Friday, 30 October 2020

Literature review resources

Over time, I have put together a list of resources for my supervisory students, to help them with researching, constructing and writing literature reviews.  The items listed in this post are those which I think are the most helpful for early researchers. 

I thought that it would be useful to note what this list is now. Then, as this list grows and changes, this list will give me an opportunity to track the development and refinement of my advice over time. Hmm. There might be a research project in that!

The resources fall into five categories, as follows:

1.       Critique the literature you collect by reading:

a.       Get a copy of Coughlan et al (2007) from your library

b.       Get a copy of Yeong (2014) from your library, or from Amazon (here)

c. (University of Queensland, 2020)

d. (WikiHow, 2020)

2.       Context. Ten quick tips for “exploring really fresh relationships between form and content, and [to help you get] your content in context” (Brabazon, 24 July 2017, 2:52) so your literature review is “sharp, it’s edgy” (3.15), and to show “your confidence and your competence [in handling] the work of others” (18:38):

1.       Frame “the literature review is a frame […driven by an underlying] organizing principle”, idea, or theory (3:42). Be explicit about what is included and what is not, and why the exclusions

2.       Purpose “before you start writing […] sit down and write one sentence [explaining] what are you hoping to get out of this literature” (5:09)

3.       Finding a gap your research should prove by pin-pointing the gap that you have made “an original contribution to knowledge” (7:06), and your examiners need to see that you can demonstrate competence in critique and identifying originality

4.       Academic rigour “be accurate and rigorous” (8:07) with citations, references and quotations

5.       Interpretation “you are reading for interpretation and not for fact” (9:28) and need to explain WHY you have included elements and how they sit alongside the gap

6.       Integration knitting all the ideas together into a cohesive whole that develops your ideas “make sure that your literature review is integrated and not fragmented” (9:58)

7.       Meta-analyses look for meta-analyses in your field to get a holistic overview of the area, and this will help you “focus on the WHY” (11:47), and also remember to compare both your and the author’s positioning within the field (philosophy) your examiner can see that you understand where you sit, and that your positioning is aligned with your method

8.       Literature review not systematic review Ignore. Doesn’t really apply to business (the latter is used in the health sciences, and is effectively a literature review meta-analysis on a very prescriptive set of tight criteria to find patterns in research studies, or the cause of a schism. More info at

9.       Theory “theory is the key moment in the construction of knowledge” (16:21) and needs to be knitted into the fabric of the chapter

10.   Signposting “the literature review is the spine of your thesis” (17:34) so use many headings (“vertebrae”) to signal where your literature review is going to remind you of the structure that knits the whole into one cohesive narrative. The headings may disappear, but they help to ensure that your frame is complete (see 1)

3.       Synthesising.

a.       Ensure you synthesise (here)

b.       Watch how to synthesise at (Sheridan, 2013)

c.       More information on synthesising at (Uni Learning, 2000)

4.       Signposting. To help you construct the areas to signpost within your literature review:

a.       Read Section 2 of Alber (2011), pages 25 to 65, particularly noting the activity boxes, and

b.       Read Chapter 4 of Ang, Conducting a literature review (2011), and

c.       Read Queen's University Belfast on Sign-posting (2013), here

5.       To ensure the quality of journals, read University of Michigan - Journal Rankings external data, 2009.pdf. To avoid predatory journals, check the list at



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