Topic outline

  • Writing a literature review

    Writing a literature review is one of the key parts of your thesis, for some it is even the most time consuming part of the thesis. There will be a lot of new information, too many too interesting paths to follow, conceptual confusion as different authors use a bit different concepts for the same phenomenon or the same concept for a different phenomenon.

    In order to see how an article of interest/importance to your study is connected to other articles on the topic please use the following tool. It shows nicely how papers ’talk’ with one another.  You can also use review articles to map out an academic discussion.  Please see Academy of Management Annals, IJMR, and Journal of Management that are outlets with high-quality literature reviews.

    It is good to understand that writing a literature review is at times slow and not all that you write will end up in the final product. It is a learning process that can be also highly exciting. Further, it offers you a great opportunity to build you expertise. A literature review has a double function:

    It helps the author (i.e. you) to:

    • Identify your academic audience; i.e. Whom am I talking to? Who is talking to me?  No academic research should exist in a void.
    • Understand what has been done previously in the field; how it has evolved and why, and what is the current state-of-art.
    • Explore and refine your research question vis-a-vis your academic field. Do this until you ’get’ what you are doing. Really.

     Helps the reader to:

    • Recognize that you are qualified to talk about your research questions as a part of the academic knowledge-creating community. Show what you know!
    • Understand how your research question relates to existing bodies of knowledge. Show us what novel knowledge you create.
    • Familiarize him/herself with your research tradition in case it is novel.

    In this section we will make use of the course Tutorial videos for thesis writing (BIZ) The videos will help you in tackling some of the key tasks linked to writing a literature review. Please follow the videos in the section titled “Finding your research topic & background literature”. The section has the following video tutorials:

    1)     How to quickly find out the big picture of a research topic using Scopus reference database?

    2)     How to search specific research articles in science databases?

    3)     How to read scientific articles efficiently?

    4)     How to use Mendeley reference manager to manage your references and easily write-and-cite?

    5)     How should you refer to your references in the text?

    In writing your literature review remember that a literature review is not about mechanistically referencing what others have said but rather a critical and reflective assessment of prior research. Please keep the following criteria for a good literature review in mind. A good literature review is

    • Focused: Put weight on the literature that you’ve identified as most relevant for exploring your research questions. Also remember that a literature review analyzes the current state of your field; this is not the section to talk (extensively) about your ideas.
    • Not just review but a synthesis. Remember to explore both connections between the different texts, and between the texts and your research questions.
    • The use of figures, models and summary tables tends to increase the readability of a literature review.
    • Include both classics and recent research articles; but most likely you will have a heavier focus on recent research.
    • Avoid referring to single article or book as center of review; pursue a dialogue between several key sources.
    • In a Master’s thesis, the literature review is important for building up your credibility. You need to show that you understand your chosen area to a degree that makes you qualified to talk about it.