Resources on doing a literature review

[Guest post by CYGNA member Tatiana Andreeva]

A few years ago I was asked to develop a course for PhD students on identifying good research questions, doing a literature review, and theory-building. I benchmarked a variety of similar PhD courses from various countries, and checked different reading lists for PhD students, research design and methodology books …

To my great surprise, I found that we rarely teach our PhD students how to do a good literature review! This finding was counter-intuitive, as the skills of doing a literature review are the backbone of our profession. Indeed, without a decent literature review any academic paper or funding proposal will fall apart, right?

So I went on a journey to collect different resources on doing a literature review: from the search techniques to data analysis to writing it up and publishing. At the bottom of this post you’ll find the list that I have compiled so far. When I started, the list was relatively limited. Yet, to my delight, the situation has dramatically changed in recent months, thanks to the special issues on doing literature reviews in the Journal of Management Studies and Organizational Research Methods. Below I highlight some articles that I personally found particularly interesting or useful for different aspects of doing and writing up literature reviews.

How to identify papers to review?

A range of papers explain in detail the systematic approach to identifying the articles to review: Denyer and Tranfield (2009), Rousseau et al. (2008) and Tranfield et al. (2003) introduce the approach, while hot-off-the-press papers by Harari et al. (2020), Hiebl (2021) and Rojon et al. (2021) review current practices of systematic reviews in management research and provide advice on how to improve them. Adams et al. (2017) offer guidelines on how to deal with the “grey” literature in the systematic reviews.

How to analyse and synthesize the literature?

Several papers provide advice on how to go about analysis and synthesis of the identified literature. For example, Webster and Watson (2002) propose to use conceptual matrices to map the literature; Harzing (2017a & 2017b) explains how to use Publish or Perish software for the analysis; Gaur and Kumar (2018) discuss content analysis for literature reviews. Zupic and Čater (2015) introduce bibliometric methods, such as co-citation, co-author and co-word analysis; Anderson and Lemken (2020) discuss citation context analysis. Dwertmann and Knippenberg (2020) introduce multi-step categorization as an analytical tool for literature integration. Hoon (2013) proposes a methodology for synthesis of qualitative studies.

How to make a contribution with your literature review?

A final set of papers discusses the approaches that may help to elevate the literature review from being merely descriptive to providing new conceptual insights or novel theoretical contributions, often using illustrative examples of specific literature review papers that succeeded in this: Breslin and Gatrell (2020), Cropanzano (2009), Elsbach and van Knippenberg (2020), LePine and Wilcox-King (2010), Post et al. (2020) and Torraco (2016).  Editorials of Jones and Gatrell (2014) and Short (2009) explain typical problems and reasons for rejections of literature review papers. The advice from these papers is particularly relevant if you would like to publish a literature review as a separate piece of work.

I wish I had read some of these papers much earlier in my career, so I hope you may find this list useful too. If you have any further recommendations, please share them with me.

The list of resources

Adams, R.J., Smart, P., Huff, A.S. (2017). Shades of grey: Guidelines for working with the grey literature in systematic reviews for management and organizational studies. International Journal of Management Reviews, 19(4), 432–454. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijmr.12102

Aguinis, H., Ramani, R. S., Alabduljader, N. (2020). Best-practice recommendations for producers, evaluators, and users of methodological literature reviews. Organizational Research Methods. https://doi.org/10.1177/1094428120943281

Alvesson, M., Sandberg, J. (2020). The problematizing review: A counterpoint to Elsbach and Van Knippenberg’s argument for integrative reviews. Journal of Management Studies,  https://doi.org/10.1111/joms.12582

Anderson, M.H., Lemken, R.K. (2020) Citation context analysis as a method for conducting rigorous and impactful literature reviews. Organizational Research Methods. https://doi.org/10.1177/1094428120969905

Baumeister, R.F., Leary, M.R. (1997). Writing narrative literature reviews. Review of General Psychology, 1, 311-320. https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-2680.1.3.311

Breslin, D., Gatrell, C. (2020). Theorizing through literature reviews: The Miner-Prospector continuum. Organizational Research Methods. https://doi.org/10.1177/1094428120943288

Callahan, J.L. (2010). Constructing a manuscript: Distinguishing integrative literature reviews and conceptual and theory articles. Human Resource Development Review, 9, 300-304. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534484310371492

Callahan, J.L. (2014). Writing literature reviews: A reprise and update. Human Resource Development Review, 13(3), 271–275. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534484314536705

Cronin, M.A., George, E. (2020). The why and how of the integrative review. Organizational Research Methods. https://doi.org/10.1177/1094428120935507  

Cropanzano, R. (2009). Writing nonempirical articles for Journal of Management: General thoughts and suggestions. Journal of Management, 35(6), 1304–1311. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206309344118

Denyer, D., Tranfield, D. (2009). Producing a systematic review. In Buchanan, D., Bryman, A. (Eds.), The Sage handbook of organizational research methods (pp. 671–689). London, UK: Sage.

Durach, C.F., Kembro, J., Wieland, A. (2017). A new paradigm for systematic literature reviews in supply chain management. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 53(4), 67-85. https://doi.org/10.1111/jscm.12145

Dwertmann, D.J.G., van Knippenberg, D. (2020). Capturing the state of the science to change the state of the science: A categorization approach to integrative reviews. Journal of Organisational Behaviour, 1– 14. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.2474

Elsbach, K.D., van Knippenberg, D. (2020). Creating high‐impact literature reviews: An argument for ‘integrative reviews’. Journal of Management Studies. https://doi.org/10.1111/joms.12581  

Gaur, A., Kumar, M. (2018). A systematic approach to conducting review studies: An assessment of content analysis in 25 years of IB research. Journal of World Business, 53(2), 280–289. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2017.11.003

Gond, J.-P., Mena, S., Mosonyi, S. (2020). The performativity of literature reviewing: Constituting the corporate social responsibility literature through re-presentation and intervention. Organizational Research Methods. https://doi.org/10.1177/1094428120935494

Grant, M. J., Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91-108. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

Harari, M.B., Parola, H.R., Hartwell, C.J., Riegelman, A. (2020). Literature searches in systematic reviews and meta-analyses: A review, evaluation, and recommendations.  Journal of Vocational Behavior, 118.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2020.103377

Harzing, A.-W. (2017a). Using Publish or Perish to do a literature review https://harzing.com/blog/2017/02/using-publish-or-perish-to-do-a-literature-review

Harzing, A.-W. (2017b). How to conduct a longitudinal literature review? https://harzing.com/blog/2017/05/how-to-conduct-a-longitudinal-literature-review

Hiebl, M.R.W. (2021). Sample selection in systematic literature reviews of management research. Organizational Research Methods. https://doi.org/10.1177/1094428120986851    

Hodgkinson, G. P., Ford, J. K. (2014). Narrative, meta-analytic, and systematic reviews: What are the differences and why do they matter? Journal of Organizational Behavior, 35(S1), S1–S5. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.1918

Hodgkinson, G. P., Ford, J. K. (2015). What makes excellent literature reviews excellent? A clarification of some common mistakes and misconceptions. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(S1), S1–S5. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.1983

Hoon, C., Baluch, A.M. (2020). The role of dialectical interrogation in review studies: Theorizing from what we see rather than what we have already seen. Journal of Management Studies. https://doi.org/10.1111/joms.12543

Jones, O., Gatrell, C. (2014). Editorial: The future of writing and reviewing for IJMR. International Journal of Management Reviews, 16(3), 249–264. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijmr.12038

Kraus, S., Breier, M., Dasí-Rodríguez, S. (2020). The art of crafting a systematic literature review in entrepreneurship research. International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, 16, 1023–1042. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11365-020-00635-4

LePine, J., Wilcox-King, A. (2010). Editors’ comments: Developing novel theoretical insight from reviews of existing theory and research. Academy of Management Review, 35, 506–509. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.35.4.zok506

Ortiz de Guinea, A., Paré, G. (2017). What literature review type should I conduct? In Galliers, R.D., Stein, M.-K. (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Management Information Systems. (pp. 73-82). London, UK: Routledge.  https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315619361

Palmatier, R. W., Houston, M. B., Hulland, J. (2018). Review articles: purpose, process, and structure. Journal of Academy of Marketing Science, 46(1), 1-5. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-017-0563-4

Paré, G., Trudel, M.C., Jaana, M., Kitsiou, S. (2015). Synthesizing information systems knowledge: A typology of literature reviews. Information & Management, 52(2), 183-199. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.im.2014.08.008  

Parmigiani, A., King, E. (2019). Successfully proposing and composing review papers. Journal of Management, 45(8), 3083-3090. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206319874875  

Patriotta, G. (2020), Writing impactful review articles. Journal of Management Studies. https://doi.org/10.1111/joms.12608

Paul, J., Criado, A.R. (2020). The art of writing literature review: What do we know and what do we need to know? International Business Review, 29(4), 101717. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibusrev.2020.101717

Post, C., Sarala, R., Gatrell, C., Prescott, J.E. (2020). Advancing theory with review articles. Journal of Management Studies. https://doi.org/10.1111/joms.12549

Rojon, C., Okupe, A., McDowall, A. (2021). Utilization and development of systematic reviews in management research: What do we know and where do we go from here? International Journal of Management Reviews, 1– 33. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijmr.12245

Rousseau, D.M., Manning, J., Denyer, D. (2008). Evidence in management and organizational science: Assembling the field’s full weight of scientific knowledge through syntheses. The Academy of Management Annals, 2(1), 475-515. https://doi.org/10.1080/19416520802211651

Schalken, N., Rietbergen, C. (2017). The reporting quality of systematic reviews and meta-analyses in industrial and organizational psychology: A systematic review. Frontiers in psychology, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01395

Seuring, S., Gold, S. (2012). Conducting content-analysis based literature reviews in supply chain management. Supply Chain Management, 17(5), 544-555. https://doi.org/10.1108/13598541211258609  

Sharma, G., Bansal, P. (Tima). (2020). Partnering up: Including managers as research partners in systematic reviews. Organizational Research Methods. https://doi.org/10.1177/1094428120965706

Short, J. (2009). The art of writing a review article. Journal of Management, 35(6), 1312–1317. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206309337489

Snyder, H. (2019). Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines. Journal of Business Research, 104, 333–339. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2019.07.039

Torraco, R.J. (2005). Writing integrative literature reviews: Guidelines and examples. Human Resource Development Review, 4, 356-367. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534484305278283

Torraco, R.J. (2016). Writing integrative literature reviews using the past and present to explore the future. Human Resource Development Review, 15(4), 404 – 428. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534484316671606

Tranfield, D., Denyer, D., Smart, P. (2003). Towards a methodology for developing evidence-informed management knowledge by means of systematic review. British Journal of Management, 14(3), 207-222. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8551.00375

Webster, J., Watson, R. T. (2002). Analyzing the past to prepare for the future: Writing a literature review. MIS Quarterly, 26(2), xiii–xxiii. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4132319

Zupic, I., Čater, T. (2015). Bibliometric Methods in Management and Organization. Organizational Research Methods, 18(3), 429-472. https://doi-org.jproxy.nuim.ie/10.1177/1094428114562629

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