A literature review is basically a summary of 'what the academic literature reveals' about the subject of your investigation. You can always try the 'little green man from Mars test' as follows:
Points to bear in mind are:
- Little Green Man from Mars: What do we know about motivation at work?
- Student: Well, one approach to motivation would start off with a psychological approach as exemplified in the work of Maslow who argues that... and we could then explore the work of Herzberg, McGregor...Meanwhile the more sociological approaches would explore concepts such as 'orientation to work' ...
- As a starting point, a literature review should summarise the major authors/contributions in a field.
- However, it needs to contextualise each contribution (eg. 'the work of Maslow has been enormously influential and has directed attention to a series of innate needs to be expressed in work. However, Maslow is frequently misinterpreted because of.....We could also argue that Maslow failed to take sufficiently into account the essentially social nature of behaviour in work ..')
- It also needs to critically evaluate each contribution(eg. 'purely psychological explanations to motivation tend to be individualistic and need to take account of supervisory styles, management cultures and organisational variables')
- Your literature review is only the starting point. Later chapters will make reference to more up-to-date or specialist literature as you proceed
- Your literature review needs to have some academic respectability. It is important that your literature review is not based purely upon anonymous material gleaned from the Internet, press cuttings which are self-opinionated and the like.
- Using a search engine such as Google will generate useful sources of advice for you...
You may find the link to the
University of Toronto particularly useful
Similarly, consult the very useful Conducting a Literature Review from the University of Melbourne
The Penn State University Libraries Conducting a Literature Search also reinforces this advice in a short but well structured article.