20 Jan 2017

Literature Review

On writing a literature review Baker (2000) considers the concept of the Expected Value of Perfect Information (EVPI) which balances the cost of acquiring new information against the value of the new knowledge acquired. Is it worth the time you are investing in research, if it’s already been or being undertaken by someone else. What are you bringing to it?

Baker goes on to make analogies to emergent thinking as the volcanic creation of a new island against gradual growth of a coral reef… with both, the ship of research must not run aground. The literature review serves to avoid these issues of ignorance and reinventing the wheel. The literature review is:

a critical search for an analytical framework, or frameworks, which you can put to work to test a hypothesis (if you’re adopting a positivist approach) or to systematically investigate a set of issues.” (Jancovicz (2000), page 178)

Baker cites Doing A Literature Review by Chris Hart as a specialist text in the area in particular that the review has these purposes:

  • Distinguishing what has been done from what needs to be done;
  • Discovering important variables relevant to the topic;
  • Synthesising and gaining a new perspective;
  • Identifying relationships between ideas and practice;
  • Establishing the context of the topic or problem;
  • Rationalising the significance of the problem;
  • Enhancing and acquiring the subject vocabulary;
  • Understanding the structure of the subject;
  • Relating ideas and theory to applications;
  • Identifying methodologies and techniques that have been used;
  • Placing the research in a historical context to show familiarity with state-of-the-art developments.

and that it may contain:

  • Theoretical background – past, present or future
  • Clinical practice – previous or contemporary
  • Methodology and/or research methods
  • Previous findings
  • Rationale and/or relevance of the current study

BAKER, Michael J. 2000. ‘Writing a literature review’. The Marketing Review, 1(2). Westburn Publishers, 219–247.

n.d. [online]. Available at: [accessed 30 January 2017].