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Journal Article

Undertaking a Structured Literature Review or Structuring a Literature Review: Tales from the Field  pp141-152

Andrew Armitage, Diane Keeble-Allen

© Nov 2008 Volume 6 Issue 2, Editor: Ann Brown, pp123 - 216

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Abstract

The diversity of sources of literature within the management disciplines has resulted in a growing need for a systematic methodology to map the territory of its associated theories and models. As such, when scoping out a doctoral or policy based study the Structured Literature Review (SLR) as espoused by Tranfield et al (2003) can be considered as a means by which critical literature central to and underpinning the research can be rigorously and systematically mapped out. However, there is little guidance, or evidence, of this being the case when undertaking small scale projects for example undergraduate or masters degree dissertations. This paper reports four case studies using semi‑structured interviews of master's degree students following management programmes who undertook a Structured Literature Review (SLR) based dissertation and the issues and problems they had to encounter during their journey. The findings from the case studies suggest that Tranfield et al's (2003) approach to SLR's, whilst suited to doctoral level and policy based research is not appropriate when dealing with undergraduate and masters dissertations and projects. The case study findings identified that these students conducting a SLR had to deal with a new set of conceptual, methodological and data collection problems relating to this 'unorthodox' approach to conducting a postgraduate research dissertation. The findings show that students had to confront new paradigms of enquiry that are not normally taught or found in 'traditional' research texts and research methods courses that are taught on degree programmes. However, the findings do reveal that students gained a greater depth and insight into the subject they were researching through a more rigorous and structured approach. The paper then presents alternative remedies by way of the Rapid Structured Literature Review (RSLR) research strategy which is argued as an appropriate approach in conducting small scale literature based research projects when used with undergraduate and master's degree students rather than the SLR espoused by Tranfield et al (2003) which is better suited for other types of research such as doctoral and policy based activities.

 

Keywords: Literature-based research, systematic literature reviews, synthesis, rapid structured literature reviews

 

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