Introduction versus Lit Review

I have seen a few students recently who are struggling with the difference between a literature review and either a research proposal or an introduction.

In the psychology dept. the masters students were given guidance on this at the start of the year. However, it has come to my attention that many other students (including many who have not had the undergraduate experience of writing a dissertation, whether they be international students or joint honors students) are unclear on both what sets the projects apart and also the requirements for each.

I have adapted the advice that I was given and have created a document for the U Drive (U:) that should be more generic, with additional links to further support – please feel free to amend further if necessary.

The links provided within the document are shown below, they may be of use to those reading from a wider audience: – Online PDF – Online video tutorial

Writing an abstract for proposed research…

An abstract is used to present either proposed research or completed research to be published. Information on the latter is readily taught and readily available. However, in sessions recently I have noticed that abstract guidance for literature reviews or proposals is quite scarce. Also, it is around this time of year that students may be submitting such proposals, abstract included. Furthermore, writing an abstract for a proposal is an extremely important skill for the future as it may be required to obtain research funding (Black, 2014).

As opposed to a research dissertation abstract, writing a summary for a literature review or project proposal requires slightly different questions to be answered.

For a research proposal abstract the following elements are important (UNLV, 2013):

  1. A rationale for the choice of topic indicating its importance within the field or discipline for which you are writing.
  2. A brief summary of your review of the existing published work
  3. An outline of the intended approach or methodology
  4. Expected finding/s
  5. Implications of such finding/s

When writing an abstract for a literature review, the first two points above may be considered and described in more detail.

The word count of a proposal abstract can vary depending on the purpose of the summary. Within the university setting, for assignments, the guideline is usually around the 150-200 mark. However, for submissions to funding agencies students should be aware that the length of these abstracts depends on the requirements of the funding body and may be up to a page/500 words in length required. When affiliated with a company or presenting proposed research from a research group a WHO, WHAT, WHERE, HOW, WHEN and WHY approach is suggested as a way of covering all of the essentials about the work you intend to carry out (Biscoe, n.d.).


Web links to sources:

Black, C. (2014). Retrieved from:

Biscoe, B. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

UNLV writing centre. (2013). Retrieved from: