Traditional methods and skills needed by PhD researchers for preparing a
dissertation literature review were presented in doctoral education programs, primarily
through specialized text, studies, and advisor-mentor guidance. As the relationship
between the mentor and mentee becomes established, discussions were focused on
conceptualizing a research problem, and discovering how to frame a research study
through review of literature. Yob and Crawford (2012) found that if the mentor discussed
literature reviewing as a professional practice, the mentee-researcher learned to engage in
the aspects of critical reflection and practical activities of scholarship. Professional
practice skills include such topics as research literacy, or having an in-depth knowledge
of the literature (Green, 2009), quality assessment in literature (Fitt, Walker, & Leary,
2010), and on learning to apply mentor instruction for literature synthesis (Lee, 2008).
The development of and iterations needed for conceptual frameworks require skills and
critical thinking that serve these scholars well beyond their years as graduate students
According to Kucan (2011) preparation of the dissertation literature review needs
to be conceptualized as a professional practice from the start. When instructor advisors
engage in the practice of scholarship with PhD researchers a centralized attention is
required of them, and this is often more intense than what these faculty members may
experience in their other professional duties. Advising and mentoring relationships begin
even before learners set out to design their own studies, when guided by their mentors
they engage in the practical thinking of scholarship through critical reflection. With these
experiences, novice researchers thus gain opportunities to practice seminar-style analysis
and evaluation of dissertation literature reviews (Kucan, 2011).
In a qualitative study by Zaporozhetz (1987) academic and self-help textbooks on
research methodology were examined for instructional content on preparation of the
dissertation literature review. Interviews of faculty advisors revealed a very limited
finding of resources on literature reviewing, and faculty viewpoints indicated that less
attention was placed on that section of a dissertation. Zaporozhetz (1987) reported that
faculty who emphasized the literature review as a central focus along with methodology
choice, were more likely to give literature reviewing more importance during advisement.
However, if the literature review was seen as a product or outcome of the research,
advisors would not spend as much time on this section.
More recent, a study that examined academic texts for instructions on preparation
of dissertation literature reviews (Fitt, 2011) reported insufficient and limited guidance
provided for writers. Some well-known scoring rubrics used for rating a dissertation
literature review can provide self-evaluation help for PhD writers (Boote & Beile, 2005;
Cooper, 1989; Fitt, Walker, & Leary, 2009; Pan, 2003) but are often under-referenced.
Lesham and Trafford (2007) studied doctoral researchers, advisors, and
examiners, for their difficulty in describing and documenting of the conceptual
framework for dissertation studies. In order to conceptualize a research problem in a
literature review, their study recommended increased preliminary instruction related to
building upon theoretical constructs, paradigm, and interpretive strategies. PhD
researchers are in need of specialized instruction on preparation of literature reviews.
Faculty-advisors engage researchers who are approaching the literature search with
concentrated applications of traditional well-identified scholarly practices. However,
what is not explicitly discussed is the need for critical reflection at an advanced selfgenerative
level that denotes true scholarship (Lee, 2008; Hall & Burns, 2009;