Skip to main content

How to Write the Best Literature Review: Rules to Follow When Writing Literature Review

  • Author:
  • Updated date:


1.1 Introduction

  • Start with the main objective of the study (if you have one already. If you don’t have leave it, you will add later after writing chapter one)
  • State what the chapter will cover i.e an overview of the chapter.
  • You mention the subheadings of the chapter i.e 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7 without discussing them. Five or six lines should be enough.

The aim of the study is to examine the marketing factors which affect performance of firm. This is informed by conducting Literature Review on marketing function. It covers the meaning of marketing, drivers and antecedents of marketing, process of marketing, theoretical and conceptual framework for the study. it also covers the theories that explain the hypothesis as well as explaining how and why the selected independent variables affect the dependent variable of the study.

1.2 Definitions of the term or (topic)

  • Provide three definitions of the topic you have selected
  • E.g Marketing, entrepreneurial ecosystem, green technology, technology adoption, market/entrepreneurial orientation.
  • Provide the similarities and differences between the three definitions

-What concepts or terms in the definitions are similar ie what all the theories are mentioning. What is common in al the theories.

-What are the different areas of focus i.e what one theory has mentioned which is not found in other definitions?

  • Come up with your own definition based on the analysis of the three definitions.
  • NB the definitions must come from published articles or books. Not from a dictionary or just any website or newspaper
  • Provide citations for any point you bring. Every sentence you write must have a citation except the definition you develop on your own
  • The citation must follow the APA style 7th edition which we discussed

As suggested by Gwija (2014) that there is not common definition of entrepreneurship which has commonly been be agreed upon so different researchers have define it differently. Navarathne (2017) define entrepreneurship as the process of creating something new with value by devoting the necessary time and effort assuming the accompanying financial, psychic and social risk and receiving the resulting reward of monetary and personal satisfaction and independence. Shane and Venkataraman (2000) also define it as the process that involves converting new knowledge into product and services. According to Nieman (2009) entrepreneurship is the process of creating or seizing and pursuing an opportunity, irrespective of available controlled resources. Based on the studies cited above they all define entrepreneurship as a process of creating something new regardless the risky involved and they only difference is that Navarathne point out at the reward that a person gets at the end of process while the other two definitions of Venkataraman and Nieman did not mention any reward that a person get at the end of the process. This study entrepreneurship will define as the process of identifying an opportunity and pursuing that opportunity regardless of the resources that are available to receive a resulting reward of monetary and personal satisfaction.

1.3 Evolution/history of the topic

Explain how the topic of your study has evolved over the past decades e.g who came up with the concept (like marketing, accounting). Where are its roots? How has it changed over the years? What other authors/scholars have added/criticized to the topic.

According to Covin and Wales (2011), the roots of EO research can be located to the work of Mintzberg (1973). Henry Mintzberg (1973) was one of the first scholars to recognize the utility of an entrepreneurial organizational strategy-making mode (Wales, et al., 2011) where he conceived it as a managerial disposition categorized by the active exploration for new openings in uncertain environments through which severe growth might be realized (Covin and Wales, 2011). However, according to Wales, et al., (2011), it was not until the publication of Miller (1983) that the notion of entrepreneurial firms gained scholarly attention.

According to Covin and Wales (2011), the work of Miller and his colleagues introduced the notion of firm-level entrepreneurship that formed the foundation of a school of thought that EO is demonstrated as a collection of organizational behaviors. Miller and Friesen (1982) suggested that firms that are entrepreneurial innovate confidently and frequently while taking substantial risks in their product-market tactics (Covin and Wales, 2011). Furthermore, Miller (1983) posited that a firm is entrepreneurial when it involves in product-market innovation, commences to some extent risky projects, and is first to come up with ‘proactive’ innovations, outperforming competitors (Covin and Wales, 2011).

Lumpkin and Dess (1996) suggested that EO can be perceived as a multidimensional phenomenon in which the dimensions represent independent predictors (Wales, et al., 2011). Lumpkin and Dess made a ‘real break from the previous use and definition of the concept’ (Basso et al., 2009). and marked the beginning of a significant theoretical division hence suggested two additional dimensions – competitive aggressiveness and autonomy – which go beyond the original three, and further define the domain of EO (Covin and Wales, 2011). According to Covin and Wales (2011), Lumpkin and Dess defined competitive aggressiveness as an organization’s efforts to overcome its market opponents by maintaining a challenging posture, and autonomy as organizational members’ ability to independently engage and defend assuring entrepreneurial ideas and agendas. Measurement instruments for capturing competitive aggressiveness (Lumpkin and Dess, 2001) and autonomy (Lumpkin et al., 2009) have been comparatively recent additions to the EO literature

1.4 Drivers/factors/antecedents/explanatory/independent variable of (….selected topic..)

E.g drivers of marketing or factors affecting marketing are:

  • Technology
  • Lifestyle of customers
  • Competition
  • Innovation

NB You need to provide literature which agrees or disagrees that the driver affects the topic of your choice. Eg Mr Phiri (2018) found that technology affects marketing positively. However Mr Nambazo (2019) found that there is negative relationship between Technology and marketing

You need to collect many literature which supports or don’t support that there is relationship between technology and marketing. Don’t bring only literature which supports the relationship between the two terms. There must be both + and – literature. Then you must bring your opinion about the findings if there is a gap. What part of technology has the literature left out. This might be the possible area for you to do your study


NB this is just an illustration you are not supposed to draw a diagram in this section unless otherwise. Your focus is to identify the drivers which are independent variables

EE studies consider entrepreneurial culture as one of its important drivers (Acts, et al., 2014) Beinhocker, 2007. Brownson (2013) referred to the entrepreneurial culture as a society that promotes the exhibition of the attributes, values, beliefs, and behaviors that foster entrepreneurial spirit among members of such society. EE as a social system has its own cultural aspects underpinning its activities. It may include failure and success stories, trust and safety of the actors, role models, persistence, adaptability, openness, ability to track results, rewarding positive behaviors, corruption and bureaucratic societies, mindset, individual’s assumptions, adaptations, perceptions and learning, desire for business ownership, risky attitude, attitude towards entrepreneurs (see…Acs, et al., 2017, Ahmad & Hoffman, 2007; Kansheba, et al., 2020... for more).

The entrepreneurial culture can enable or constrain performance of individuals or SMEs. It enables the actors to internalize suitable entrepreneurial practices and norms (Spigel, 2015). Where the entrepreneurs have trust and feel safe with the neighbours within the EE (Audtretch & Balitsk, 2016), they are willing to work together. Bischoff (2018) concluded that sound entrepreneurial culture promotes actors’ collaboration within an ecosystem by inculcating trust and safety among stakeholders Social network/cluster theory posits that were members trust and see credibility in a person they may be willing to collaborate and support (Maskell, et al., 1998; Bell, et al., 2009). Successful entrepreneurs act as role models and provide useful information and skills for managing the business (Acs, et al., 2018). However, if the environment is bureaucratic, corrupt and not safe (Aidis, 2008), the entrepreneurs might choose to close or not to open businesses as a result the business is affected. Mack and Mayer (2015) found that a lack of supportive entrepreneurial culture was among the hindering factors toward the growth of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In sum, entrepreneurial culture has both positive and negative effects on EE. The nature of prevailing cultural conditions determines the degree of effectiveness to the EE. EO can leverage human capital to exploit the opportunities and overcome uncertainties from the business environment.

Scroll to Continue

1.5 Consequences/results/effects/impacts/outcome/output/dependent variables of (..topic..)

  • Provide the output or impact or positive and negative result of the (topic) e.g marketing.
  • Example from marketing are increase/decrease in market share, profits, sales volume, customer satisfaction, brand loyalty
  • NB this is just an illustration you are not supposed to draw a diagram in this section unless otherwise. Your focus is to identify the consequences/output which are dependent variables.
  • You need to provide literature which agrees or disagrees that the driver affects the topic of your choice. E.g Mr Phiri (2018) found that marketing affects income positively. However, Mr Nambazo (2019) found that there is negative relationship between marketing and income.
  • You need to collect many literature which supports or don’t support that there is relationship between technology and marketing. Don’t bring only literature which supports the relationship between the two terms. There must be both + and – literature. Then you must bring your opinion about the findings if there is a gap. What part of marketing and its effect has the literature left out. This might be the possible area for you to do your study

1.6 Process/dimensions/categories/classification of (…..selected topic)

  • Provide the stages/steps /activities of the topic
  • E.g if your topic is about technology adoption you need to describe the process of technology adoption.
  • All these must have in-text citation. Don’t copy and past. Read, understand and paraphrase (write it in your own words) and include citations. Although you have paraphrased the sentence, the idea is not yours so you MUST provide citations. If you have copies a sentence you must indicate the page you got it… avoid copying and pasting paragraphs. Almost all sentences will have a citation in this chapter.

1.7 Theoretical framework

  • Identify three theories which you can use to explain your problem statement or objectives or hypothesizes
  • I.e you need to find a theory which can help you to solve your problem or achieve your objective
  • What is the process/approach

-Identify the theory

-Indicate what it says/claims/suggests/argues

-Interpret it from your understanding

-Brief advantages and disadvantages

-Relate the theory with your study. ie how are you going to apply it in your study.

-You MUST PROVIDE citations

-E.g Theory of Reasoned Action and Planned Behavior

The study was based the typical theory of reasoned action and planned behavior. The theory is used to predict the individual’s intention to engage in certain behavior at specific time and place (citation). It states that behavioral achievement depends on motivation, subjective norms and ability (Behavioral control)(citations). Behavioral intentions are influenced by attitudes and subjective evaluation of risks and opportunities as well as costs and benefits of expected outcome(Ajzen, 1991). The study found this theory appropriate as it enables the sugarcane farmers visualize the risks and opportunities; costs and benefits before the sugarcane market is chosen. In marketing context, the theory assumes that the seller would only choose course of action (the market) which makes him or her to experience less risks and to incur less costs but with more financial and non-financial incentives (Ajzen, 1991). The theory is useful as it helps to explain how customers make decisions before buying a product (citation). It has a problem because human behavior is unpredictable. As such it is hard to anticipate how they might behave (citation). Nevertheless, it provides insight on how customers assess a product before buying it (citation).

  • After writing three theories you draw a diagram like the one below.
  • You list all the drivers, stages and consequences of the topic you have identified through your literature review.



1.8 Conceptual framework

  • You come up with the framework which indicates only the independent and dependent variables which you want to study.
  • Come up with paragraph (s) to explain why/how the independent variable affects the dependent variables. Ie how does technology or competition affects income/sales/market share/custom satisfaction. Remember to include citations. The no of paragraphs will depend on the no of independent variables. From the diagram above one can have two (NOT A MUST, it can be more than 2) paragraphs because there are two independent variables.


While extant literature on performance implication of entrepreneurial persistence has been established from the entrepreneurship perspective (Cardon & Kirk, 2013; Patel & Thatcher, 2014), the study argues that there is dearth of information on effect of the entrepreneurial persistence on quality orientation of cotton smallholder farmers from developing nations. Gimeno et al., (1997) described persistence as the “continuation of effortful action despite failures, impediments, or threats, either real or imagined” (Cardon and Kirk, 2013 p.3). This implies that persistence demands continuous effort and active engagement with an activity over time; despite facing challenges, setbacks, counterforces, or attractive alternatives (Caliendo, et al., 2019; Gimeno et al., 1997). Using the RBT as a guiding framework, the study claims that entrepreneurial persistence is an intangible resource (Barney, 1991) that is critical for leveraging quality orientation during cotton farming from developing nations to produce high quality primary products. This can be realised through repeated efforts, activeness over time despite any impediments (Caliendo, et al., 2019). Thus the desire for quality orientation can be achieved through demonstrating actions associated with persistence. Besides, according to Theory of Planned Behavior by Ajzen (1991) the stronger the intention to engage in a behavior, the more likely should be its performance only if the behavior in question is under volitional control. The entrepreneurs with self-efficacy for quality orientation have motivation to persist when undertaking activities of the business despite adverse conditions.

From EO perspective an individual needs to persist when taking risks, pursuing innovativeness, seeking competitive aggressiveness. There are several reasons the aspects of entrepreneurial persistence can contribute to quality orientation. Entrepreneurial persistence is believed to ignite positive intense feelings and strong identification with the roles which bring those feelings (Cardon et al. 2009). An entrepreneur emphasising on quality control practices will put more effort and overcome set back over time. In agricultural context, high quality output may be realised in the face of challenges like lack of inputs, pests, weather conditions which the farmer must overcome over time. Besides the entrepreneurs will persist engaging themselves in functions identified by them despite lacking “high skills, abilities, or reasons to expect success” (Houser-Marko & Sheldon 2006). Thus they will persist in quality orientation despite having no capabilities and aversive experiences. Self-efficacy brings task-specific confidence to attain expected high-performance outcomes (Audia, Locke, & Smith, 2000). Thus, pursuing quality control practices ignites self-confidence in their abilities to undertake activities and persist any challenges over time to get the expected output (Cardon and Kirk, 2013). Quality orientation emerges as a condition to be fulfilled through entrepreneurial persistence. Entrepreneurs must provide effort and time to meet quality standards like timely purchase, and application of inputs, appropriate mixture of inputs, use of relevant inputs, timely delivery of output and good storage conditions of inputs and output. Persistence is critical in quality orientation as it demands huge investment of time, effort and money to sustain the business (Cardon and Kirk, 2013). Persistent entrepreneurs learn from the mistakes (Shepherd, Wiklund, & Haynie, 2009) and continue with effort. Entrepreneurs who pursue quality orientation learn from the mistake and recover from them.

In sum, these arguments portrays that persistence is critical in entrepreneurship (Cardon and Kirk, 2013) demands a psychological commitment which motivates an entrepreneur to continue with business endevours despite adverse experiences (Caliendo et al., 2019). In agricultural context, the entrepreneurs must survive agronomic challenges. In case of opportunities to be exploited through quality orientation, it may take some time (Shane and Venkataraman, 2000). Succeful entrepreneurs are characterised by goal-oriented in times of adversity (Wu et al., 2007). This study claims that entrepreneurial persistence can contribute to quality orientation in agriculture sector among the cotton farmers from developing nations.

1.9 Summary

Provide a conclusion of the chapter by give what has been covered and what is the next chapter. Plus what the next chapter will cover ie the subheadings of the next chapter.
This chapter has reviewed some literature related to the study. It has also covered the meaning of marketing, drivers and antecedents of marketing, process of marketing, theoretical and conceptual framework for the study. The next chapter introduces the methodology of this study which covers the study area, data sources, research design, data collection methods, sampling size and techniques, analytical techniques, measurement tools, limitations. and ethics.

Related Articles