Posted: June 8th, 2022

Unit II BUS Discussion Board

Please make sure that it is your own work and watch out for spelling errors and grammar errors. Please use the APA 7th edition format. Please read the study guide.
Book Reference:Roberts, C., & Hyatt, L. (2019). The dissertation journey: A practical and comprehensive guide to planning, writing, and defending your dissertation (3rd ed.). Corwin.
Share your final chosen statement of the business problem, and explain why researching this problem would be of significance to business practice. When responding to another student’s post, discuss why you think their question is important to business administration.

BUS 8304, The Doctoral Research Study Journey 1
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit II

Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

3. Analyze the literature review process necessary to complete the doctoral research study.
3.1 Examine a scholarly article for its fit in a research study.
3.2 Describe how a scholarly article supports a study.

7. Explain how research results can influence business decisions.
7.1 Demonstrate how article findings influence business decision-making.

Learning Outcomes
Learning Activity
3.1, 3.2, 7.1
Unit Lesson
Chapter 9
Unit II Literature Review

Required Unit Resources

Chapter 9: Reviewing the Literature

Unit Lesson

For this unit lesson, we will cover introductory concepts of reviewing the literature. In the next unit, we will
extend this lesson and cover more advanced topics of the literature review.

Importance of Reviewing the Literature

(Dudko, n.d.)

We all know that the end goal of attending a doctoral program is to earn a doctoral-level degree. The most
important deliverable for your degree is the doctoral study or dissertation. Achieving this goal means that you
are deemed a subject matter expert (SME) and academic expert in a specific subject area. Realistically,
though, you can be a SME without attending a doctoral program. For example, 20 years of practical
experience can make you a SME. Optimally, you will choose a firmly grounded topic in an area where you
already have a significant amount of subject matter expertise. For example, if you have 20 years of practical
Reviewing Literature

BUS 8304, The Doctoral Research Study Journey 2

accounting experience, you are likely a SME in accounting. You may be a comptroller, a chief financial officer
(CFO), or an accountant with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation. The expectation is that you
would choose a dissertation subject area within the accounting or finance realm. If you have no experience in
accounting or finance, then in order to get to the point where you can write a dissertation, you will need to
make up that loss of 20 years of practical experience. For example, someone who has spent their life working
in information technology (IT) would likely never do a doctoral study/dissertation in marketing or accounting or
a similar topic area. When you choose your subject area, choose a subject in which you are interested and
are considered a SME regarding that topic.

Also, understand that you may have been a chief executive officer (CEO) of a large, successful organization
for 20 years. While that makes you a SME in many business areas, it does not mean you have doctoral-level
academic subject expertise. Academic expertise is required to write a doctoral study/dissertation, so reading
and comprehending large amounts of the current literature is crucial to obtain this goal.

Once you are sure of your subject area, you will want to narrow it down to potential topic areas. For some
examples, review the chart below.

Subject Area Topic Area
IT Software Development, Security, IT Governance
AccountingTax, Accounting Ethics, Budgeting, Investing
Marketing Branding, Online Marketing, Mobile Advertising
Organizational LeadershipImpact on Performance, Organizational Culture, Motivating Employees
Human Resources Workforce Management, Training, Diversity

These topic areas are still fairly broad, and this is not an exhaustive list. Once you have narrowed to a topic
area, you should start pulling peer-reviewed articles based on that topic. Doing so will likely help you narrow
your topic even more.

Again, reviewing the literature is the foundation of your study. You may have an idea of a business problem to
research, but does the literature support that problem? The business problem you are interested in may have
already been researched by multiple researchers at different times. How would you know this unless you are
exhaustively searching the literature?

Another use of articles from your literature review is to justify the decisions you make in your doctoral
study/dissertation. Every decision you make must be named, defined, and justified. For example, let’s
suppose that you want to use leadership style as a variable in your research question. How do you define
leadership style (i.e., democratic versus autocratic versus bureaucratic)? What about the strategic leader
versus the coach-style leader? Transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire leadership are a part of the
full range of the transformational leadership model, but are they considered actual leadership styles? One
way to justify your choice to use transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire leadership as leadership
styles is to show where other researchers have done so in the past.

As you search the literature, you need a method of categorizing your articles. You could manage your articles
based on older methods. For example, you could print each article (or abstract if the article is too long),
highlight the critical passages, write procedural notes on the top of the first page, and number the articles. In
contrast, you could create an Excel spreadsheet where you enter all of the pertinent information as you read
the articles. Regardless of the method, you will want to categorize your articles when writing Chapter 2. You
will also want a way to find those articles when you need them quickly. A good filing structure is highly

BUS 8304, The Doctoral Research Study Journey 3

Reviewing an Article

When you compare your articles, you will need to fully understand the research methodology, design, and
methods used. One suggestion is to specifically note these aspects of the research project. Ask yourself the
questions listed below.

• What was the chosen methodology?
• What was the chosen design?
• What was the problem being researched?
• What was the purpose of the study?
• What was the population?
• What was the sample?
• How was the data collected?
• What methods were used to perform the data analysis?
• What were the findings?

If you are critically reviewing the article, and you should, you should also ask yourself the questions listed

• Were there limitations to the study?
• Are the methodology, design, and methods in alignment?
• Do the findings make sense?
• Are the conclusions and discussion a natural progression from the findings?

Finally, you should consider how this article and its contents fit into your overall study. How does it support
your study? Does it provide justification for some decision that you have made? Does it support the gap? Is it
a component of one of the themes you found and will discuss in your literature review? Does it provide
support for your methodology, design, or method choices? Does it provide background information for the
theory or model you chose for your theoretical/conceptual framework?

Please note that the articles you pull for your literature review should be of high quality. This means that you
should be using peer-reviewed, scholarly journal articles. You should limit the number of dissertations;
secondary sources, such as magazine articles; online topic websites; and textbooks. You may have to use
textbooks to get information for the seminal theory or model you chose for your theoretical/conceptual
framework, but again, those sources should be used sparingly. Also, most of your articles should be
published within the last 4 years. You want your study and information to be as current as possible.

In the next unit lesson, we will take a closer look at the literature review. Some students say that Chapter 2 is
one of the hardest proposal chapters to write. It certainly is difficult, so arm yourself with all the tools at your


Dudko, O. (n.d.). ID 61564791 [Photograph]. Dreamstime.

BUS 8304, The Doctoral Research Study Journey 4

Suggested Unit Resources

Chapter 4 in your eTextbook offers insight into how to choose and narrow your dissertation topic. Chapter 5
offers insight into the roles of the committee members and best practices for working with your dissertation

Chapter 4: Choosing a Dissertation Topic

Chapter 5: Creating Your Dissertation Team

Learning Activities (Nongraded)

Nongraded Learning Activities are provided to aid students in their course of study. You do not have to submit
them. If you have questions, contact your instructor for further guidance and information.

Consider the three parts of a doctoral study/dissertation team: the student, the chair, and the committee
member. In a one-page document, address the prompts below.

• List the responsibilities as a doctoral student.
• List the responsibilities of the chair.
• List the responsibilities of the 2nd committee member.

Once you have your lists, compare them, and write a one-paragraph reflection on how you will meet your

Course Learning Outcomes for Unit II
Required Unit Resources
Unit Lesson
Importance of Reviewing the Literature
Reviewing an Article
Suggested Unit Resources
Learning Activities (Nongraded)
Chapter 9Reviewing the Literature
The greatest gift you can give yourself as a researcher is to read and analyze the literature surrounding your study as early as possible. Too often, students see the literature review as something to do while waiting for their data to be collected. This may be because they don’t fully understand the importance and purpose of the review. It may also be because they are uncertain of the exact procedures to follow for conducting a literature search. The importance of a literature search is stated by Hart (2009) in his book,Doing a Literature Review:
A review of the literature is important because without it you will not acquire an understanding of your topic, of what has already been done on it, how it has been researched, and what the key issues are. In your written project you will be expected to show that you understand previous research on your topic. This amounts to showing that you have understood the main theories in the subject area and how they have been applied and developed, as well as the main criticisms that have been made of work on the topic. (p. 1)
A similar notion was advanced by Boote and Beile (2005); they made the following points:
A substantive, thorough, sophisticated literature review is a precondition for doing substantive, thorough, sophisticated research. . . . A researcher cannot perform significant research without first understanding the literature in the field. Not understanding the prior research clearly puts a researcher at a disadvantage. (p. 3)
A comprehensive, up-to-date literature review allows you to get to the frontier in your area of research and, at the same time, become an expert in your field. In addition, the insights and knowledge you gain provide the basis for a better-designed study and enhance the possibility of obtaining significant results. A review of the literature is a vital part of the research process.
A literature review is a two-phase activity. In the first phase, you conduct the review by identifying appropriate resources, searching for relevant materials, and analyzing, synthesizing, and organizing the results; the second phase is the actual writing of the review, which culminates in the completed product. The literature review section of a study is found where reference is made to the related research and theory around your topic. The location may vary, depending on your selected methodology. For example, in some qualitative studies, authors might choose to locate the literature section toward the end of the dissertation, following discussion of the emerging theory, which, according to Creswell (2004), “allows the views of the participants to emerge without being constrained by the views of others from the literature” (p. 90). Researchers in quantitative studies typically place their discussion of the literature at the beginning of a study, usually in a separate chapter titled “Review of the Literature.” Frequently, the literature is referred to again at the end of the study when comparing the study’s findings to the literature.
This chapter helps you acquire the skills to conduct and write a thorough and systematic review of the literature in your field of interest. The chapter includes the purpose and scope of the literature review, notes on its preparation, specific steps in conducting a literature review, and strategies and techniques for writing the literature review.
Purpose and Scope
What is a literature review? According to Creswell (2004), “A literature review is a written summary of journal articles, books, and other documents that describe the past and current state of information; organizes the literature into topics; and documents a need for a proposed study” (p. 89). Reviewing the literature involves locating, analyzing, synthesizing, and organizing previous research and documents (periodicals, books, abstracts, etc.) related to your study area. The goal is to obtain a detailed, cutting-edge knowledge of your particular topic. To do this, you must immerse yourself in your subject by reading extensively and voraciously. A solid and comprehensive review of the literature accomplishes several important purposes. It helps you to do the following:
1. Focus the purpose of your study more precisely.
2. Develop a conceptual or theoretical framework that might be used to guide your research.
3. Identify key variables for study and suggest relationships among them if you are completing a quantitative study; if you are conducting a qualitative study, identify the concepts or topics you plan to study.
1. Provide a historical background for your study.
2. Uncover previous research similar to your own that can be meaningfully extended.
3. Determine the relationship of your topic relative to current and past studies.
4. Identify scholars and theorists in your area of study.
5. Form a basis for determining the significance of your study.
6. Uncover questionnaires or tests previously validated.
7. Link your findings to previous studies. (Do your findings support or contradict them?)
We hope we convinced you of the importance of doing an early and comprehensive review of the literature. The benefits are numerous, especially in the initial stages of designing a dissertation study.
One of the biggest frustrations students encounter is determining how long and how comprehensive the review should be. Even though you must read broadly to develop perspective about your topic, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you must include in the bibliography every book, article, or study read. The literature review is not an aggregation of every book and article related to your topic; it is always selective. Therefore, you must be discriminating and include only the most relevant information. Remember that bigger is not better! The shotgun approach indicates a lack of knowledge about what is relevant information. Unfortunately, no magic formula exists to guide your selection; it is a judgment call on your part. You know it is time to quit when you keep encountering the same references and can’t find important new resources.
Generally speaking, most advisors prefer the literature review chapter to be around 20 to 40 pages. However, keep in mind that this can vary, depending on the breadth and complexity of your study and the preferences of your advisor. Take time to clarify with your advisor’s preferences prior to writing the review.
Step 1 in writing your literature review requires that you become knowledgeable about what references are available and where to find them, what services your library provides, and the regulations and procedures regarding the use of library materials.
It is also wise to cultivate a friendship with a librarian or two. Their knowledge and expertise can save you considerable time searching for information. Most librarians are willing to make appointments to help you create a search strategy, determineappropriate print and electronic databases for your research needs, and explain the interlibrary loan services available to you. It is also a good idea to consult librarians about nontraditional sources on your topic, such as think tanks, professional associations, government documents, and publications from nonprofit organizations.
Because the majority of academic literature is now available online, you needn’t spend hours using call numbers to browse the stacks of your library. Most of your research will be conducted online using your own computer from home or the office. This means that you must become computer literate and Internet savvy to make your dissertation research easier. Becoming familiar with search engines and how they work (using keywords, Boolean operators, truncation, and online help) is essential. There certainly are downsides to computers. Any user knows the frustration of crashes, lost files, and inoperable software. But, for the most part, it will be your best friend and most essential tool for completing your dissertation. Hardware and software advances continue to make conducting research more and more efficient.
Conducting a thorough and scholarly review of the literature involves eight basic steps. The steps are not necessarily sequential; you will probably move back and forth between them.
1. Identify keywords or descriptors.
2. Create a search query.
3. Identify relevant literature sources.
4. Search the literature and collect relevant materials.
5. Critically read and analyze the literature.
6. Synthesize the literature.
7. Organize the literature.
8. Write the literature review.
Step 1: Identify Keywords or Descriptors
Before beginning a search of the literature, it is important to develop a search strategy that effectively locates useful, relevant information. This involves identifying keywords or descriptors to guide your review of the literature. Begin by creating a preliminary working title for your study that focuses on what it is you want to know. Because it’s a working title, it can always be revised. Also, state a central research question that describes the variables or concepts you need to examine in your literature review. Forcing yourself to write your topic as a single question requires you to bring it into clearer focus. Then, identify the key concepts in your title and central research question. The following are some examples:
· What effect does parental involvement have on the dropout rate of bilingual middle school students?
· What are the differences between Mexicans and Mexican Americans in their perceptions of and feelings toward their pets?
· How does language use shape the identity of language-minority students?
Precise questions such as these help focus and guide the literature review. Depending on the complexity of your research, you may require several research questions to incorporate all of the variables or concepts you wish to examine in your dissertation. Also include alternative ways of phrasing and expressing concepts and ideas by consulting subject dictionaries and encyclopedias for the common terminology in your study area. Using an index or thesaurus is also advisable in order to establish useful terms. Various academic disciplines have their own thesauri. Some examples areThesaurus of ERIC Descript
From your research question(s) and working title, compile a list of keywords or descriptors related to your topic.
What effect does parental involvement have on the dropout rate of bilingual middle school students? Keywords include
· parental involvement
· dropout rate
· bilingual
· middle school students
Synonyms for parental involvement are parent participation, mother involvement, and father involvement. Synonyms for bilingual include English as a second language and English language learners.
Helpful Hint
it is wise to develop a system to track keywords or descriptors and the corresponding volumes and indexes. One effective way is to create a matrix for each abstract or index you consult. Across the top, include the keywords or descriptors you selected for that reference; down the left margin, list the dates of the volumes, starting with the most recent. As you go through each volume, place a check under the descriptors you used next to the date of the volume you used.◾
Step 2: Create a Search Query
Once you have identified your keywords, you are ready to create a search query to use in the electronic databases. Using the example from Step 1—“What effect does parental involvement have on the dropout rate of bilingual middle school students?”—you would create a search query that looks like this:
(“parental involvement” OR “mother involvement” OR “father involvement” OR “parent participation”) AND (dropout* OR “drop out*”) AND (bilingual OR “English language learner*” OR “English as a second language”) AND (“middle school student*” or “junior high school student*”)
Boolean Operators
Boolean operators define the relationships between words or groups of words. These commands to the database expand or limit your search by combining terms using the wordsand, or, ornot. For example, to search for “What effect does alcohol have on college students’ self-esteem?” type as your words:alcohol, college students, self-esteem.
· ANDnarrows the search by obtaining only those items with both Concept 1 and Concept 2 (“college students” AND “self-esteem”)
· ORbroadens the search by obtaining all items with either Concept 1 or Concept 2 (“self-esteem” OR “self-confidence”)
· NOTobtains items with Concept 1 but eliminates those with Concept 2 (“alcohol” NOT “illegal drugs”)
Notice that multiword phrases were placed inside quotation marks. This is necessary to search those words in that order as a phrase. Remember to put phrases of two or more words in quotation marks.
Through this process, you find variations of keywords by adding a truncation symbol to the root. For example, to retrieve all variations on the root “psycholog” (i.e., to findpsychological, psychologist, psychology), type
Truncation symbols vary with different databases (e.g.,*, ?, $, !).
Online Help
Instructions for using electronic databases are built into the system. Look for online help buttons or links such as “advanced search” and “search tips.” Consultonline help to learn how to enter searches, what truncation symbol to use, how to display results, and how to print or download records.
Internet Search Engines
Once you have identified your keywords and developed appropriate search queries, you then select various search engines in which to input your queries. Search engines are tools designed to scan the Internet for sites and pages, which are then stored in indexes or databases. You search the contents of databases by typing selected keywords in the text box located on the search engine’s home page. The search engine then retrieves documents that match your keywords and displays the results ranked in order of that engine’s relevance.
Comparisons of Search Engines
The three major search engines used today are Google (, Yahoo! Bing (, and ( A search engine for scholarly or academic links is Google Scholar ( You will find many peer-reviewed articles, books, and so on, as well as how often they are cited in other publications.
There are also specialty search engines and virtual libraries in different disciplines, such as the WWW Virtual Library for Anthropology ( You can find listings for a variety of specialty search engines at Search Engine Guide ( Also available is a website by Teach Thought that displays 100 search engines for academic research (
A valuable resource for searching the “Deep Web” (a vast repository of information not accessible by search engines and directories) may be found on a page on the Online College Blog titled “100 Useful Tips and Tools to Research the Deep Web.” The author provides tips, strategies, and helpful articles and resources for deep searching (
Evaluating Websites
Since anyone can post information on the Internet without any oversight or editing or fact checking, it is important that you evaluate any information that you find on the Internet to determine its credibility and authority before using it in your research. Look at the URL to see if it is a personal website, an educational site, a commercial site, or a nonprofit organization site. Look for authorship of the site (Is there an “About Us” link somewhere on the page?) and when the page was last updated. Does the site try to persuade or to sell something, or is it simplyproviding information? Is there any bias that you can detect? Can you validate the information through another source?
Searching Blogs
There are a variety of blog search engines available; however, we found Google Blog Search ( to be one of the fastest and one that returns posts right on topic. The main focus of Google Blog Search is on relevance, but posts can also be sorted by date (click on the top right of the results page). In addition, you can keep track of new postings in your areas of interest via RSS feeds—short summaries sent from your favorite websites.
Step 3: Identify Relevant Literature Sources
The best place to begin your search is with the databases and indexes in your academic area. They help you identify and locate research articles and other sources of information related to your research topic. A detailed description of available secondary sources is beyond the scope of this book. However, as an example, we list some major resources traditionally used by education and social science researchers. To find resources in your specific academic discipline, do a keyword search in your university library’s online catalog for your discipline (e.g.,sociology, psychology, anthropology) followed by the wordhandbook, encyclopedia, bibliography, thesaurus, dictionary, abstract, measures,and so on. Also, consult with librarians at your university library or with faculty in your graduate program for resources they turn to when beginning a new research project.
In planning your search strategy, it is important to determine which academic disciplines are conducting research in your topic area. It is more than likely that your research overlaps with other disciplines. For example, in the third research question in Step 1—“How does language use shape the identity of language-minority students?”—you must decide which academic disciplines might conduct research on this topic. Possibilities include anthropology, psychology, education, communication, and sociology.
The following is a list a variety of literature sources:

Selected Multidisciplinary Databases

Academic Search Premier (EbscoHost)

Communication and Mass Media (EbscoHost)

Google Scholar (

Research Library (ProQuest)

Social Sciences Citation Index (Web of Science)

OmniFile Full Text Mega (EbscoHost)

Selected Anthropology Databases

Anthropology Plus (EbscoHost)

AnthroSource (Wiley)

Anthropological Index Online (Royal Anthropological Institute)

Sociological Abstracts (ProQuest)

Selected Education Databases

Education Resources Information Center (ERIC,

Education Research Complete (EbscoHost)

Education Full-Text (H. W. Wilson)

ProQuest Education (ProQuest)

Selected Psychology Databases

PsycArticles(American Psychological Association)

PsycInfo(American Psychological Association)

Psychology Journals (ProQuest)

ProQuest Social Sciences Premium

Selected Sociology Databases

Sociological Abstracts (ProQuest)

SocIndex with Full-Text (EbscoHost)

Social Sciences Fulltext (EbscoHost)

Social Sciences Citation Index (Web of Science)

ProQuest Social Sciences Premium

Bibliographies, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries

Biographical Dictionary of Social and Cultural Anthropology

Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science

Encyclopedia of Education

Encyclopedia of Leadership

Handbooks and Reviews of Research Literature

Bass and Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership

Handbook of Research on the Education of Young Children

Handbook of Research in Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

The Handbook of Research on Teaching

Handbook of School Psychology


American Doctoral Dissertations (print)

Dissertation Abstracts International (print)

Index to Tests Used in Educational Dissertations by Emily Fabiano

ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Database (ProQuest)

Literature Related to Published and Unpublished Measures

Published Measures (Reviews of Instruments)

ETS TestLink (

Mental Measurement Yearbook

Buros (; free searching, but charges to see review—also available full text from vendors such as EbscoHost)

PRO-ED Test Review

Tests in Print

Unpublished Measures (Sample Instruments)

Assessments A to Z: A collection of 50 Questionnaires, Instruments, and Inventories

Handbook of Family Measurement Techniques (vol. 3)

Handbook of Organizational Measurement

Handbook of Tests and Measurement in Education and the Social Sciences

Measures for Clinical Practice

Scales for the Measurement of Attitudes

These are only a few sources of measurement available. Check with your library and the Internet under your specific academic discipline.


Ebrary (full-text electronic books available through subscription by your library)

Google Book Search (

NetLibrary Project Gutenberg (

WorldCat (; catalog of library holdings worldwide)

Grey Literature

Grey literature is literature not available through published databases or indexes. It can be in print and electronic formats. These are documents published by governmental agencies, academic institutions, corporations, research centers, professional organizations, and so on.
• Working papers
• Technical reports
• Government documents
• Government documents
• Conference or symposia proceedings
• White papers
• Business documents
• Newsletters
• Monographs
• Letters and diaries
While these are not scholarly documents, they can provide up-to-date facts and statistics to broaden knowledge about a particular topic. The downside is that they are often difficult to find, and they must be carefully evaluated, as they are not peer reviewed. One way to locate grey literature is to search the agency or institution that produces the literature; another way is to consult a librarian. For a thorough explanation of grey literature and how to find it, refer toDoing a Literature Searchby Hart (2004, /a>,Chapters 7and8). You will also find a selection of web-based resources in grey literature at Grey Literature Network Service (

Existing Literature Review and Systematic Literature Review Articles
These articles, including meta-analysis and meta-synthesis, consist solely of a literature review and are invaluable sources of data. They provide a good overview of research that has been conducted by synthesizing findings from individual studies. Many peer-reviewed systematic reviews are available in journals as well as from databases and other electronic sources. The bibliographic references are also very helpful.

Additional Useful Sources
• American Educational Research Association (
• U. S. Department of Education (
• WestEd (
• Regional Educational Laboratories (
• The Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM) (
• United States Government Publishing Office (
Step 4: Search the Literature and Collect Relevant Materials
Begin your search for relevant literature by searching the databases, indexes, books, and other sourceslisted in Step 3. Examine your results. Are the materials you are finding relevant? Do you see other keywords you could add or subtract from your search? Do particular authors seem to be conducting research on this topic? Do particular journals seem to be publishing research in this area? Use this information to help you focus your search.
When searching the Internet for literature, remember that some information may not be dependable, meaning it has not passed the standards of peer reviewers, journal editors, or book publishers. Creswell (2004) elaborated this point by stating, “Material obtained from Web sites not in national, refereed journals needs to be carefully screened to determine the qualifications of the author, the quality of the writing, and the scope and rigor of data collection and analysis” (p. 104). Once you have reviewed the list of references located in your database searches, the next step is to determine which books and articles are most relevant to your study and collect each primary source. Primary source documents contain the original work of researchers and authors. As a serious researcher, you should not rely solely on secondary sources. They do not always provide reliable information. Secondary sources interpret, analyze, or summarize primary sources. They include such published works as newspapers, encyclopedias, handbooks, conference proceedings, and so on. Your review should be based on primary sources whenever possible.
Collecting primary literature consists of browsing, skimming, reading, and photocopying books and documents related to your study. Two types of literature you should collect for your review are the theoretical literature and the research literature. Since most dissertations have a theoretical base, you need to be familiar with those conceptual areas related to your study. In addition, you must be thoroughly familiar with previous research in your subject area.
Collecting literature is an ongoing process, and you need some mechanism for classifying it into those that have a direct bearing on your topic and those that bear generally on your topic. Since it is not feasible to collect all the titles yielded in your search of secondary sources, you must be selective and choose only those most relevant to your study. Always keep in mind your study’s purpose. As you gather and sort documents, ask yourself,How does this relate to my problem?One strategy is to categorize each book or article as eithervery important, moderately important, orsomewhat importantto your study.
Keeping Track of Pertinent Documents: Organizing Strategies
It is helpful to keep a record of each book or document you consult. With so many to read, you can easily lose track of those already reviewed. You should preparebibliographic citations for each. One simple way is to list the bibliographic information on index cards and keep them arranged alphabetically by the last name of the author. Another way is to simply maintain an ongoing record of the bibliographic data in your computer. Reference management software programs you download to your computer, such as EndNote, ProCite, Connotea, and Zotero, enable you to create a list of citations, and they automatically convert them into the appropriate style format. The newest release of Microsoft Word also allows you to choose a citation style format, such as American Psychological Association (APA). Reference management databases, such as RefWorks, store your citations on their server and allow you to access your records from any computer that has access to the Internet. Check with your library or your graduate program to see which programs they provide or support.
At this point, you must decide on the specific bibliographic style you plan to use in your dissertation. We recommend that you consult with your advisor on this issue. Many universities have preferred styles of citation.
A second organizing strategy is to develop a two-dimensional matrix in which you identify the variables or key descriptors in each publication you consult. To do this, list your variables or descriptors across the top of the page. Then, down the left-hand side of the page, list each reference and its publication date. You can then place a checkmark where the variable and reference intersect.
Not only does this process help you keep track of your reading in the literature, it helps you initially select the variables and key concepts you might wish to study. It also is a good mechanism for developing your research instruments.
A variation of this organizing strategy is the author–subtopic matrix in which you note the specific pages on which subtopic information can be located. This is accomplished by putting the page numbers across from the subtopic and under the correct author. After locating pertinent articles for review, you should download the full text to your computer’s hard drive or to a portable storage device such as a jump drive or external hard drive. If the articles are in a print journal, photocopy them to read at a more convenient time. We suggest you make a complete photocopy of all articles central to your topic, especially those you want to cite.
Dissertations directly relating to your study can be purchased from ProQuest’s Dissertation Express ( Before purchasing, check with your university library; the full text of dissertations may be available to you at no additional charge through the ProQuest Dissertations & Theses database. Other dissertations not available in the library might be obtained through the interlibrary loan process.
Step 5: Critically Read and Analyze the Literature
While collecting your literature, it is necessary to read it critically. This involves questioning, speculating, evaluating, thinking through, and analyzing what you read.What original insights can you gather about your topic that are not stated in any of the references? What important facts and opinions relate to your study? Are there important issues that are not well addressed? You must be able to evaluate and integrate the material you read.
Noting and Summarizing References
1. Do an in-depth reading of your very important publications first so you can understand them thoroughly. Highlight important parts and write down any ideas, insights, or questions that come to you while reading. You can also write on sticky notes or make notations in the margins.
2. For every book or article you read, write a brief summary in your own words that illustrates the essential points. Also include inferences you can make about your study and conclusions you can draw from the book or article.
3. Be sure to accurately record the bibliographic reference exactly as it will appear in the final reference list placed in the dissertation. Include the library call number if your reference is a library book.
4. Develop a coding system so you can identify the type of materials contained on each summary sheet. Usually, this is done by your variables, key topics, or by the descriptors used in locating the references. Write the name of the reference item at the top of the sheet.
5. As you are reading, be alert for quotations that might be useful in presenting your review. If you find quotable material, be sure to copy it carefully with the quotation marks and include the page from which it was taken. Including quotation marks helps you remember which statements are direct quotations. You do not want to inadvertently plagiarize others’ ideas. Too often, students overuse quotations in their dissertations. Try to limit the number of direct quotations.
6. Place your summaries in a computer file and then print it out, leaving wide margins. You now have a complete record of what the literature stated about the variables or key concepts in your study.
7. Read through your summaries and look for important themes, big issues, commonalities, and differences. Make notations in the margins of your summary sheets. This provides the basis for developing a logical, coherent outline.
A technique that can be used in preparation for synthesis writing is to build tables to summarize the literature. Building tables is an effective way to overview, organize, and summarize the literature. In their book,Writing Literature Reviews,Galvan and Galvan (2017) provide examples on how to build summary tables, such as a table of definitions and key terms and concepts, a table of research methods, a table of research results, or a table that summarizes theories relevant to your study. Other tables could summarize related quantitative or qualitativestudies. Many kinds of tables can be developed to help you get a comprehensive overview of the literature, which is quite useful in the early stages of synthesizing literature.
Step 6: Synthesize the Literature
After you have critically read and analyzed the collected literature, it is time to synthesize the ideas and information that was gathered.Synthesizinginvolves comparing, contrasting, and merging disparate pieces of information into one coherent whole that provides a new perspective. This works much like a jigsaw puzzle: the individual pieces of information are placed into a new whole, creating an original work. Critical synthesis is most difficult for students to achieve. Too often, students discuss the literature as a chain of isolated summaries of previous studies, such as “White says . . .”; “Smith found . . .”; and “French concluded . . .” with no attempt to explain the relationship among them or to compare what is being studied. Like individual beads on a necklace, they string together a series of annotations that describe the current state of knowledge about the study but fail to organize the material. This reflects a shotgun approach and misses the point of an integrated literature review. Remember, books and articles are not bricks with mortar banding them together. You need to create the mortar.
A high-quality literature review reflects a careful analysis of all sources and a critical synthesis in which you show how previous studies and information are related to each other and to your study. Describing trees represents the analysis process; describing the forest is the synthesis process and involves “creating a unique new forest” (Galvan, 2006, p. 72). You synthesize the literature when you do the following:
· Identify relationships among studies (such as which ones were landmark studies leading to subsequent studies)
· Compare (show commonalities) and contrast (show differences) the works, ideas, theories, or concepts from various authors
· Comment on the major themes and patterns you discovered
· Show evidence of common results using data from multiple sources
· Discuss the pros and cons of the issues
· Explain a conflict or contradiction among different sources
· Point out gaps in the literature, reflecting on why these exist based on the understandings you gained in reading in your study area
· Note inconsistencies across studies over time
· Make generalizations across studies
· Discuss how and why ideas about your topic have changed over time
· Make connections between the sources cited
· Discuss literature that has a direct bearing on your area of study
Before you can write a good synthesis, however, you must first recognize the main points and key ideas of the sources you use. Then, as you read through your written summaries, identify the major themes, trends, or patterns and the big issues, commonalities, and differences among the different authors, and identify your own insights that go beyond what anyone else said. When you do this, you bring your own voice forward rather than that of the authors cited. After all, this is your study and, therefore, it is your responsibility to make sense of the literature to help readers see the information and your topic in a new way and in greater depth. The bottom line is to critique the literature; don’t duplicate it. This sounds easier than it is, for rarely are these trends, patterns, and so on spelled out in the literature. They become apparent to you as you develop insight into the big picture that emerged over time.
Techniques for Synthesizing the Literature
Various techniques can be used to synthesize the literature. This section provides an overview of some of these techniques. One useful technique we use with doctoral students is asynthesis matrix. A synthesis matrix chart identifies themes and patterns or arguments across sources. The top of the matrix lists the various sources of comparison (by author or article), and the side represents the common themes, arguments, or main ideas identified in the articles. SeeFigure 9.1.
A synthesis matrix such as this helps you begin to link studies together and identify the themes and patterns that appear across your literature sources.
Another useful technique for synthesis writing is to bring your own voice to the foreground. According to Ridley (2012), this means presenting your own voice assertively by
taking control of the text and leading your reader through the content. This can be done by making your own assertions with appropriate citations to provide support, and by including explicit linking words and phrases to show connections between citations and the different sections and chapters in the text. (pp. 157–158)
Ridley’s book,The Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Guide for Students, provides rich examples on how to use language and citations to foreground your own voice in writing your literature review.
Constructing a “literature map” is an idea promoted by Creswell (2009) in his book,Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches.This technique provides a visual summary of the literature—a figure or drawing. Not only does this technique provide an overview of the existing literature, it also “helps you see overlaps in information or major topics in the literature and can help you determine how a proposed study adds to or extends the existing literature rather than duplicates past studies” (p. 107).
You could also create a summary chart of the literature using a concept mapping program such as Inspiration (free 30-day trial download available at A concept map is a diagram showing the relationships among concepts. Concepts, usually represented as boxes or circles, are connected with labeled arrows in a downward-branching hierarchical structure revealing relationships and patterns among concepts.
Step 7: Organize the Literature
Once analysis and synthesis of the literature are complete, you must consider how your review will be organized and written. Of primary importance is that your review be structured in a logical and coherent manner. Too often, discussions of related literature are disorganized ramblings. There is no design, no structure that organizes and integrates the material discussed. The following are some guidelines for organizing your review.
Select an Organizational Framework
Prior to writing your first draft, you need to decide on an organizational structure for your review. There are a variety of organizational principles to organize and structure your literature review. Below are some examples that are commonly used in social science research.
a. Chronological—the “acorn to oak” approach. Organizing your review chronologically means that you group and discuss your sources in order of their appearance (usually publication), highlighting the emergence of a topic over a period of time. This approach is useful for historical research or other studies where time is an important element.
b. Thematic—the “four schools of thought” or “six themes that emerge” approach. Organizing your review thematically means discussing your sources in terms of themes, topics, important concepts, or major issues. This approach integrates the literature and depends on your ability to synthesize information effectively.
c. General to Specific—the “V” or “funnel” approach. First, discuss general material to provide a comprehensive perspective. Last, discuss material most closely related to your study. Rudestam and Newton (2015) used the metaphor of filmmaking to explain this approach. They discussed “long shots and close ups” to display the degrees of depth required relative to the closeness and relevance of the literature to your study.Long shotsrefer to a topic’s background information and are described more generally.Medium shotsare those sources more closely related to your study and are critiqued in more detail.Close-upsrefer to those sources with direct bearing on your study, thus requiring a more critical examination.
Create a Topic Outline
If you want your review to be coherent, logical, and well organized, create a topic outline. It helps to do this prior to writing; however, don’t be surprised if it changes as you write. In writing your outline, first list the main topics and the order in which they should be presented. Then, under each heading, determine the logical subheadings. Adding additional subheadings depends on the complexity of your problem. The outline helps you see headings that need rearranging to create a logical flow of thought.
With a completed outline, you can sort your references under their appropriate subheadings. Then you must decide in which order the headings shouldbe presented. It is a challenging task to combine and interpret the literature into a well-organized and unified picture of the state of knowledge in your area.
Helpful Hint
Create a file for each heading and subheading in your outline.
Save the articles and notes related to each heading or subheading in a folder.◾
Step 8: Write the Literature Review
Pretend your literature review is a discussion with a friend regarding what authors have written about your problem area. Basically, your review is an informative story of what is known about your topic—a summary of the state of the art. You should write for an audience who is intelligent but not knowledgeable about your study. This means limiting (as much as possible) jargon and specialized nomenclature.
Style Manuals
Most universities require consistent use of a particular style manual to format your dissertation document and to cite references. Those widely used in the social sciences include the following:
· American Psychological Association. (2020).Publication manual of the American Psychological Association(7th ed.).
· University of Chicago. (2017).The Chicago manual of style: The essential guide for writers, editors, and publishers(17th ed.).
Following are additional helpful resources:
· Oxford English Dictionary,
· Purdue Online Writing Lab (Purdue OWL),
· Wordnik thesaurus,
· The Brain mind-mapping tool,
· Docear academic literature management tool (created by doctoral and postdoctoral students),
We highly recommend that you become familiar with your required style manual and begin using it consistently in writing your literature review as well as other sections of your dissertation. It’s not as easy as it seems to learn the nuances of headings, in-text citations, end-of-text references, footnotes, and tables and figures. Mastering these techniques early saves you considerable time and effort in the long run.
Techniques for Writing the Literature Review
Typically, a review of the literature begins with a brief introduction that explains the presentation of your literature review—what it is about, the scope, and the organizational structure you selected.
Following the introduction, present the various sections where you review and synthesize the literature.
For each subsection, write an introduction and then describe the information and relevant studies (e.g., “This section is organized chronologically to provide a perspective of trends in the formal evaluation of school superintendents”).
Use Headings and Subheadings
This helps the reader follow your train of thought. Usually, headings reflect your study’s major variables or themes found in the literature.
Employ Summary Tables
Where considerable research exists, summary tables help cut through a huge mass of literature. Such a table might look like the following:

Research on Cognitive Coaching Classrooms




You can modify this table format by including other topics of comparison, such as methodology or conclusions.
Use Transitional Phrases
Such phrases guide the reader from one paragraph to the next. It is important that you make strong connections between what has already been reviewed and the material that follows.
Pull together each major section with a brief summary at the end. Summaries highlight and clarify the main points of a section, especially if it is long and complex. Conclude by highlighting and summarizing the key points made throughout the literature review.
Emphasize Relatedness
Remember to link studies together by comparing the similarities and differences among them. To keep from boring the reader, be sure to use transitions to integrate paragraphs.
If several studies say essentially the same thing, it is not necessary to describe each one. You can make a summary statement followed by all the related references; for example, “Several studies have found . . . (Brown, 2015; Jones, 2017; Smith, 2018).” Be careful not to ignore studies that contradict other studies. You may evaluate them and try to figure out a plausible explanation (e.g., “Contrary to these studies is the work of Smith and Jones (2016), who found . . .”).
Advice on Writing a Literature Review
1. Be Thorough
Include both computer and hand searches; avoid shortcuts. You must cover the full scope of the field. A solid literature review establishes you as an expert and provides a strong background to your research effort.
2. Write With Authority
You are in charge of your literature review, so develop a critical perspective in discussing others’ work. Cite relevant authors to emphasize your argument or toprovide notable examples of the point you are making. Don’t start a paragraph with someone else’s name; rather, start each paragraph with the point you wish to make followed by studies and examples that illustrate and enhance your point.
3. Critique Rather Than Just Report the Literature
You must evaluate and integrate the material you read. Compare and contrast the various studies related to your problem. Comment on the major themes and issues you discovered. In other words, bring meaning to the literature you review; don’t just review what has been reported.
4. Avoid Excessive Use of Quotations
Use quotations only when the material quoted is impactful, stated in a unique way, or can be inserted without impairing the continuity of your writing. An accumulation of quotations linked by a sentence or two results in a review that is disjointed and difficult to read.
5. Be Selective
Avoid the temptation to report everything you read. A literature review is not a collection of every book and article relating to a topic. Include only material directly related to your study’s purpose and the necessary background to your variables. All the books and articles you read were necessary to help you become an expert in your study area. Like in a courtroom, all the admissible evidence presented must pertain directly to the case and question at hand.
6. Be Careful Not to Plagiarize
Plagiarizingmeans using someone else’s words without quotation marks, closely paraphrasing others’ sentences, and stating others’ ideas as if they were yours. Remember to always acknowledge another’s ideas whenever you cite or borrow them.
7. Critique the Literature; Don’t Duplicate It
It is your job to organize and summarize references in a meaningful way. Don’t quote long passages or cite others’ ideas and words at length. First, present your own review followed by a paraphrase or short, direct quotations. Use long quotations only for a good reason.
8. Use Primary Sources
Primary sources give you information straight from the horse’s mouth. They are preferable to secondary sources that are the interpretation of another’s work. Find the original books and articles and read them yourself. If you cannot locate the original source, then follow your style manual’s guidelines for citing secondary sources. Later in this chapter is a literature review checklist to assess the quality and thoroughness of your literature review.
Helpful Technologies for Searching the Literature and Collaboration
To help in your literature review, consider some technology currently on the market. For example, to personally track your reading, scanners can be very helpful. They scan any papers, ranging from a receipt to multipage documents. Two popular scanners for your smartphone are TurboScan and Scanner Pro. They can be downloaded from Google Play for Android users and the App Store for iPhone users. Smartphones can also be used as digital recorders. The Notes app allows you to talk right into your phone and take a note.
The digital tablet is another technology item to consider. You can make handwritten notes directly onto the screen as you would with pen and paper. It is especially useful for drawing graphics that might be difficult to do with a mouse. Your notes and graphics can then be transferred to your computer.
Another helpful tool in writing your dissertation is speech recognition software. This software enables a computer to respond to the human voice in place of a keyboard or mouse. You talk, it types! Wikipedia provides a helpful list of speech recognition software for different platforms (
When collaborating with dissertation support groups, individual colleagues, the librarian, or your professors, you might consider the following technologies:
1. A webcam: Logitech ( has a very inexpensive yet good quality camera.
2. Google Driveis available as part of the G Suite. Document sharing allows for sharing and collaborating. Remember to set the settings toeditorview, depending on your preference.
3. Video and web conferencingplatforms allow students to collaborate from anywhere. There are several to choose from, and most allow for a call in for audio, which allows for better communication quality. Some also allow for screen sharing, which allows students to collaborate on documents. Here are a few of the most often utilized: Zoom (, Skype (, and Adobe Connect (
Tips to Keep You Sane and Productive
As you use your computer to write your dissertation, these tips will prove invaluable:
1. Become familiar with your computer software and accessoriesbeforebeginning your dissertation research. Familiarity with technology resources saves you much time and frustration and improves the appearance of your dissertation.
2. Use your required style manual at the outset. It’s much easier and saves considerable time if you develop the habit of citing information in the correct style rather than having to revise it later.
3. Computers crash at very inopportune times, so be sure to back up all your files regularly on thumb drives, external hard drives, CDs, or DVDs. Be sure to place them in a location safe from fire, flood, theft, or other catastrophes. You might keep one at the office, at a friend’s house, or in a safe-deposit box. Your work is too valuable to lose. Remember that Murphy’s law also prevails in the research world.
4. Save your work as you go along. After every few sentences, click “Save.” You won’t regret it. Word processing programs such as Word have a “Save Auto Recover” function. The user can define the frequency down to every one minute. Go to “Word Options” and “Save,” then click in the “Save Auto Recover info every: ___ minutes” box and change the time to one minute.
5. Buy a surge protector to plug your computer into in case of electricity blackouts or surges. A better protective device is an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). This device allows your computer to keep running for a short time when power is lost. It contains a battery that kicks in when it senses a loss of power, which gives you time to save any data you are working on. When power surges occur, a UPS intercepts the surge so it doesn’t damage your computer.
6. Before making revisions, copy your draft into another file with a different name and date it. This way, you can keep your original drafts intact. You may decide later that an earlier version was best.
7. Do not borrow software. First of all, it is illegal; second, viruses can appear and cause great havoc.
8. Purchase a high-quality antivirus protection program. Antivirus protection software such as Symantec’s Norton Antivirus and McAfee are designed to prevent or block viruses, worms, Trojan Horses, and so on.
“If anything can go wrong, it will!”
“If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.”
Corollary:“If there is a worst time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.”◾
· 9. Purchase firewall software if you have a DSL- or cable-connected system. It protects you from hackers. The following are three excellent options:


BlackICE PC Protection

· These can be downloaded from the Web. Symantec offers free downloads. BlackICE PC Protection can be downloaded for purchase. ZoneAlarm has several options available for download and purchase. Firewalls can create access problems with proxy servers, so beware!
· 10. Pay attention to your physical self while sitting at the computer. Set your computer up ergonomically and use a proper ergonomic chair and good posture. To learn how to set up your workspace for good ergonomics, refer to Pascarelli’s (2004)Dr. Pascarelli’s Complete Guide to Repetitive Strain Injury: What You Need to Know About RSI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
· 11. Also, consider purchasing a glare protector for your screen to help with eyestrain. There are also special eyeglasses available for use while reading a computer screen.
· 12. Take frequent breaks. Stretch, go for a walk, or play with your dog.
Literature Review Checklist
After writing the first draft of the literature review, use the following checklist to assess the thoroughness and quality of what you wrote. Before sending it to your advisor, ask a critical friend to read and comment on your review. Your advisor will be eternally grateful! A well-thought-out, well-written, and interesting review of the literature is a joy to read.
Please note that the items in this checklist comprise a generic set of “to-dos” when designing a literature review. Not all the items are relevant for all reviews. Select only those that fit your particular situation, and use them as a guide.
_____ The literature review is comprehensive (covers the major points of the topic).
_____ There is balanced coverage of all variables in the study.
_____ The review is well organized. It flows logically. It is not fragmented.
_____ The writer critically analyzes the literature instead of stringing together a series of citations.
_____ There is a logical correspondence between the introduction chapter and the literature review.
_____ At least three fourths of the review focuses on the variables or concepts identified in the purpose statement and research questions. The remaining one fourth sets the stage and gives the big picture and background to the study.
_____ For each variable or concept, there is some historical and current coverage; the emphasis is on current coverage.
_____ The review relies on empirical research studies, not opinion articles in pop journals.
_____ The review contains opposing points of view (especially if the researcher has a strong bias).
_____ There is a summary at the end of each major section as well as at the end of the chapter.
_____ Primary sources are used in the majority of citations.
_____ There is an appropriate amount of paraphrasing and direct quotation.
_____ The direct quotations do not detract from the readability of the chapter.
_____ Authors who make the same point are combined in the citation.
_____ The review synthesizes and integrates meaning to the literature; it is not a catalog of sources.
It is important to read and analyze the literature surrounding your study as early as possible in the dissertation process. To do this efficiently, you should thoroughly familiarize yourself with the library and its various search tools. There are eight basic steps for conducting a literature review:
1. Identify keywords or descriptors.
2. Create a search query.
3. Identify relevant literature sources.
4. Search the literature and collect relevant materials.
5. Critically read and analyze the literature.
6. Synthesize the literature.
7. Organize the literature.
8. Write the literature review.
Learning to use the Internet and technology efficiently saves considerable time in conducting your literature search. Presenting the results of a literature review is a challenging task. To create a well-organized and integrated review, you should first create a topic outline to help provide a logical flow of thought. In presenting the review, employ techniques such as headings and subheadings, summary tables, transition phrases, and summaries. It is important that you critique and bring meaning to the literature rather than only reporting what others say.
· Bibme( is a site that creates bibliographies in formats including APA, MLA, and Chicago/Turabian. Bibliographies can be easily downloaded right from the site. The site could be used to collect citation information on documents reviewed during the literature review process.
· Connected Researchers( is an exhaustive list of organizational tools for electronically organizing your literature review and beyond. Users can choose from a long list of sites and software that could be helpful in organizing research. Tools range from those to help with searching and cataloging to sharing and collaborating.
· Creately( is an online site that allows users to diagram with ease. This site could be used for brainstorming a conceptual or theoretical framework to guide research. The diagram could later be used in the body of the dissertation. The work created on the site can be shared with collaborators. Users can use templates or create their own from scratch. This section of the site ( is specifically devoted to conceptual frameworks for thesis or dissertation work.
· Google Sheets( can be used to create a matrix. This link ( connects to a YouTube video on Google Sheets 101. The video walks users through using the basic features of Google Sheets. This matrix can be used to track keyword searches and pertinent documents in addition to acting as a place to house summaries of your literature.
· Microsoft Word( will automatically make a bibliography for you! At this site (, you can automatically generate a bibliography (or other similar document requiring citations) of the sources you used to write your paper. Each time you add a new citation to your document, Word adds that source so that it appears in the bibliography in the proper format, such as Modern Language Association (MLA), APA, or Chicago style.
· Online College Blog( offers 100 powerful Web tools to organize your thoughts and ideas.
· Teach Thought( provides a list of 100 search engines for students to use to find academic results.
· Additional online resources includeDissertation Doctor(,Association for Support of Graduate Students(,Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Dissertationby S. Joseph Levine (, and theAll-But-Dissertation Survival Guide(

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