They are helpfully written as questions, inviting you to ensure that your submission will constitute a positive response to each question. (For example, is there sufficient literature to warrant a literature survey? Hopefully, the answer will be ‘yes, you have reviewed sufficient on you chosen topic.’) If you were to submit a literature review article, the journal editors would invite your reviewers to use these criteria, and so they will scrutinising your effort to see whether they can see the evidence that will lead them to a positive answer to each criterion question.
To sharpen your thinking about how to meet academic journal criteria for acceptance, try completing this exercise. Take as your starting point either a literature review you have done for your postgraduate or doctoral dissertation or thesis, or another substantial review you have undertaken. Imagine that you are planning to submit a literature review article for publication in the International Journal of Management Reviews, drawing on your own review.
In the righthand column write down any implications of each criterion in turn for the scope, content, structure and style of the (imaginary) article that you are planning to write.
Having to think through the implications of the journal’s criteria for acceptance would already have put you in a stronger position to produce a publishable literature review article than if you had just thought about what you would like to write – as long as you took all the implications you identified seriously! You would not only have developed a stronger sense of your key audience and the criteria they would be using to judge your article. You would also have attempted to meet each criterion as fully as you could in writing your submission. That would make the job of your editor and reviewers easier, which would increase the chances that they would assess your submission favourably.
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The implications of the criteria for your imaginary article will depend largely on the focus of the review. However, you might like to consider how far the general implications of each key criterion that we see for almost any review are reflected in your answers in the exercise.
Criterion1 - your decision about the management area to review will affect how much literature there is out there to discuss. The newer the area of enquiry, the less empirical and theoretical literature there is likely to be. The broader the scope and and the greater the depth you go into with the key texts, the more literature you will have to include.
Criterion 2 - it will be necessary to spell-out not only the focus but also the boundaries of the review. Then readers will be clear why you have included the texts you have, and why you have not included others whose content is not sufficiently relevant to come inside the boundaries you have set.
Criterion 3 - you will need to do more than just describe what you find. A review implies an overview, where you draw attention to patterns and gaps and discuss their significance for further work in the area. Your comparisons may include different theoretical positions, methodological approaches to empirical research, the range of findings and the most common finding.
Criterion 4 - beyond description and discussion lies conclusion drawing. You will be expected to develop an argument about the literature where your conclusions about trends and implications for the future are warranted by the evidence of your account of your literature search and the content of the texts reviewed.
Criterion 5 - as we’ve highlighted in earlier learning activities, it is imperative that you write with a strong sense of your audience and try to communicate your argument so that they will find it convincing.
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