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Literature, reading skills and key words

Chapter 5

The literature review

Reading the existing literature

  • Begin with looking at references in bibliographies from books and journal articles and then move on to searching 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 (Hint: consider how many times a text has been cited by others)
  • 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
  • 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. This is helpful for your participants and your assessors.

Issues to Identify in the Existing Literature

  • What is already known about this area?
  • What concepts and theories are relevant to 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?

Critical Reading Skills

  • Your literature review should be critical rather than merely descriptive, so it is worth recording relevant critical points as you take notes
  • Developing a critical approach is not necessarily one of simply criticizing the work of others
  • Instead it entails moving beyond mere description and asking questions about the significance of the work:
    • How does the item relate to others you have read?
    • Are there any apparent strengths and deficiencies - perhaps in terms of methodology or in terms of the credibility of the conclusions drawn?
    • What theoretical ideas have influenced the item?

Introductory Guidelines for Searching SSCI

You must first check that your own institution has a subscription to the ISI Web of Knowledge site at:

  • When you access the site click on the Login WoK (Web of Knowledge) button in the centre of the screen
  • After logging in you will be asked to choose between Full Search and Easy Search. We recommend Full Search at the beginning
  • Choose Social Sciences Citation Index, at this point, and narrow down your search to specific years, if not your search will cover all years from the starting default year
  • To activate your search, click GENERAL SEARCH, the General Search window will then open
  • If you are searching for references on a particular topic, insert the key word(s) in TOPIC and then SEARCH

(Note:  = 'select and press return' key or 'select and double click')

Developing Keywords, Page 100

To identify suitable references in online databases such as the Social Sciences Citation Index, you need to work out keywords to enter into the search engine:

  • Business dictionaries (see below for online sources) can help you to define your area of research and identify changes in the language used to describe the subject:
    • Collins Dictionary of Business
    • Oxford Dictionary of Business and Management
    • e.g., the term 'personnel management' has now been largely superseded by 'HRM' and 'payment systems' are now more widely referred to as 'reward management'
  • You will also need to think of synonyms and try to match your language to that of the source you are searching
    • e.g., performance management may be referred to in practitioner publications as 'employee evaluation' or 'appraisal'

Indexes of Online Business Dictionaries: - from OneLook - from yourDictionary

Exercise: Springfield University 4

Title: The Literature Review

Springfield University is one of over 150 universities in the UK. Well established, it has some 12,000 students on average per annum, both full and part time, studying a wide range of courses such as medicine, biology, business studies, finance, history, law, creative writing, etc. However, it was built in the 1940s and its infrastructure is beginning to become very tired, often many facilities are broken or in need of repair and not up to what a student would expect, especially given a change in government policy and rise in tuition fees across the sector in 2008. The learning technology and catering facilities are also dated, both key aspects in students’ learning environment. Many Undergraduate students with UCAS offers who have achieved their grades are simply choosing to go elsewhere. Springfield is located in a region that has many other Universities within travelling distance and it is therefore not surprising that student intakes are gradually declining.

The Business School is at stake here and it is thought moving the whole of this department off campus will not only provide room for other departments on campus but also enhance the Business Schools’ branding with its own separate marketing entity. Many other Business Schools in the UK have moved off campus to their own satellite campus over the past decade. Moreover, the academics, some of many years’ service, are less than enthusiastic about the move as they feel it would take them and their students away from the heart of campus life. The new campus where the Business School would be housed would embrace the latest in technology, teaching facilities, learning resources and, above all, be attractively located in the City centre. However, there are disadvantages, not least the lack of staff car parking facilities and a paucity of teaching staff office space. The biggest threat to the vision at least according to the University Executive, is the ‘mindset’ of the staff, which, in their view, would need ratcheting up a fair few notches to embrace the philosophy of the new building as an ‘up market, quality’ establishment. In addition to being away from central campus, one of the many things staff will need to embrace is shared office space. This, and other new innovations, will be a steep learning curve for many staff.

The University has decided to initiate research to examine how they should prepare itself for the change, position itself as a newly branded Business School in the market place and the appropriate accompanying staff behaviour.



Identify what you think are the key words/phrases for the literature review to underpin this research project and identify at least two key sources for each key word/phrase. Use whatever literature source you feel appropriate, books, journals, on-line resources, etc.

The objective of this exercise is to get you to think about what is the key literature underpinning the research project for Springfield University. Having identified the key words/phrases, you should attempt to find key literature. This will involve looking at electronic resources such as EBSCO and on-line resources such as Google and Google Scholar.

A possible answer is as follows:

Key phrases and literature

Managing Organization Change

  • Hayes, J, (2014), The Theory and Practice of Change Management, 4th. Ed., Hampshire and New York, Palgrave MacMillan
  • Kotter, J.P, and Schlesinger, L.A, (1979), Choosing Strategies for Change Harvard Business Review, 57, (2), Mar-April, pp.106-113

Cultural change

  • Johnson, G., Whittington, R., Regnér, P,. Scholes, K. and Angwin, D, (2017) and Scholes, K, (2002), Exploring Corporate Strategy: Text and cases, 116th. Ed., EssexHarlow, Pearson Education

Changing nature of higher education

  • Deem, R., Hillyard, S., Reed, M, (2007), Knowledge, higher education, and the new managerialism: The changing management of UK universities, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Positioning and repositioning

  • Ries, A.L. and Trout, J. (1986), Positioning: The Battle for your Mind, London, McGraw Hill
  • Jobber, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, E. (201604), Principles and Practice of Marketing, 84th. Ed., McGraw Hill Publishing Company


    Kotler, P. and Armstrong, G. (2017), et al (2001), The Principles of Marketing, Harlow, Pearson Higher Education
  • Weber, P.S. and Weber, J.E. (2001), Changes in Employee Perceptions during Organisation Change, Journal of Leadership and Organisation Change, 22. (6), pp. 291-300
  • Jones, L., Watson, B., Hobman, E., Bordia, P., Gallois, C., and Callan, V. (2008), Employee perceptions of organizational change: Impact of hierarchical level, Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 29 (4), pp. 294-316.
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