research literature reviews

research literature reviews

The Art of Conducting Effective Literature Reviews

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1. Introduction to Literature Reviews

Literature reviews are summarized comparative analyses and evaluations of existing literature, book chapters, books, and other secondary materials which include scholarly, professional writing and other primary sources. In the academic community, literature reviews can be incorporated into an article, a research report, thesis or dissertation. A literature review is a series of original writings about a subject that has been critically evaluated and synthesized through an analysis of the existing body of published knowledge on the topic. Conducting a literature review is part of the research process. The product of the literature review is the foundation for the theoretical framework, definitions, and summative validation stages of the research project. Developing a solid understanding of the existing body of published knowledge on the research problem requires both a long-range perspective and a wide and in-depth literature review.

2. The Importance of Literature Reviews

Conducting substantiated research is not merely finding an idea, collecting and analyzing data, or proposing a model which is sent to a journal, where it is promptly accepted. Usually, for ideas, data, and models to be accepted, they have to be substantiated with a critical review of the related research. By doing so, researchers are reflecting on the existing literature and developing necessary skills enabling them to propose more meaningful research. Conducting a substantive literature review will, however, also enhance the published paper’s potential contribution. The literature review need not merely offer a descriptive presentation of the literature but is, in itself, a contribution deserving of journal space. This review can enhance credibility, helping to create faith in the research idea for “good” journals, which is not necessarily measurable nor linked to how splintered the actual field is.

Without a sense of the past, there is no future. Knowledge of what has been done before, and what is currently being done, is crucial to anyone doing research. Before starting a piece of research, an early indicator to learn from the existing research is through a literature review. The review should comprise a critical analysis of the past research and reported findings, elaborating, in addition, how the present research is different and unique and why it is worthwhile. This is crucial for a budding researcher, regardless of whether he or she specializes in paper-and-pencil research, fieldwork, experimentation, or theory building. This task is, however, not an easy exercise. It is subjective as it involves people’s interpretations and judgments. Thus, discussing the topic in one’s social group is strictly that group’s experience and might not coincide with a different group’s experience.

3. Strategies for Conducting a Comprehensive Literature Review

First, take full advantage of the bibliographic resources offered by research libraries. Most university libraries offer electronic resources that provide access to book and journal holdings and citations. The availability of electronic resources that provide access directly to journal articles is particularly valuable as these systems often have search software that can be tailored to subject strengths of the journal collection. In addition, popular computer-based indexing systems like PsycINFO, ERIC, and Sociological Abstracts can assist in finding information not online. Finally, use a wide variety of search strategies that take advantage of full text searches in electronic journal collections. The existence of a feature that will let you execute similar searches in multiple databases can also be a significant advantage.

Once you have carefully defined the focus and objectives for a review that will minimize misdirected effort, you are ready to address the key components of the process of conducting comprehensive literature searches. One of the most crucial initial tasks is to recognize that there is no single source from which all relevant literature can be identified. However, a combination of search activities over a range of different sources can offer the best opportunity for finding as much material as possible. Specifically, effective searches require a combination of the following strategies.

4. Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Many roadblocks are almost certain to obstruct the literature review process on one’s path to a systematic review. Knowing about these barriers is an important step in your journey, as illustrated in Figure 1.6. In no particular order, objections, errors or traps will create delays or misconceptions while gathering or sifting data. However, by being aware that they could exist, help in avoiding them can be obtained.

– Searching only one database. Your first database search returns promising results and you hit the jackpot. However, conducting subsequent repeat searches of different databases brings an even bigger prize. Due to the angle with which different databases index their articles, various results are returned from different databases. – Relying only on electronic databases. Conference proceedings, journal issues at special events and other unpublished or obscured sources can be rich treasure troves. – Searching only one genre of source. Concentrating on only one type of source—while convenient—may create a literature review that is inaccurate and blinkered. – An impostor’s inheritance. Repeating work can hold up production, take up valuable time and result in work already produced being missed or forgotten. Duplicating research is a colossal waste of resources and will be investigated in more depth in Chapter 6. A systematic review rarely features these issues.

I have witnessed many problems that can be encountered when conducting literature reviews. The main common pitfalls that I have identified are listed below, together with practical solutions:

5. Emerging Trends in Literature Review Methodologies

Corporate governance is expected to have an influence on voluntary disclosure practices, such as compensation policy and voluntary disclosure of employees’ rights. The increasing importance of voluntary disclosure has also been derived from the requirement of transparency in corporate management to protect the rights of shareholders, investors, and other stakeholders. Hence, the compensation policy and voluntary disclosure of employees’ rights remain relevant. Accordingly, voluntary disclosure seems to become essential for the fractionation and interest of potential investors and other providers in response to this adjustment.

In the era of globalization and boundary-less organizations, merger and acquisition have become a common business strategy. In Malaysia, an increasing number of organizations are involved in this rapid growth of mergers and acquisitions among Malaysian-owned organizations. However, owing to the different attitudes of Malaysian organizations and managements towards the management of compensation policy, it can pose potential problems for investors. Therefore, this research aims to examine the relationships between the management of compensation policy, employees’ rights, voluntary disclosure, and the classification of processes and nature of exchanges between accountants and investors or other stakeholders. The literature review is employed below in the empirical research.

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