pretty common and that people had worked through them and actually finished.
When asked about what Gather was like (first used in Summer 2021), participants told us...
- It was the best online environment I have worked in. I've seen similar attempts for virtual conferences, but this one worked the best. And it was so nice to have a break from Zoom. It also allowed for more natural interactions than Zoom.
- I was honestly pretty skeptical of the space—I imagined it would feel a lot like the energy-sucking vortex, Zoom. But the avatars, the integration of audio and chat, and something that felt like a physical space surprised me in really positive ways. I have found myself day dreaming about to recommend Gather to various online conference I am apart of in the coming months.
- I enjoyed this space, and I enjoyed having my own little "spot" each day. Haha. It was a really nice switch from Zoom and I liked how you could have conversations and walk by and sort of listen in on snippets of conversations, just like in real life. I liked that we could be cameras on, cameras off, use the chat—it was a great use of space.
Light bulb photo by Kat Clay, used with permission under a creative commons license. See more of this photographer's work here .
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Dissertation Writing Retreat
Dissertation Writing Retreat:
When: February 10-11, 2024
Where: Hybrid. In-Person (Details will be provided by e-mail); Virtual (Access link will be provided via email)
The Dissertation Writing Retreat is open to graduate students completing their dissertations across all disciplines, as well as those working on a thesis or research project at the graduate level.
The two-day dissertation writing retreat program is designed to provide participants with focused time and a supportive and resourceful environment to work on their dissertation, this includes but not limited to brainstorming and starting out a draft, asking for feedback and research tools, wrapping up with final formatting and submission to OhioLINK.
The intended participation goals are:
- Enhanced Focus and Productivity
- Effective Time Management
- Overcoming Writer’s Block
- Interacting with a Community of Writers
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- Program Overview
Contact Dr. Ruth Lu at [email protected] .
3-day Dissertation Writing Retreat
This jumpstarted my writing and put me in a position to finish my dissertation on time! I wrote just over 30 pages alongside the other dissertators, and it was truly invaluable to connect with others who were in a similar position as me to learn how to set productive writing goals, avoid procrastinating, and work through complex ideas.
The next 3-day Dissertation Writing Retreat will be held on January 9 th , 10th, 11th, 2024. This event is held virtually and is free of charge.
The registration deadline is Wednesday, January 3, 2024. Apply Now .
This WRITING RETREAT is held for three consecutive days and includes supported co-writing, guidance on writing process, and camaraderie. You’ll find your rhythm writing alongside a community of peers. We know working virtually may come with interruptions, but we ask participants to try to commit to three full days of writing as much as possible. You will get more from this if you do.
In past years, participants of these 3-day events have achieved 1-2 chapter drafts, expanded outlines, sections of creative works, edited sections of writing, found confidence in their writing, and gained an understanding of the benefits of co-writing. Many students continue with writing groups after these Dissertation Writing Retreats.
We have listened to student feedback and continue to fine tune this offering in a manner that is well-suited to working virtually, as this allows us to reach the greatest number of individuals. Our breaks, programming, and schedule make participating in the Dissertation Writing Retreat comfortable and productive for everyone.
I had been feeling really stuck with my work, and this event loosened my thoughts up a bit and allowed me to make more critical connections to the literature. I lessened the amount of unnecessary self-editing and just wrote.
Who is the 3-day Dissertation Writing Retreat for?
The Dissertation Writing Retreat is limited to doctoral dissertators and students in the terminal MFA programs. PhD students must:
- Be in good academic standing.
- Have achieved Dissertator status.
- Have passed the proposal stage and be in the writing phase.
What should I expect during the Dissertation Writing Retreat ?
- Three days of writing, eight hours each, spent focused on your dissertation
- A structured day with periods of quiet writing and regular breaks
- Opportunity for connection to other dissertators at UWM
- Introduction to goal setting and effective writing strategies
- Guidance on writing process from faculty experts
- Optional breaktime activities to stay fresh and/or to provide information about dissertation next-steps.
- A community of fellow dissertators at UWM
The real conversations about writing, barriers, and tangible suggestions to be a better writer are incredibly valuable.
What do I need for the Dissertation Writing Retreat?
- A comfortable private space where you can write for long periods and join discussions with other participants.
- Your own computer for writing. (You will need to sustain connectivity across these 3 days, so plan to have access to a power source without disrupting your work.)
- Internet access.
- A speaker and microphone on your device.
- A commitment to focused work on your dissertation during these 3 days.
- Chocolate and coffee?!
- A “can do” attitude. We believe in you!
The cost for participation is free ! All UWM Dissertators are invited to apply. Eligible participants will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The 3-day Dissertation Writing Retreat will be limited to a maximum of 50 participants.
To participate, you must commit to attending all three days. Of course, we understand that working virtually from home involves all sorts of interruptions and occasional distractions, but we ask all participants to plan to work as much as possible all three days.
Writing with a group was very helpful to me. So often, I lose motivation and focus when I am on my own, but being surrounded by dozens of other graduate students for three days in a row was great.
We are happy to provide more information and discuss the program with you. Please reach out by email to our professional development intern, Nick Kanetzke ( [email protected] )
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Research Writing Retreat for Graduate Students
The Graduate College is committed to doing whatever it takes to help you succeed. In doing so, we’re excited to offer Research Writing Retreats for Graduate Students during the academic year. Our program has been developed to help provide you with a quiet space so you can remain focused on your writing as well as network with other colleagues. Plus, we will be providing you all of your meals in one place, so you don't have to break your focus by leaving to eat.
Research Writing Retreat will give students:
- A quiet space with computers (or bring your own laptop).
- Structured time to write.
- Opportunities to schedule statistical consulting appointments leading up to the weekend, (only available for Kent State students).
- Meals throughout the days of attendance, in addition to lots of coffee and tea.
- The opportunity to meet other students working on their writing.
- The opportunity to make connections for developing writing and support groups outside of the retreat.
- Resource materials related to research and writing.
Some of the progress that students made over our Research Writing Retreat for Graduate Students included:
- Completing drafts of two chapters.
- Completing half of a research proposal.
- Determining their sample procedure and reviewing the first three chapters to make them more parallel.
- Reorganizing their paper and correcting formatting issues.
The next Retreat will take place on February 9 & 10, 2024 in the University Library Garden Room. The schedule for each day can be found below.
Friday, February 9
- 8-8:30 a.m. | Check-In
- 8:30-8:45 a.m. | Welcome
- 8:45-9:15 a.m. | Writing Tips
- 9:15-9:30 a.m. | Goal Setting
- 9:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. | Writing Time
- 12-1 p.m. | Lunch
- 1-5 p.m. | Writing Time
- 5-6 p.m. | Dinner
- 6-7:30 p.m. | Writing Time
- 7:30-7:45 p.m. | Review of Goals
Saturday, February 10
- 9-9:30 a.m. | Check-In
- 9:30-9:45 a.m. | Welcome and Goal Setting
- 9:45 a.m. - 12 p.m. | Writing Time
- 1-4:30 p.m. | Writing Time
- 4:30-4:45 p.m. | Review of Goals
*Payment is $30 for two consecutive days of Retreat or $20 for one day of Retreat. Register for the Research Writing Retreat!
We are committed to accessible and inclusive events. If you need disability accommodations, please contact the Graduate College at [email protected] .
If you have questions about Research Writing Retreat for Graduate Students, please contact the Graduate College at [email protected] .
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Dissertation writing retreats – think of it as a dissertation vacation. Recharge, refocus, and get the one-on-one and small group assistance you need to get your project organized and on track. More information on our upcoming August retreat (in beautiful Asheville, NC) coming soon! Fill out the form below to receive information on the retreat. Retreats are all-inclusive and kept to very small groups (5-6 people), so space is extremely limited!
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Graduate Writing Center: Dissertation Proposal (STEM) Workshop
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Description: This workshop, geared toward students in STEM fields, will cover dissertation proposal structures and components, as well as writing process strategies and time management. In addition, we will address issues related to the oral defense portion of the proposal.
Presenter: Aidan Howenstine, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Graduate Writing Consultant
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