These varieties of text comprise two forms of literature, both of which could be useful to you at particular times during your academic studies:
Much support and front-line literature is available electronically through the Internet as well as on paper in a library. Putting a few keywords into a search engine will typically yield multiple websites and downloadable files. Be aware though, that the quality of texts is extremely variable, and there is no guarantee that some sources (such as individuals’ own websites, blogs, Wikipedia) are reliable. You can expect most reliability from texts that have been published in academic journals or books from the major academic publishers, because they will have been scrutinised by experienced scholars from the academic community prior to publication. Many such texts are available electronically.
You may already be familiar with several varieties of text from the support literature. All can be very useful for your academic studies. They include:
But few of these are texts at the forefront of today’s academic discourse. Front-line literature is. It includes academic journal articles, books, and book chapters. Their authors develop new theoretical explanations, report the latest original research, synthesise knowledge of current practice, and make statements about policy changes. The texts making up this diverse literature can be roughly divided into four types:
Most front-line texts are easily recognisable as belonging to a particular type - as in a journal article whose authors are reporting the outcomes of their business research. But many texts contain features of more than one type of front-line literature. So the empirical investigation reported in a research report article may have been informed by a particular theory, it will have investigated an aspect of business management practice, and it may highlight implications for corporate policy. Nevertheless, it is usually possible to work out whether a front-line text is mainly about theory, research, practice or policy.
Support literature is especially good for supporting your introductory learning about a new subject or related skill. That is what it is designed for. However, you have to do more than just read texts from the support literature. You will be expected to extend your academic learning beyond the introductory stage in your writing for assessment. So you will need to engage in greater depth with selected front-line literature. This is the literature in the western tradition of academic scholarship which directly expresses the thinking of experienced management researchers at the forefront of the area of enquiry. It is where they engage in the two-way flow of academic discourse, developing, backing-up and challenging claims about what is going on, what it means, and what should be done about it. As you read and evaluate texts from the front-line literature and develop your own written argument about what you have read, you will learn how to contribute to academic discourse by doing it for yourself.
Check what is available. Choose those texts that offer most for what you need to learn. Support literature is a great place to start, but don’t stop there. Learning to think like an experienced management researcher requires you to engage, as a novice, with the written products of experienced researchers’ thinking, and to evaluate for yourself how convincing their arguments are. For this you need front-line texts too.