Answers to Exercise

2.1 Systematic reviews

1.a Write down a detailed list of all the stages of the review process. Pay attention to the various checks they used to ensure that they had done a thorough job.

Stage 1: Selection

Step 1: keyword search (‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ and/or ‘Base of the Pyramid’) in databases Ebscohost and Proquest (citation and abstract fields). Restriction: peer-reviewed journals (exceptions: Harvard Business Review &three articles in conference proceedings)

Step 2: elimination of duplicates

Step 3: check with wider set of keywords (Pyramid and name of author who coined concepts) which returned no additional items

Step 4: review of titles and abstracts in order to eliminate articles of no direct relevance to review topic

Step 5: author-based search (Proquest and Ebscohost – authors with an ongoing research agenda on the BOP were identified) based on the previously selected articles

Step 6: Authors read all articles identified and discarded articles of no direct relevance to review topic

Stage 2: Coding

The authors coded each article focussing on seven main aspects

1. type of article and journal

2. objective of the article

3. focus of the article (discipline, geographic, industry, or firm focus)

4. concepts and methodology used

5. type of BOP business model described in the article

6. international aspects of the BOP model

7. outcome of the BOP initiative

To ensure consistency, six articles were randomly selected and independently coded by the authors.

2.4 Performing literature searches

2. Test your searches on one specialized database (such as Web of Science, ABI (ProQuest), Business Source Premier (JSTOR), SRRN and Google Scholar). Have you found what you expected? What were the problems? How do the results of the scholarly database compare with those listed by SRRN and Google Scholar?

While many scholarly databases are only available through subscription, there are a growing number of free databases as well as online repositories available on the Internet. It is important to note, however, that these databases rarely offer access to the same kind of material. The full text of many of the most reputable journals cannot be accessed without subscription. Therefore, a thorough systematic review of peer-reviewed articles usually requires access through a library that has made the appropriate subscriptions to the journals being sought. Free databases can help to identity relevant journal articles (i.e. citations) but they rarely provide access to the full text of these articles. In contrast to most subscription-based services, free databases (such as Google Scholar) search journal articles as well as other types of publications including books, conference proceedings, working papers and reports. Some free online repositories (such as SRRN) specialize on the rapid dissemination of working papers. These papers are uploaded but many have not been peer-reviewed. Whilst interest in the journal papers held can to some extent be ranked by the number of downloads, there is no formal evaluation process. Revised drafts of the same papers may (or may not) subsequently become reviewed and published at a later stage. Free databases and repositories however, offer early access to the latest current research – but they also perhaps require the reader to assess more carefully the quality of the material. Some of our readers will find that searches on free databases can also lead to more inter-disciplinary outcomes, which can be a good thing. Journals tend to frame debates within disciplinary boundaries, whereas the scope of Google Scholar or large repositories can lead to surprising and interesting results, highlighting the developments taking place in neighbouring disciplines. Depending on the intention of the literature search, this can be inspiring, distracting or even frustrating. More generally, it is probably safe to say that the convenience of free databases is offset by the significant amount of time which is then needed to assess the quality and standing of a fair proportion of the results. It can also be time-consuming to compare and integrate different lists of results. With this in mind, searching of peer-reviewed articles may appear at first glance to limit the search, but it does offer a relatively quick way of accessing well-established knowledge in a field. A subsequent search on free databases could then be used to complement the review process by adding material published in other formats (e.g. books) and providing insights into more recent and ongoing research in the area (repositories of working papers). For more information about different academic databases and their strengths and limitations, look up the following website:

6. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using systematic searches compared to a more personally directed approach to the identification of appropriate sources.

Systematic literature searches identify a maximum number of relevant publications for a given research project. They are therefore the method of choice if you want to gain a comprehensive, if not complete, overview of a specific body of literature and avoid missing any key publications. However, in order to retrieve relevant publications, your research topic has to be clearly delineated. Otherwise, all a systematic literature search will do is lead to information overload: when 2,000 papers all appear as equally relevant, where do you start?

At the early stages of a research project, when the topic is not entirely clear, a more personally directed approach can be useful. Using literature searches to follow up and clarify emerging ideas can be a fruitful and inspiring exercise. Such searches encourage researchers to transgress disciplinary boundaries and to learn about a topic in a less comprehensive but perhaps more intuitive or innovative way. However, without a system for doing this, a literature search can turn into a Sisyphean undertaking. As the topic becomes clearer in your own mind, searches may have to be repeated, and if there is no clear record made of the word combinations and databases that have already been used much time can be lost. Comparing dozens of outputs and lists which list only a few new articles among hundreds of duplicates is a painstakingly tedious activity.

2.6 Choosing reference-management software

3. Ask students in your group about their experiences with reference organizers. Establish a list of criteria for choosing a suitable reference organizer.

Below a non-exhaustive list of criteria that may be worth to consider when choosing a reference software:

  • Availability and cost: what software is available to you free of charge/ at a low cost?
  • Operating system: is the software available for your operating system?
  • Data storage: desktop software or web-based? Synchronization/ cloud storage?
  • Integration: does it integrate with your word processor, your browser, your file hosting service?
  • Types of data: just references or also full text articles?
  • Import function: can you import citations from your library webpage/ literature databases?
  • Collaboration: do you wish to share a pool of references?
  • Learning curve and ease of use
  • Available support and training (library)
  • Backups: does it sync/provide automatic backups?