The Power of Second Hand Information – The Lit Review Lives
Updated: May 12
Literature reviews are synonymous with academia; we typically hear them referred to as the fundamental starting point for a higher research degree. There is no doubt that a properly executed literature review can contribute new knowledge to a body of theory. I can also attest to the wealth of knowledge an individual can gain as a result of spending time engrossed in a sea of articles, BUT can the concept of a literature review be adapted for the fast paced world of business and the ever changing school context? The answer is a resounding YES! (with a few little caveats) How? With a few ‘simple’ tweaks, your business or school can benefit from the power of second hand information. The key lies in being ‘SPECIFIC’.
S - Strategic Be strategic. Establish a clear objective that ties in directly to your overall marketing or strategic objectives. This means writing down exactly what you want to find out from the review. For example, do you want to develop the most effective school drama program for your school in terms of student participation, engagement and wellbeing? Or alternatively, do you want to identify the top three technologies that your company should invest in to remain competitive in the national and global marketplace? From your key objective, establish some simple terms of reference. This will include defining key terms and locations that will guide the search terms and determine what is ultimately included in the review. A simple example of a term of reference is whether the search will be global or national. Equally as important, a decision should be made early on about whether to include unpublished material in the search, often termed ‘grey’ literature (Majumder 2015)*. From a business perspective, both published and unpublished (grey) literature can be invaluable. P - Pragmatic When defining the objective and terms of reference be pragmatic and realistic in terms of ensuring that the review is relevant to your current situation and direction. The outcome of the review should help your business or school to make a more informed decision. E - Economical Be economical and selective in how and what you record, keeping in mind the time allowed by management for this exercise. C - Comprehensive (but not exhaustive) Remember, this is not an academic exercise, but an activity in which you’re seeking to gain an advantage over competitors and add value to your business or school. Remember to always refer back to your key objective and terms of reference and do not be tempted to extend beyond these agreed parameters without a very, very good reason. Remember too, in a business or school context it is not always about detailing every piece of evidence, but rather detailing pivotal works and typically referencing other supporting pieces. The outcome should be a strong evidence based report to help inform key decisions. I - Impactful The literature review should have an impact. It should be a standalone document that adds value, not necessarily to a body of knowledge in an academic sense, but rather adds to your management’s body of knowledge regarding your business or school. Your business or school should always be at the centre of a business literature review. And just in case you missed it before, remember - the outcome should be a strong evidence based report to help inform key decisions. F - Fearless Search out and record not only the positive relevant material, but the negative or critical works to avoid bias. This will help to generate meaningful, informed and balanced insights. I - Insightful Be insightful. A literature review should contribute something new – and in the instance of a business literature review it should contribute new knowledge that addresses the original objective and feeds directly into the school’s or business’s strategic directions. For example, the key learnings from the search may include the design of a proposed new drama program for the school that draws on multiple existing models or it may recommend an existing tried and tested model with some adjustments that takes into account the learnings from those schools that have adopted the model. The key learnings should always be directly relatable to the evidence that has been uncovered in the literature review. C - Confident Finally, be confident in your work. It is not an easy task to prepare, execute and deliver a meaningful business literature review, but it is a powerful business tool that can help schools and companies to make more informed decisions. In Summary The literature review isn’t dead or just for academics – rather, it’s a tool worth adding to your school’s or organisation’s toolkit to help add value and get ahead of the pack. (Just remember those few caveats!) And remember too, if you choose to outsource your next literature review, Complete the Picture Consulting can assist. *Majumder, K. (2015) "A young researcher’s guide to a systematic review." Editage Insights.