Research: Evaluating Literature


As a student, having to write reports, delivering projects and so forth, how do I know that what I have been reading in aid of delivery is relevant, and that you have read enough?

Here is a checklist (courtesy of Bell, Jankowics & MacNeill in their 2000 text “Research Methods for Business students”) that can be used to evaluate any text for relevance:

  • How recent is the item?
  • Is the item likely to have been superseded?
  • Is the context sufficiently different to make it marginal to your research question(s) and objectives?
  • Have you seen references to this item (or its author) in other items that were useful?
  • Does the item support or contradict your arguments? For either it will probably be worth reading!
  • Does the item appear to be biased? Even if it is it might still be relevant to a critical review
  • What are the methodological omissions within the work? Might it still be of relevance?
  • Is the precision sufficient? Even if imprecise, could it still be relevant?

Evaluating for efficiency:

One test is when searching reveals mainly references to items that you have already read. Quality and quantity is sometimes also a matter of what a tutor or lecturer or for that matter Рany audience you have as your target Рwould like to see.

Have you grasped, and have you gained a thorough understanding of the topic through the sources you visited? Sometimes consulting with a lecturer or fellow students or someone you know who is an expert within their field (perhaps someone your senior in an organisation) may help your research effort.