Advice on Tackling a Literature Review

A tunnel of books

If you have to do a literature review for a dissertation or PhD, it’s a good idea to get some expert advice on how to approach it before you get started. We have picked out some of the best guidance both in the library and on the web:

1. If you prefer to have a print book to browse, we have lots of books in the library on doing a literature review that can give you a detailed overview of the whole process. Some of these are specific to undergraduate, postgraduate or business research.

2. For expert advice from an academic, the excellent Patter blog (which discusses research and academic writing) has discussed many aspects of doing a literature review: for example this post on scoping or trying out a questions approach. You can see a full range of posts here.

3. If you like interactive web resource, “The Final Chapter” is a learning object from Leeds University. See the “Doing a Literature Review” and click through the sections on the bottom of the screen.

4. Some universities have a wealth of detailed advice on their websites: try the pages from RMIT Australia or more detailed advice from Deluth (“Guidelines for writing a literature review“) or the University of Southern California.

5. This presentation by Professor Hazel Hall looks at Critical Reading skills for a literature review. The advice is aimed at PhD students but there are many useful issues covered for students at all levels.

6. The publisher Emerald also has pages on “how to carry out a literature review for a research paper or dissertation“. See the menu on the right for the different sections.


Perfect referencing for dissertations

Spooky book

One of the last tasks with a dissertation is usually writing and/or checking the reference list. If you are using APA 6th (the form of Harvard that the School of Management recommends) here are the key things to check:

  • If you have used any ideas – either as quotes or put into your own words – from another author, you need to reference them both in the text and in your reference list. This ensures you cannot be accused of plagiarism (passing off someone else’s work as your own).
  • Your reference list should contain a full reference for everything you have mentioned in the body of your dissertation. 
  • Your reference list should be in alphabetical order of author’s surname.
  • Each reference should contain the correct information for the type of reference (e.g. website, journal article) so that someone else can find the exact item you used.

We have a short guide to APA (PDF) which covers the essential types of material you may have used (books, journal articles, websites) but there is also our Full Guide to APA Referencing (PDF) which also includes specific business examples (p.22) such as…

  • Market research reports from Mintel Oxygen
  • Industry profiles from EBSCO Business Source Complete
  • Company data from FAME
  • Data from Datastream
  • Global market data from Mintel GMN
  • Official documents or reports (p.12)

The APA style blog is also very handy for advice on more unusual reference types but please do email your librarians on if you are stuck – we will do our best to advise on the correct reference to use.