Dissertations: Researching, literature reviews and methods

A dissertation assesses your research skills. These skills include being able to find and critique existing research on your topic; this process can be called reviewing the literature or doing a literature review. Research skills also involve being able to select and justify an appropriate way to conduct your research; this process is often called your methodology or methods. It is important to have reasons for why your methods are suitable for answering your research question rather than just selecting the easiest or most familiar approach.

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources: 

Plan your time

Some long- and short-term planning is essential when working on a larger project. Have a look at this video for advice on planning your dissertation with some flexibility for the unexpected!

Have a search strategy

A key aspect of dissertations is demonstrating your wider reading and your ability to find a range of suitable sources. Have a look at this guide to creating, refining and saving your search strategy:

Literature reviews

A dissertation will usually involve reviewing the literature that relates to your topic. See our guide for more on what literature reviews are and how to do them:

Library resources

Your Academic Liaison Librarian is a good contact for help with finding sources for your dissertation. Use the course resource help page below to find your course-specific databases, journals, referencing information and support as well as your Academic Liaison Librarian's contact details.

What and how?

Having a clear idea of what you want to find out and how you will find this out makes researching much easier. Look at this guide to prompt you to think about the primary and secondary research you may need to do:


A dissertation will involve selecting, justifying and explaining the process that you use to gather your data and find an answer to your research question. This is usually called your methodology. Look at this guide to the methodology of a dissertation:

Understand more about research skills

If you are confused about research methods or how to structure literature reviews, it is worth investing time in reading more to understand these processes. Brookes Library have compiled a useful list of study skills books on dissertations that are available at Brookes: