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Doing Your Literature Review

Doing Your Literature Review
Traditional and Systematic Techniques

First Edition

February 2011 | 192 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Electronic Inspection Copy available for instructors here

The literature review is a compulsory part of research and, increasingly, may form the whole of a student research project. This highly accessible book guides students through the production of either a traditional or a systematic literature review, clearly explaining the difference between the two types of review, the advantages and disadvantages of both, and the skills needed. It gives practical advice on reading and organising relevant literature and critically assessing the reviewed field.

Contents include:
  •  using libraries and the internet
  •  note making
  •  presentation
  •  critical analysis
  •  referencing, plagiarism and copyright.

This book will be relevant to students from any discipline. It includes contributions from two lecturers who have many years experience of teaching research methods and the supervision of postgraduate research dissertations and a librarian, each offering expert advice on either the creation and assessment of literature reviews or the process of searching for information. The book also highlights the increasing importance for many disciplines of the systematic review methodology and discusses some of the specific challenges which it brings.


Jill K. Jesson has worked with multi-disciplinary research teams within the Aston School of Pharmacy, Aston Business School and with M-E-L Research, an independent public services research consultancy. She has now left Aston University and is working as a Consultant.


Lydia Matheson is an Information Specialist working for Library & Information Services at Aston University.


Fiona M. Lacey is an academic pharmacist, a member of the pharmacy practice teaching group in the School of Pharmacy, and Associate Dean in the School of Life and Health Sciences at Aston.

Who is this book for?  
How is this book different?  
The rationale and history behind the contributions from a researcher and from an information specialist  
Features of the book  
Layout of the book  
What is a literature review?  
Terminology used in this book  
Different styles of review  
Two styles or approaches  
A critical approach  
Knowledge and literature  
Why and when will you need to review the literature?  
The research question and the literature review  
What is appropriate literature?  
Choosing which style of review: a traditional narrative review or a systematic review  
Project management  
Searching for Information
Develop online searches by identifying key words and creating a search record  
The range of information sources available for complex searches.  
What do you need from a resource to make it appropriate for locating journal articles for your review?  
Reading Skills
Be analytical in your reading  
Where to start  
Reading techniques - scan, skim and understand  
Reading different types of material  
Grey literature: non academic sources and policy reports  
Recording and note making  
From Making Notes to Writing
From notes to writing  
Writing - critical writing and types of argument  
Making a value judgment and bias  
The Traditional Review
Overview of the debate  
Types of review: critical, conceptual state of the art, expert and scoping  
Draw up an analytical framework - how to sort the material  
Moving to analysis and synthesis  
The presentation of your review  
Summarizing the gap - dare to have an opinion.  
Writing up Your Review
A short summary  
A self-standing review  
Abstract, executive summary and annotated bibliography  
Writing the review  
Key words or phrases to help you move from stage 1 to stage 2  
The 'so what' question, originality and making a value judgment  
The Systematic Review
Development of the review protocol  
Formulating the review question  
Documenting your progress  
Locating studies and sources of information  
Selecting studies: inclusion and exclusion criteria  
Appraisal - assessing the quality of research  
Data extraction  
Synthesis, drawing conclusions, what the review shows  
Evolving formats of systematic review  
Meta- Analysis
What is meta-analysis?  
Can I use meta-analysis to summarise the results of my systematic review?  
Undertaking your meta-analysis  
Displaying the results of a meta-analysis  
Is your meta-analysis free from bias?  
Performing a sensitivity analysis  
Referencing and Plagiarism
Why is referencing important?  
What do you need to reference?  
How many references should I provide?  
When and how to reference  
Referencing systems  
Where to find citation information you need  
Appendix 1: Further reading  
Appendix 2: Critical review checklist  
Appendix 3: Systematic review online resources  
Appendix 4: Resources for meta-analysis  

'Tasks, tips, examples, figures and summaries in each chapter give the book a "self-guided" feel appropriate in a textbook, and the language is rarely arcane. Four useful appendices and a fine index complete the work. Overall, this is a sound guide for the absolute neophyte in how to create useable literature reviews. Part 2 is especially recommended as a good discussion of the ways and means of writing reviews. The work is useful for students at most levels, and for those who teach research methods and want a clear guide for literature reviews for their reading lists' -
G. E. Gorman
Online Information Review

'The main strength lies in the book's practical nature. The authors place great emphasis on the importance of proper searching techniques and encourage the use of specialist librarians. Chapters on reading and note-taking skills contain useful detail often missing from similar books - such as which bits of an article to read first, and how to make and store relevant notes that will be usable later. The examples of how to improve specific passages of writing are very valuable.'

Jenni Brooks
Research Fellow at the Social Policy Research Unit, University of York

The book does what it promises: it is an accessible and practical book, which many researchers can benefit from to improve their literature reviews.

Willemijn Krebbekx, Universiteit van Amsterdam

I find this title very rewarding to use both for the tutor and a student. It's suitable for understanding demands of a proper literature review, traditional or more systematic one.

Mrs Arja Hannele Kunnela
Education , JAMK University of Applied Sciences
September 19, 2016

Covers something all students need to think about across the course of the MA, and does so with a good level of clarity. Every step of getting on with a literature review is covered, and there's a good step-by-step approach to a lot of it.

The discussion of different types and purposes of 'traditional' literature review is likely to be a useful prop early on in a research skills module.

Dr Adam George Dunn
Winchester School of Art, Winchester School of Art
October 14, 2015

Essential for doing literature review

Mrs Mpho Mbeo
Business Administration , Central University of Technology
September 12, 2015

The book is recommended to students who have to write a literature review within their paper. Especially for writing their thesis (BSc).

Mr Michael Kuttner
Institut für Controlling & Consulting / Institute of Management Control & Consulting, Johannes Kepler University of Linz
July 5, 2015

This book provides an up to date overview of tackling literature reviews. Ideal for all researchers but maybe particularly useful for final year under-graduates and Masters students working on research projects and dissertations.

Mr Louis Martin
Law School, Staffordshire University
February 4, 2015

Thorough and accessible text supporting students working towards research.

Ms Caroline Brooks
Faculty of Development & Society, Sheffield Hallam University
January 19, 2015

A very good book that breaks down this important academic skill into manageable pieces

Mr Joel Harris
Sports Therapy, University of Hertfordshire
October 30, 2014

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