On the shoulders of giants: undertaking a structured literature review in accounting

Maurizio Massaro, John Dumay*, James Guthrie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

312 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present a method for a structured literature review (SLR). An SLR is a method for examining a corpus of scholarly literature, to develop insights, critical reflections, future research paths and research questions. SLRs are common in scientific disciplines dominated by quantitative approaches, but they can be adapted in accounting studies since quantitative and qualitative approaches are commonly accepted. Design/methodology/approach – A literature review, as a piece of academic writing, must have a logical, planned structure. The authors also argue it requires tests based on qualitative and quantitative methods. Therefore, the authors describe ten steps for developing an SLR. Findings – The SLR method is a way that scholars can stand “on the shoulders of giants” and provide insightful and impactful research that is different to the traditional authorship approaches to literature reviews. Research limitations/implications – Traditional literature reviews can have varied results because of a lack of rigour. SLRs use a process that, through a set of rules, potentially offers less bias and more transparency of the execution and measures and techniques of validation and reliability. Practical implications – SLRs provide an approach that can help academics to discover under-investigated topics and methods, nurturing, therefore, the development of new knowledge areas and research approaches. Originality/value – The paper presents accounting researchers with an opportunity to develop insightful and publishable studies, and also serves as a basis for developing future research agendas in the accounting field. The authors advocate the SLR method especially to higher degree research students and emerging scholars as a way of potentially developing robust and defensible research agendas and questions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-801
Number of pages35
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2016


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