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BADM Senior Seminar: Literature Review

Sustainable Business and Corporate Social Responsibility

Literature Reviews

Literature Reviews are a specific kind of writing assignment that uses critical thinking and analytical skills to create connections between different sources. They are not a simple review of a piece of literature, but rather a comprehensive overview of the research currently available on a topic. Literature Reviews examine several types of sources, though your instructor may have their own requirements regarding the sources you should use. 

Research is a conversation

Web of sources in the literature.

"Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students" by NSCU Libraries is licensed under CC Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 | Image adapted from original video.

It can be overwhelming to think about all of the various points of view, approaches, and research represented in the literature. Think about the literature as an on-going conversation. Your job in a literature review is to document this conversation so that you can explain it to someone else who may not have a background in your research area. When reading the literature, make note of concepts, theories, and names of people who occur often- this usually means these are key concepts or players in the conversation you're studying. Visually, this conversation can look like a web, where you have major ideas and scholars who write works that are then responded to by other researchers. You'll start to notice relationships, similarities, differences, and gaps in knowledge among these researchers. Those connections are what your literature review is all about.

Parts of a Literature Review

1. Establish your topic and scope.

Limit your topic to a specific area in order to make it easier to research. Remember, broad topics are harder to research and write about. Will you limit your topic by time period? By region? By company? By industry? By trend?

2. Find the research.

Make a plan for your research and start! Your plan could be a simple sheet of paper with ideas for various sources. Think about looking in the research databases for journal articles, the library and the consortium for books, professional associations for white papers, etc.

3. Organize your discoveries.

Keep notes as you read about the works individually and the relationships between them, then organize them to help with writing later. Use a source tracker chart or a concept map to help with this. Save your sources in an easily accessible manner, such as with Google Drive, a memory stick, or with a research account like Zotero. Keep a document of citations for your sources correctly formatted in APA to use in your paper, and just in case you need to find your articles again. 

What is the literature?

The literature refers to the body of research that exists on any given topic. Several sources make up the literature, and can include: 

  • peer-reviewed (scholarly) journal articles
  • conference proceedings
  • white papers 
  • government & NGO reports
  • academic texts and books
  • grey literature
  • theses and dissertations

Keeping your research organized

Use the Research Tracker provided by your professor to help keep all of your information and sources straight. This will help you when you're ready to write.

Concept maps may also help, especially if you're a visual learner. This example shows a simplified concept map that maps out the sources for a single concept related to the research.


Literature Reviews