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Preliminary literature review/discussions to get research ideas

Chapter 5

Searching the existing literature, Page 108

  • Start with references in bibliographies from books and preferably journal articles, and then move on to searching and using online sources for your literature review
  • In some areas of research, there are very many references
    • try to identify the major ones and work outwards from there. It is a worthwhile practice to look at the reference list at the end of each journal article and follow up any leads.
  • Take good notes, including the details of the material you read
    • it is infuriating to find that you forgot to record the volume number of an article you need to include in your bibliography and it is useful to familiarize yourself with reference management software early on. Please see here for a guide on reference managers.
  • You will be able to revise and refine your research questions in the process of reviewing the literature
  • A competent critical review of the literature can affirm your credibility as someone who is knowledgeable in your chosen area, and especially so with your research participants

Issues to Identify in the existing literature, Page 91-2

  • What is already known about this area?
  • What concepts and theories are relevant or used in this area?
  • What research methods and research strategies have been employed in studying this area?
  • Are there any significant controversies?
  • Are there any inconsistencies in findings relating to this area?
  • Are there any unanswered research questions in this area?

To see video clips of students talking about conducting a preliminary literature review, click here

Exercise: Sources of research ideas



List as many sources for research ideas as you can think of.

There are many possible sources for research ideas. Some of the main ones are as


- Colleagues/lecturers

- Focus groups

- Brainstorming

- Lectures/seminars

- Magazines

- Websites and blogs

- Literature-books, journals, articles,

- Audio/visual media-radio, television

- Conferences

- Conversations

- Observation of events

- Previous students' dissertations-

- Chapters on 'further research'

- Personal experiences

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Suggest a method for identifying four possible specific research topics within the disciplines of Marketing, HRM, strategy, organizational behaviour, accounting and finance, industrial relations, and operational research.

Scanning the appropriate business/management literature on marketing, HRM, strategy, organizational behaviour, accounting and finance, industrial relations and operational research may provide some initial ideas. However, an appropriate technique to answer the question is that of 'working-up and narrowing down'. The technique involves a 'funnelling' process which starts with a very broad discipline and narrows it down to a specific topic. The technique involves three steps:

a) Choosing a discipline

b) Narrowing down to an area or field within the discipline

c) Identifying a specific research topic of interest within the area or field

The process can be illustrated as in the following diagram:

'Funnelling' diagram from 'Discipline' to 'Area or Field' then Specific Topic'

An example of the process is illustrated in the following matrix:

Marketing Branding The impact of branding on customer behaviour: Comparative analysis of Apple and Samsung
Human Resource Management Legislation A study to show the effect of 'Equal Opportunities' legislation in the workplace
Organizational Behaviour Leadership An evaluation of the British Airways future leader programme developed to achieve organizsation goals
Strategy Strategic investment Analysing how Kuwait oil companies should alter their existing business strategies to attract greater foreign investment. Trust
Accounting Auditing An examination of the role of auditors in large banks since the global crisis investment. Trust
Finance The equity market The effect of the collapse of the Asian Tiger Economies in 1997/8 on the world market in derivatives
Operational research Best Practice An application of 'Best Practice' management in the Health Service: the case of the Huddersfield /Halifax NHS Trust

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