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Literature Searching

Follow our step-by-step guide to help you carry out a good literature search

What is Advanced Literature Searching?

As you progress through your studies, you may need to write a more indepth piece of writing such as a project or dissertation which requires advanced literature searching skills. You may need to research a Literature Review.

A literature review is a piece of academic writing which shows your understanding of the research papers on a specific topic.  This includes a comprehensive study, interpretation and critical analysis of the literature. (Aveyard, 2014)

Different types of Literature Reviews

Critical Review Aims to demonstrate writer has extensively researched literature and critically evaluated its quality. Goes beyond mere description to include degree of analysis and conceptual innovation. Seeks to identify most significant items in the field. Significant component: seeks to identify conceptual contribution to embody existing or derive new theory

Definition from Grant and Booth (2009) DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

Literature Review Generic term: published materials that provide examination of recent or current literature. Can cover wide range of subjects at various levels of completeness and comprehensiveness. May include research findings Analysis may be chronological, conceptual, thematic, etc.

Definition from Grant and Booth (2009) DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

Meta-analysis Technique that statistically combines the results of quantitative studies to provide a more precise effect of the results Numerical analysis of measures of effect assuming absence of heterogeneity

Definition from Grant and Booth (2009) DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

Mixed studies review/mixed methods review Refers to any combination of methods where one significant component is a literature review (usually systematic). Within a review context it refers to a combination of review approaches for example combining quantitative with qualitative research or outcome with process studies Analysis may characterise both literatures and look for correlations between characteristics or use gap analysis to identify aspects absent in one literature but missing in the other

Definition from Grant and Booth (2009) DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

Qualitative systematic review/qualitative evidence synthesis Method for integrating or comparing the findings from qualitative studies. It looks for ‘themes’ or ‘constructs’ that lie in or across individual qualitative studies Thematic analysis, may include conceptual models

Definition from Grant and Booth (2009) DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

Scoping Review Preliminary assessment of potential size and scope of available research literature. Aims to identify nature and extent of research evidence (usually including ongoing research) Characterizes quantity and quality of literature, perhaps by study design and other key features.

Definition from Grant and Booth (2009) DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

Systematic Review Seeks to systematically search for, appraise and synthesis research evidence, often adhering to guidelines on the conduct of a review. Quality assessment may determine inclusion/exclusion. What is known; recommendations for practice. What remains unknown; uncertainty around findings, recommendations for future research

Definition from Grant and Booth (2009) DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

Umbrella Review Specifically refers to review compiling evidence from multiple reviews into one accessible and usable document. Focuses on broad condition or problem for which there are competing interventions and highlights reviews that address these interventions and their results. Identification of component reviews, but no search for primary studies. Quality assessment of studies within component reviews and/or of reviews themselves. What is known; recommendations for practice. What remains unknown; recommendations for future research.

Definition from Grant and Booth (2009) DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x