Guidelines for a Good Literature Review

Guidelines for a Good Literature Review ________________________________________________________________________ Source: Zorn & Campbell (2006). Improving the Writing of Literature Reviews through a literature integration exercise. Journal of Business Communication 69 (2) 172-183.

A good literature review should be a coherent set of answers to the question. It includes:

1.An introduction that provides overview of the focus and objectives of the review, along with the thesis statement

2. A set of themes that categorize and make sense of the sources and develop the thesis (e.g. sources that support a particular position, those opposed, and those offering alternative views)

3.Explanation and evaluation of conclusions reached by key sources, and explanation of how they converge and diverge fro the conclusions reached by other sources

4.Conclusions, reasonable speculations, and gaps that emerge after considering the sources as a whole

Research question/ thesis generates introduction, major headings and conclusion

“Synthesizing the sources” means constructing an argument about the conclusions, questions, or concerns and the gaps that remain. This requires clear paragraph structure: topic sentences that make claims and indicate the logical flow of the argument through transition words/phrases. Pay attention to tone.

Respect the studies you review. Foreground your own voice: Even though the literature review summarizes the work of others, the thesis presented in the literature review, as well as the support for it, is yours.

1. Introduction:

•Articulates clear and appropriate focus.
•Answering a question guides the search strategy and the writing

2. Themes
•Discussing themes, write should focus on explaining and evaluating conclusions reached by key sources
•Integrate and synthesize the conclusions the sources provide in a sentence or two rather than just summarize e.g. identify convergence, divergence and issues of concern (controversial issues and questionable methods)


•Don’t write paragraphs on each source, then require me to do my own synthesis •Do provide accurate and clear explanations of the research you review
•If the source is critical, you may consider summarizing the evidence
•Use quotes sparingly, but brief excerpts add credibility and clarity when they make a point particularly well

3. Conclusions
Summarize the answers to the research question as clearly as the literature allows. Speculate from the literature, as long as speculations are clearly labeled
Identify important gaps in the literature

Literature reviews have many potential benefits both in and beyond the university setting. They often support a research proposal or report, but they are also conducted to synthesize information for other purposes (p. 173).

If students are to write research reports effectively in their university studies, they must master the writing of literature reviews.
•Identify possibilities for further research
•Enable scholars to build on what others have done

•Enable researchers demonstrate that they are extending existing knowledge.

Real world applications
•Provide useful content training
•Provide credibility and currency for training
•Support proposals/conclusions with credible evidence •Inform management decision/improve management practice

Search must be systematic and comprehensive

•Avoid narrow, scattered, out of date, unscholarly sources
Review must demonstrate clear sense of purpose for a clear audience.

Review needs clear objective, responding to a specific research question or objective. •Make sense of the literature
•Demonstrate relationships among sources
•Define jargon or key terms

•Explain key assumptions
•Distinguish between fact/findings and opinion
•Avoid generalizations that the literature does not support •Organize/structure the review effectively



One thought on “Guidelines for a Good Literature Review

  1. Pingback: Theoretical Literacy | Stacy Cacciatore's Digital Project Portfolio for Queens University of Charlotte

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