May 23, 2015 By Chidi Rafael

Welcome to the second series of my planned four series on the theme ‘Secret Revealed: Discover what your supervisor is looking for and how your project is graded’. Without a doubt undoubtedly, the first series which covered the proposal and introductory chapter of a research project was a great read.

This second series will reveal to you my awesome reader what supervisors’ look out for in your literature review. So, as usual enjoy!


  1. Introduction
  2. Theoretical Framework
  3. Conceptual Review
  4. Empirical Review
  5. Summary of Chapter

N/B: The arrangement may vary considering different formats of some tertiary institutions. But for a well written review of related literature, these components are needed.

A brief introduction in your literature review will enable readers know what the chapter is all about. Not just that, it will also earn you good points. The introduction in the literature review section should be concise and it should spell out or highlight items to be discussed. Ideally, it should not exceed a standard page.

‘’This chapter gives an insight into various studies conducted by outstanding researchers, as well as explained terminologies with regards to the Challenges of Income Taxation in Ghana.
The chapter also gives a resume of the history and present status of the problem delineated by a concise review of previous studies into closely related problems.’’

Theoretical Framework
This section of literature review is very important and should be included in order to earn good marks in your research project. To ace your research project, you must do some research to develop relevant contents here. Students are expected to capture theories related to their study. These theories will later form the basis in which you study is based on. For easy understanding, if a student is writing on the effect of motivation on employee productivity; the Abraham Maslow’s Theory of motivation, Expectancy theory, Herzberg two factor theory etc., should come to mind.

Conceptual Framework
Another necessary aspect of the Literature Review is the conceptual framework or review. The conceptual framework covers all terminologies associated with the variables in the research. At a higher level (especially at the Masters and PhD levels), conceptual framework comes in form of a diagram or a figure showing how various variables interplay in the achievement of the research objectives or constructed ideas to solve an identified research problem.

As revealed above, a conceptual framework should define each variable present in the research. (click here to read more on variables). For example, using our topic ‘effects of motivation on employee productivity: two key-words stand out:  

Motivation                            Independent variable
Employee productivity                       Dependent variables

Picking out the independent variable (motivation), a good conceptual framework will encompass subject in form of sub-headings such as:

  1. Types of motivation
  2. Forms of motivation
  3. Factors of motivation
  4. Problems of Motivating Employees in an organization etc.

Same should follow for the dependent variables

Empirical Review
What has others done concerning your study?
What studies already conducted relate to your work?
Ever been asked these questions? Yes! …this is where you write your answers.
The empirical review section is basically where you bring into light previous research studies conducted on your field of research or studies. It could be a related study or exact previous study on your research area. Using our topic mentioned earlier, the empirical review will encompass  the findings and recommendations on the effects of motivation on employee productivity probably in China, Germany, Ikeja, Agege, Uyo, Oshogbo, Hong Kong etc. Here you bring in a bit of empirical evidence, properly documenting the researcher (s), year, location, sample size, finding as well as recommendations.

‘’Recent research has examined the motivational effects of redesigning jobs to connect employees to their impact on the beneficiaries of their work-the clients, customers, patients, and other end users who are affected by their efforts (Grant, 2007).
Organization scholars also used self determination theory to explain the motivation effects of transformational values leadership to inspire employees, model important values, and provide and judge (2003) conducted a field study and a laboratory experiment showing that transformational leaders encourage employees to set austomous and higher performance. Interestingly, their field study suggested that transformational leadership was associated positively with antonymous motivation but had no relationship with controlled motivation, while their lab experiment indicated that transformational leadership reduced controlled motivation more strongly than it increased antonymous motivation.’’

Summary of chapter
This section showcases your opinion on various related literatures reviewed in the chapter. This is where you are at liberty to state gaps identified in the research, your opinion on empirical and theoretical facts established, as well as where your study fits in the theoretical framework.

Where do I get material for my literature review?
1.       For conceptual framework, students can get good information from textbooks; research journals and the Internet (e.g. search engines like and bing, useful research site like
2.       For empirical review and theoretical framework, it is imperative to read research journals. Published research journal will provide a solid foundation to source for authentic facts that relates to your study. The methodology, findings and recommendation section of a research journal will enable the student to develop empirical facts for his/her study.
Examples of research journal sites are:

Bonus marks

  1. Literature reviewed must be related or related to the variables present in the research.
  2. References must not be too old, ideally references should not be beyond a decade (i.e. beyond 2005)
  3. All headings, diagrams and tables should be neatly arranged.
  4. Journal, text books, magazines, etc used in developing contents for the literature review should be related to your study
  5. Copy and paste from the journal published, textbook, internet, etc must be minimized.    

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