Literature Review for Accounting/Auditing

• Tips on conducting literature reviews in Accounting/Auditing

Literature Review for Accounting/Auditing

Literature Review for Accounting/Auditing

Main Objectives, Procedures & Resources


What is a literature review and what is the purpose?

A literature review consists of simply a summary of key sources, and it usually combines both summary and synthesis, often within specific conceptual categories. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information in a way that tells how you are planning to investigate a research problem.

A literature review is conducted during the first phase of the research process (in the exploration stage). The purpose of a literature review is to:

  • To survey the current state of knowledge in the area of inquiry (concerning the research questions and/or related topics)
  • To identify key authors, articles, theories, and findings in that area
  • To identify gaps in knowledge in the research area

In this document, we will focus on the steps to follow in doing a literature search on a topic or author. While the steps below are listed in numerical order, some steps may need to be repeated, revisited, and/or skipped as you go through the process.

  1. Consider a topic for the research question and determine the breadth and depth of your topic that is manageable in scope - hence preferably, not too wide nor too narrow.  For instance, the topic - Audits and IPOs – could be a good one in this regard.  

  1. In order to effectively and efficiently retrieve relevant materials for your literature review, try to discover (and dissect) some other concepts/keywords – either related or synonyms to concepts/keywords in your topic.  For the sake of not missing any number of relevant results from databases, and maximizing your searching power, you should make full use of their related terms/ synonyms as many as available, such as:
    • Audits > Auditor, auditors, auditing …
    • IPOs  >  IPOs, Initial Public Offerings …

     Thus, we can change our original topic - Audits AND IPOs – into a new search statement as below:

    • (Audit*) AND (IPOs OR Initial Public Offerings)

      • AND -- this narrows a search by telling the database that ALL keywords used must appear in the same records/results.
      • OR -- this broadens a search by telling the database that ANY of the words it connects are acceptable in the search results.
      • * -- this asterisk is a wildcard character, so using: Audit* = the search results may contain Audit, Audits, Auditor, Auditing

    • If you use the above two different search statements in searching the same databases, for instance, Business Source Complete, you would get a quite different number of results, such as below:

  1. Furthermore, try to put your research focus/topic aspect to work - for both your literature review and search as well - by first identifying specific keywords that could best describe your interest/focus, and then adding these keywords into your search statements. Let’s continue to use this topic - Audits and IPOs – as an example.  Obviously, there are many things could be involved with or related to the Audits and IPOs, and so are your research focus.  Hence, it makes sense to add these kinds of related keywords as a third concept into your search statements. For instance, the following new concepts/keywords of that nature could be added into the topic searching Audits and IPOs:
    1. Audit risk issues
    2. Financial statements  
    3. Management structure or corporate governance
    4. Compliance 
    5. Mergers or Acquisitions

  1. Now, with the help of Boolean operator “AND” we can easily combine theses three concepts/keywords, thus forming some seemingly intricate, yet more promising search statements as below.  That way, we could be able to pull out more meaningful, focused, and relevant results from a huge databases:
  1. (Audit*) AND (IPO* OR Initial Public Offerings) AND (Risk*) > Results from EBSCO
  2. (Audit*) AND (IPO* OR Initial Public Offerings) AND (Financial statements) > Results from EBSCO
  3. (Audit*) AND (IPO* OR Initial Public Offerings) AND (management structure or corporate governance) > Results from EBSCO
  4. (Audit*) AND (IPO* OR Initial Public Offerings) AND (compliance) > Results from EBSCO
  5. Su(Audit*) AND Ti(IPO* OR Initial Public Offerings) AND Su (merger* OR acquisition* OR m&a*) > Results from EBSCO

Please note: (1) Following each of the search statements above, there is a link to results from our library subscription databases - EBSCOhost.   EBSCOhost is one of our recommendation databases for any literature review as it is the largest databases for journals/articles coverage we subscribe to so far, and Business Source Complete ls just one of them. (2) #5 above is different from other in that the Fields - Su and Ti Fields - have been added and used in the search statement.  Why Fields search will be discussed in the next Step (Step 5).     

  1. With the power of computing and databases, more often than not, users would get  overwhelming results from whatever keywords used.  How to overcome that? You can reduce the overwhelming number of results, and in the meantime not sacrifice any relevant and high-quality results by taking advantage of the content-related fields in structured databases – the fields that is already build-in with almost all databases, such as EBSCOhostWe are particularly interested in the following content-related fields:

  • Title  - TI field
  • Subject - SU field
  • Abstract  - AB field 

As a result of using fields, you are actually limiting (forcing) the keywords of selection only appear in certain fields you’ve specified.  Think about this: if in a title of an article, there is a word XYZ, the chances are content of the article is pretty much about XYZ.  The same applies to the fields of subject and abstract.

  1. In addition to the above three content-related fields, another field – Author filed – we may need to use in our literature search and review process.  In case you want to find any publication by key authors in a particular subject area, you can limit you searching to Author field, and preferably combined Author field with Subject field (or Abstract field) in search statement.  Below are examples of searching from ProQuest databases:

  1. As the search results are returned, it is best to preview the results by looking for articles that are relevant to your specific research questions. Try to pay attention to words around the highlighted keywords (it may reveal why a particular article has been pulled out), skim the abstract and the introduction section, even try to read the literature review sections of these articles. This will help to determine the suitability of that article for a further review.

  1. Overall, a well conducted literature review should indicate whether the initial research question or topics have already been addressed in the literature, whether there are newer or more interest research questions available, and whether the original research question should be modified or changed in light of findings of the literature review.  

  1. Last but not least, it is highly recommended to search the following UTSA subscription databases considering these databases’ coverage and relevancy to your academic discipline.  Certainly, you can use the techniques and procedure we’ve discussed above within all of the databases below.