Information Sources

Starting a literature review can be difficult but the following steps will help.

Start with identifying your sub-chapters or sub-topics and aim to write at least a paragraph (10-100 words) on each sub-chapter at first. A good strategy is to search for a “critical review” on your subject in an academic database e.g.

Simply type in “your subject review” or “your subject critical review”. For greater accuracy only search in the title of the journal paper. Unless you are researching an obscure subject, then you will hopefully see some results. For example I used these papers:

Alavi, M., & Leidner, D. (2001). Review: Knowledge management and knowledge management systems: Conceptual foundations and research issues, MIS Quarterly, 25 (1), 107–136.

Bontis, N. (2001). Assessing knowledge assets: a review of the models used to measure intellectual capital, International Journal of Management Reviews, 3 (1), pp 41-60.

Corso, M., Martini, A., Paolucci, E. & Pellegrini, L. (2001). Knowledge management systems in product innovation: an interpretative review, International Journal of Management Reviews, 3 (4), pp 341-352.

Dawes, M.; Sampson, U. (2003). Knowledge management in clinical practice: a systematic review of information seeking behaviour in physicians, International Journal of Medical Informatics, 71(1), pp 9-15.

Despres, C. & Chauvel, D. (2002). A review of survey research in knowledge management: 1997-2001, Journal of Knowledge Management, 6, pp. 207-223.

Review papers are invaluable for starting a literature review, they tell you what is already known and more importantly who wrote it! Read the review papers and note down any comments or papers that are relevant to your work. These comments can be copied and pasted into your own work and then referenced. It is quite acceptable to quote from a journal paper and then reference it correctly. Furthermore by reading 5-10 review papers on your subject you should now have a pretty good example of what topics you need to review.

For example, Papers A, B and C mentions “X” as the latest greatest thing in the subject – so this means that if it is relevant to your research, then you should also review it.

Paper C mentions “Y” but is the only paper to mention it. This means that either it is under-researched and hence a good thing to study (as your work will get published) or it isn’t considered important. A literature review is an example of research itself, it proves that you can make a reasoned judgement and decide whether to devote time to studying a topic further. When you have your list of topics then ask yourself – do the topics support your “Research Aim and Objectives”? If they do then great, if not then discard them.

Reading review papers or someone else’s literature review is a great way to focus your work. Remember that this is a necessary part of research and will allow you to fill the gaps that exist in the current research.

Once you have done this then please run the draft structure and sub-headings past your supervisor. They will be able to advise you if these are worthwhile writing about and whether you need to change them.