Flow diagram on “How to do a Literature Review”
A literature review is the heart and soul of any dissertation or research article. As a progression to scientific investigation, research is aimed at adding to, contradicting, or building upon existing studies. To fully comprehend what has already been established in a particular area of research, it is critical to review the available literature. It familiarizes the author with the origin of their field and developments over the years. For instance, to map the work performed around luxury marketing, a researcher needs to perform a detailed literature review of the field. Resultantly, the researcher will be familiar with how the domain has progressed. Another reason to be familiar with the literature is knowing the chatter. It is recommended that a researcher is aware of their proposed research already exists and researched about and not novel.
Figure 1 captures the stepwise process of performing a literature review systematically. Ideally, the review process should follow a pivot style- starting with broad themes and eventually narrowing them down. The steps are explained with an example of the luxury marketing field.
1. The first step: To start with the literature review, the scholar should have a clear idea of the topic they wish to investigate. Knowledge of the research area narrows down the search and provides direction to the research process. As a case point, marketing has a vast literature and it is practically impossible for someone to know everything. Here it becomes crucial to identify the broad domains in marketing, glance at the nuances, and select a few areas of interest. These selected areas can now be studied in depth to understand what is of most interest. After reviewing a plethora of topics, luxury brand management for instance can seem most attractive. The selection of the research area is an achievement in itself as it wanes the search process.
Figure 1. Flow diagram
2. Exploring the research area through Handbooks: Handbooks are a great way to start reading in the selected area. This exploratory stage provides a thorough knowledge of the topic and makes the scholar aware of the themes and sub-themes in that area. Reading handbooks certainly provide more clarity on the chosen topic and acts as a starting point for conducting the review. Academy of Management Review has a series of handbooks on certain topics. Similarly, for luxury branding, the Edward Elgar handbook can be referred to.
3. Review of the extant literature: Extant literature comprises the early works in a particular field of study. Attention to the extant literature familiarizes the researcher with the origin of that field and how has the field evolved. Extant literature can be identified basis the number of citations a particular piece of research has. Ideally, the oldest literature has the most citations (but not always), but it can also be identified from the category of the journal where it is published. Mostly, the best research is published in A+ and A category journals. Another argument here is that an area does not need to be very old to have the most citations. For instance, in luxury research, the concept of experiential luxury is relatively new. It so can happen that this acts as a seminal work and may have 1000 plus citations in less than 5 years. So, a review of the extant literature is important as it hints upon how the area of study has emerged and evolved over the years.
4. Meta-analysis: Every field of research ideally has some studies that performed a meta-analysis. Reviewing a meta-analysis research document is a clever way of familiarizing yourself with the contemporary dialogue in any area. It tells what research has already been done and provides a lens for identifying the gap in the existing literature. Meta-analysis is very useful as it also provides references to backward and forward citations.
5. Final step: Once all the above steps have been performed, a researcher has clarity on the area of research, details, and nuances of that area, a knowledge of the extant literature followed by the current dialogue in the research fraternity. Finally, now the researcher must look for individual papers and study them in-depth. These papers should be read critically keeping in mind that a gap must be identified that can be built upon and a compelling contribution can be made.