I am in the early stages of my PhD and I am trying to put together a literature review of my topic. My intention is that this review will eventually be included in my thesis, something like "the chapter that describes the state of the art in the domain."
My subject is soft matter physics and a large number of theses have already been written this topic. When looking at the literature reviews included in these other works I've noticed that:
- The sequence of ideas is often the same (this makes sense, so why not?)
- Cited papers are always the same, even though 20 years elapsed between the first and last thesis. Moreover, papers from the 30's are cited but no one in my lab seems to have a copy available?
My hypothesis is that these theses are derived from some sort of a Mother of All Thesis, and that paraphrasing the work of the previous student is OK.
So, what makes a good literature review?
How do you notice that a literature review is sloppy?
PS: I posted this question because I assume many of you have experience with this process either in your own PhD work, or as a supervisor where you have had to deal with paraphrasing of your students.
PS2: I am not asking about making proper citations, LaTeX+BibTeX handles that like a charm.