Writing Literature Review

Literature Review
Business Research
Literature Review
• How to search
• How to read
• How to write
Goals of a literature review
• To generate and refine your research ideas
• To demonstrate familiarity with a body of knowledge
• To show the development of previous research and how
the current project is linked to it—‘positioning’ your
• To integrate and summarise what is known in a given area
- areas of agreement/disagreement
- key questions
Types of Literature
Popular literature
• addressed to a general audience
• almost always secondary source of information
• e.g. Financial Times, Guardian, Wall Street Journal,
Scholarly Literature
• addressed to a specialized audience (experts in the
• usually primary source of information
• e.g. American Economic Review, Journal of Economic
Literature, Journal of Econometrics, Journal of Labor
Economics, etc.
How to search: effective search strategy
How to search scholarly literature
• Browsing
Journal of Economic Perspectives
Journal of Economic Literature
• Keyword searching
Online databases: Academic Search Premier, Business Source
Premier, Emerald, JSTOR, ScienceDirect.
Use Boolean operators and wildcard character:
AND is used to narrow a search;
OR is used to widen a search;
NOT means exclude;
wildcard character (*)
A Basic Search Strategy
Begin by stating your research topic or question;
Identify important concepts relevant to your topic;
Brainstorm to create a list of keywords that describe these concepts;
Determine any synonyms to these keywords;
Choose a subject approach; that is, determine which discipline or
disciplines are likely to have literature on your topic;
6. Determine which search features may apply (e.g. Boolean operators,
7. Choose an appropriate database to search the given subject; for
example, JSTOR;
8. Read the search instructions for the database;
9. Create a search expression using the appropriate syntax;
10. View the results;
11. Modify the search if necessary (return to Step 2);
12. Try the same search with another database (return to Step 6)
How to Read Critically
• Scholarly work should be read differently
• You need to have a conversation with the paper
– What arguments is the paper making? Why are they
important? Do you agree? Why or why not?
• Critical Distinctions
Who is speaking vs. the idea they address
Matters of taste vs. matters of judgment
Fact vs. Interpretation
Literal statements vs. ironic statements
The validity of an idea vs. the expression of that idea.
Getting through a Journal Article
• It is very easy to get discouraged by the technical jargon,
mathematics, and/or econometrics in an academic paper
• Don’t! You can usually understand the key points of a paper
even without any background.
• Helpful tips:
– Write down unfamiliar terminology and look it up
– Read the introduction and conclusion first
– Only highlight/take notes until you have completed reading a section.
– Trust in the peer-review process: the math is usually right.
– Keep reading, eventually the author will explain the key points in nice
plain language.
– Write an abstract of the paper in your own words.
Identifying an Author’s Argument
The following are questions you should ask yourself whilst
reading a journal article:
What question is the author asking?
What answer does the author propose?
In what ways does the study improve upon previous
How does the proposed answer compare with that
provided by previous research?
What are the major logical or theoretical reasons for the
author’s argument?
What empirical evidence does the author provide?
What assumptions is the author making in his or her
Evaluating the Author’s Argument
Asking the following questions help you to guide critical
1. Does the theoretical analysis make sense?
2. Are the data used adequate to the task?
3. Does the empirical methodology adequately test the
4. Are the assumptions reasonable?
5. Is the analysis (theoretical and empirical) clearly
6. Do the conclusions follow from the evidence
7. On balance, is the author’s argument convincing to
How to write a literature review
Remember that literature reviews are organised around
ideas, and not the sources.
To help you with this:
• Identify shared themes, ideas, or issues that the
literature sources?
• Is there an idea that seems to be missing?
• Do you like the theoretical approach in the literature?
• What are the trends in the literature or current debates
or developments?
Develop an overall thesis statement that includes your
perspective on the material you have reviewed
How to write a literature review
Literature reviews contain
• Introduction: This should present the core idea – the
thesis statement around which the argument will
develop. This suggests the organisational pattern.
• Body: This presents your summarisation, synthesis
and argument with the existing literature.
• Conclusion: This concludes your argument that you
have developed from the literature, and identifies
the implications for your own study.
• Greenlaw S. (2006) Doing Economics: a guide
to understanding and carrying out economic
research. Houghton Mifflin Company. Ch. 3, 6,
and 12.
• Saunders, M, Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2009)
Research Methods for Business Students, 5th
edition, Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall.
Ch. 3