Structured Literature Reviews for Business Professional Doctorates:

A case study




Literature review, teaching research design, Professional Doctorate Students


The first significant piece of writing a Professional Doctorate must undertake is reviewing the literature within their elected field, allowing them to synthesise relevant theories and concepts underpinning their research (Pickering & Byrne, 2014). The task involves searching, assessing, screening and synthesis a significant literature volume. Often this task is perceived as daunting, potentially leading to periods of demotivation, where students feel stuck, particularly in Professional Doctorates (Wisker, 2015). A basic principle of Professional Doctorates is that candidates contend with the tensions of professional practice and academic scholarship, making sense of the intricacies of crossing intellectual boundaries (Wasserman & Kram, 2009). However, many professional doctorate students have been absent from higher education learning for a long period of time (Allen et al., 2002), to which the literature review process is crucial for doctoral students as it is their opportunity to cross ‘conceptual thresholds’, which is crucial for gaining new insights into a topic (Wisker, 2015). For professional doctorate students, this process is interconnected with their deep understanding of their professional practice, which drives knowledge production (Costley, 2013). This paper discusses the characteristics of using structured literature reviews as a pedagogical strategy in a credit-bearing taught module for professional business doctorates. It aims to assess the value of structured literature reviews to improve learning outcomes, doctoral completions and publishing opportunities. The analysis is drawn on a critical case study of the Literature Review module within the Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) programme at Liverpool John Moore's University. The DBA is used as a critical case study for this research, as it represents the most mature and developed professional doctorate in the University. It reviews the module's internal structure addressing the coherent contents-aims/content-learning outcomes connection and learning techniques (Leger & Sirichand, 2015), the value of research-informed teaching (Joseph-Richard, Almpanis, Wu, & Jamil, 2021), and an exploratory review of students' satisfaction levels (Pickering & Byrne, 2014).

Author Biographies

Hannah Wilson

Senior Lecturer, Liverpool John Moores University, Faculty of Business and Law, Liverpool Business School

Matthew Tucker, Liverpool John Moores University

Professor of Workplace and Facilities Management, and Professorial Lead for the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) at Liverpool Business School.