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Informing Science Journal

Volume 9, 2006

A Systems Approach to Conduct an Effective Literature Review in Support of Information Systems Research Yair Levy and Timothy J. Ellis Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences, Nova Southeastern University, Florida, USA levyy@nova.edu ellist@nova.edu

Abstract
This paper introduces a framework for conducting and writing an effective literature review. The target audience for the framework includes information systems (IS) doctoral students, novice IS researchers, and other IS researchers who are constantly struggling with the development of an effective literature-based foundation for a proposed research. The proposed framework follows the systematic data processing approach comprised of three major stages: 1) inputs (literature gathering and screening), 2) processing (following Bloom’s Taxonomy), and 3) outputs (writing the literature review). This paper provides the rationale for developing a solid literature review including detailed instructions on how to conduct each stage of the process proposed. The paper concludes by providing arguments for the value of an effective literature review to IS research. Keywords: Literature review, effective literature review, literature search, literature categorization, literature classification, literature analysis, literature synthesis, doctoral education.

Introduction
A methodological review of past literature is a crucial endeavor for any academic research (Webster & Watson, 2002, pp. 48-49). The need to uncover what is already known in the body of knowledge prior to initiating any research study should not be underestimated (Hart, 1998). Some fields of studies, such as engineering, have chronically suffered from a lack of proper literature reviews, which has hindered theoretical and conceptual progress (D. Shaw, 1995). Webster and Watson (2002) also criticized the Information Systems (IS) field for having very few theories and outlets for quality literature review. Moreover, they noted that the IS field may greatly benefit from effective methodological literature reviews that are “… strengthening IS as a field of study” (Webster & Watson, 2002, p. 14). In light of these considerations, the central aim of this study is to address the issue of developing an effective literature review by proposing a systematic approach that will guide the researcher Material published as part of this journal, either online or in print, on such a daunting task. is copyrighted by the publisher of the Informing Science Journal. Permission to make digital or paper copy of part or all of these works for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that the copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage AND that copies 1) bear this notice in full and 2) give the full citation on the first page. It is permissible to abstract these works so long as credit is given. To copy in all other cases or to republish or to post on a server or to redistribute to lists requires specific permission and payment of a fee. Contact Editor@inform.nu to request redistribution permission.

This paper is divided into four main sections. The rest of this introductory section will address what a literature review is and why a literature review is crucial for research. The following three sections will review the three steps of the proposed systematic approach for literature review. Section two will address the literature review

Editor: Eli Cohen

A Systems Approach to Conduct an Effective Literature Review

inputs including: ways to find applicable literature, qualifying the literature, ways to read research literature, and how to know that one is done with the literature search. The third section will review the proposed process for analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating the literature. The final section addresses the output step of this systematic process by proposing an approach to writing the actual literature...
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