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To learn more about literature reviews, take a look at our workshop on Writing Literature Reviews of Published Research.
Develop relationships that make sense within that framework and organize your review around ideas not tenuous links by researcher or subject or chronology.
Only include the material that you actually read – cutting and pasting someone else’s bibliography will come back to bite you later – especially if you have to do an oral defense and someone asks for your thoughts on a specific article or study.
A review is a required part of grant and research proposals and often a chapter in theses and dissertations.
Generally, the purpose of a review is to analyze critically a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles.
The Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions is the official guide that describes in detail the process of preparing and maintaining Cochrane systematic reviews on the effects of healthcare interventions.
All authors should consult the Handbook for guidance on the methods used in Cochrane systematic reviews.
A poorly executed scientific literature review can destroy a research thesis in four easy steps: It’s not about maximizing the quantity of material reviewed, nor should the objective be to read “everything” about your proposed topic – for some topics that would be a physical impossibility.
Focus on the relevance of the material to your proposed topic, and map out a logical framework for analyzing that material.
If you are proposing a research topic that has a substantial amount of previously published work already in place, the prospect of delivering a good literature review can seem like a daunting task — so many books and articles with so many citations!
You may be tempted to save time by restricting your review to the last decade, but this can be a critical failure point.