Literature review and theoretical framework


  • It is the students’ responsibility to search for relevant literature, choose and apply theory to their project.
  • Supervisors can comment on literature and may in some cases offer specific suggestions for literature to read. However, the student should first expect this to happen as they themselves have presented their own literature search and/or a plan for a literature search.

Courses that train students for this part

  • Several courses in the master programs train students in creating a literature review. The following list provides examples of courses that have provided such training:
    • Applied Market Strategy
    • Research Methods for International Market Analysis.
    • Consumption Studies
    • Marketing Theory
    • Library course on information search (for all thesis students)


General advice & answers to FAQ

  • There are several stages in a literature search. At the start of the research process, the literature search will often be explorative. As students circle in on a topic/field it often becomes more critical and specific. Later in the project stage, students may have to conduct a literature search again, in order to confirm their ideas/findings.

The following questions will be useful for the students to ask themselves while searching for and reading through literature:

  • How does the literature contribute to this thesis?
  • How has the theoretical foundation informed data-collection/analysis? 

To write up a literature review and/or a theoretical framework, students should consider including the following parts:

  • Synthesize what is known about the problem
  • Discuss how this relates to the studied problem
  • Discuss how the theory will be used in this thesis
  • Relate the discussion to the following methods and analysis/analyses chapters

As a minimum, the student should be able to summarize literature, analyze it and identify key concepts in relation to the chosen problem, and address their relevance and limitations to the study at hand. To reach a higher level, the student should be able to synthesize what has already been written about the problem. To synthesize what has been written about the problem, the students should engage in a thorough discussion of theories, compare, contrast and critically evaluate them in relation to the project context, and draw conclusions about the literature on this basis.

Students at SDU have access to a broad range of literature and databases through the university library. The University library at SDU provides extensive help on how to structure a literature search and utilize the resources available in the form of guidelines, tutorials and literature search courses (useful links at the end of this document). Students are therefore strongly advised to explore the library webpage or to talk to the librarians at their campus.