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Business Research Methods : Online Learning

What is a literature review

“A literature review is a description of the literature relevant to a particular field or topic. It gives an overview of what has been said, who the key writers are, what are the prevailing theories and hypotheses, what questions are being asked, and what methods and methodologies are appropriate and useful" (Emerald Insight).

A literature review is not just a summary of everything you have read on the topic.  It is a critical analysis of the existing research relevant to your topic, and you should show how the literature relates to your topic and identify any gaps in the area of research.

Click on the links below for some useful guidance from the University of Reading:

How is it different?

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It's on a much larger scale from your research for previous modules.

You may need to devise new ways of searching and managing your results.

Think about:

  • Using RefWorks to manage your references
  • Setting up alerts to retrieve new results for your searches


How to carry out a review

1.Devise a search strategy
2.Search systematically
3.Read critically – i.e. deconstruct the material
4.Put it all back together – reconstruct

Devise a search strategy



Think about the sort of research that would help your project.

1. What subject areas does you topic fall into?

2. What possible sources could you use? Think broadly, for example:

  • Company reports
  • Industry profiles
  • Market research
  • Financial reports
  • Newspaper articles
  • Journal articles

3. What don't you want?  What are the limits? For example, geographical restrictions or time periods.

Search systematically

  1. Plan your search first, thinking about your keywords
  2. Use the pages on this guide to identify quality resources
  3. Use the tutorials and advice on those pages to improve your searches

Read critically - i.e. deconstruct your results

Think about the argument and the evidence

Put it all back together – reconstruct

  • Group your topic areas – develop themes
–similarities and common issues
–differences or contradictions
  • Briefly summarise key findings

- See Phrasebank for suggestions of how to phrase your sentences.

  • Use the academic papers as examples of the style of academic writing as well as for their content