While I was looking for something else this evening I came across this article:
Boote, D. N., & Beile, P. (2005). Scholars before researchers: On the centrality of the dissertation literature review in research preparation. Educational Researcher, 34(6), 3-15.
It’s available online as PDF from the link above. This extract summarises its thrust:
A thorough, sophisticated literature review is the foundation and inspiration for substantial, useful research. The complex nature of education research demands such thorough, sophisticated reviews. Although doctoral education is a key means for improving education research, the literature has given short shrift to the dissertation literature review. This article suggests criteria to evaluate the quality of dissertation literature reviews and reports a study that examined dissertations at three universities. Acquiring the skills and knowledge required to be education scholars, able to analyze and synthesize the research in a field of specialization, should be the focal, integrative activity of predissertation doctoral education. Such scholarship is a prerequisite for increased methodological sophistication and for improving the usefulness of education research.
As well as making the case for the importance of the literature review, the article lays out criteria that should be helpful for those preparing reviews and those charged with ensuring they are up to standard.