Book Review: The Literature Review (2012)

As part of Sage’s extensive Study Skills Series, the second edition of Diana Ridley’s text aims to provide a comprehensive guide to the literature review process for university students of all levels. Books of this nature face a significant threat from the proliferation of blogs (and accompanying twitter communities) designed to aid all stages of the research process, particularly at doctoral level. For a long time I have resisted the temptation to read step by step guides, doubtful that they could contain any value above that which can be gleaned from reading good published research in my own field. However having been recently drawn into reading numerous academic blogs, now seems an appropriate time to find out how the published alternative compares.

There can be little doubt that Ridley is well placed to provide advice as her own PhD concerned the the role of the literature review process in postgraduate research. The book contains eleven well delineated chapters that are extensively summarised in the contents page, allowing for easy reference to specific topics. Mapping out your literature review is usually one of the first tasks in any research project and as Ridley attests, it is rarely finished until the project itself is completed. The first steps of a literature review are unquestionably a daunting prospect for any student and of central concern to many is developing a critical voice. Chapter 8 furnishes students with a slew of techniques to develop a critical mindset, in a straightforward and logical manner. ‘Foregrounding your voice’ is an essential skill for fledgling academics and Ridley demonstrates how this can be achieved via manipulation of citation patterns, strategic organisation of the text and employing personal pronouns – a stylistic choice which undergoes a considered discussion. Ridley argues that despite the use of the first person historically being considered sacrilege, the practice is becoming increasingly fashionable within the social sciences. Continue reading