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DBS Library Getting Good Grades Series

Literature Review

What is a literature review ? A literature review is usually part of the introduction to an essay, research report, or thesis. In writing the literature review, you show that you understand the main theories in the subject area and how they have been applied and developed. A review of the literature e.g. journal articles, books, academic texts is important because without it you will not acquire an understanding of your topic, of what has already been done on it, how it has been researched, and what the key issues are. A good literature review is both a summary and a critique of relevant research.

Aims of a literature review The aim of a literature review is to show that you have studied existing work in the field with insight. It brings you and your readers up to date with the range of knowledge and ideas and provides the background for defining and developing your own topic. A literature review must: • be organized around and related directly to the topic you are developing • be a summary of what is and is not known about your topic • identify key areas in the literature • formulate questions that need further research

Step 1. Define your topic The first steps in writing a literature review are to clearly define your topic and decide on the main concepts. Next you should compile a list of keywords and synonyms to base your initial searches on. Example: How is tourism marketed? Keyword = Tourism Synonyms = Vacation, Holidays, Short-breaks Keyword = Marketing Synonyms = Promotion, Selling, Advertising

Step 2. Literature search Find out what has been written on your subject. Use as many bibliographical sources as you can to find relevant titles. The following are likely sources: • Bibliographies and references in key textbooks and recent journal articles • Electronic databases • Search the library database for journal articles etc. Use library online catalogue or search on the library website. • Use internet search engines such as Google or meta search engines such as Metacrawler. Write down the full bibliographical details of each book or article as soon as you find a reference to it. This will save you time later on.

Step 3. Evaluate the literature Your initial searches will uncover a variety of material some more appropriate for your topic than others. You will need to interpret and evaluate your search results. Firstly ask yourself questions like the following: • Does this book or article relate to the specific topic I am researching? • Is it an academic or popular publication? • Is the information accurate and reliable? • Is the information in the publication current?

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Then: • What is the author's theoretical framework and general methodological approach? • What conclusions does the article/publication come to? • Could the problem have been approached more effectively from another perspective? • Has the author evaluated the literature relevant to the problem/issue? • In what ways does this book or article contribute to our understanding of the problem under study? • In what ways is it useful for practice? • What are the strengths and limitations?

Step 4. Literature critique • What is the specific thesis, problem, or research question that my literature review helps to define? • What type of literature review am I conducting? • Am I looking at issues of theory? methodology? policy? Quantitative or qualitative research? • What is the scope of my literature review? • What types of publications am I using (e.g., journals, books, popular media)? • What discipline am I working in (e.g., media, business)? • How good was my information seeking? • Has my search been wide enough to ensure I've found all the relevant material? • Has it been narrow enough to exclude irrelevant material? • Is the number of sources I've used appropriate for the length of my paper? • Have I critically analysed the literature I use? • Instead of just listing and summarizing items, do I assess them, discussing strengths and weaknesses? • Have I cited and discussed studies contrary to my perspective? • Will the reader find my literature review relevant, appropriate, and useful?

Literature Review: Tips Just like most academic papers, literature reviews also must contain at least three basic elements: an introduction or background information section; the body of the review containing the discussion of sources; and, finally, a conclusion and/or recommendations section to end the paper. • Introduction: Clearly defines your topic and the basis of the central theme or organisational pattern. • Body: Contains your discussion of sources and is organised either: - Chronologically: Order your sources according to when the material was published - Thematically: Reviews the literature according to a particular topic/issue - Methodologically: focuses on the methods of the researcher • Conclusions/Recommendations: - Discuss what you have drawn from reviewing literature so far. - Look at the objectives that have emerged. Some books to get you started: Hart, C 1998, Doing a literature review: releasing the social science research imagination, Sage publications, London Wilkinson, D 2000, The researcher's toolkit: the complete guide to practitioner research, Routledge, London.

Blaxter, L, Hughes, C, & Tight, M 2001, How to research, Open University Press, Buckingham.

Dublin Business School Library 13/14 Aungier Street | Dublin 2 | Phone: 01-417 7572 19/22 Dame Street | Dublin 2 | Phone 01-417 8745 Email:

Literature Review  

Step 3. Evaluate the literature Dublin Business School Library DBS Library Getting Good Grades Series The first steps in writing a literatur...

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