how many sources for a literature review

how many sources for a literature review

Determining the Number of Sources for a Literature Review

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1. Importance of a Literature Review

A literature review that the number of sources required is one of the most popular topics in literature reviews. There are many reasons why you need to write a literature review. Initially, there are the practical ones – to learn more about the problem, and to learn how to write a proposal. You learn about the literature simultaneously you learn how to write, because part of learning to write is learning to read. The more you read, the more you realize there’s a big variation in the quality and quantity of information in the various enclaves of the literature. This variation is crucial. To advance plausible arguments about the need for your research, you must persuade more info than the mere fact of availability. The strongest test of this is a study which fails to find certain pieces of information, and must attribute the failure to conditions of unreliability or nonexistence of the alleged information. A literature review is double-edged in the area of source identification, for in order to say what has and hasn’t been located, one must frequently describe it. A review is very helpful in this and many other descriptive aspects, for it is difficult to keep succinct, and yet it is quite difficult to bring concrete evidence which shows one has provided a sufficient description. With a single piece of concrete evidence one must often defer a decision as to whether to reflect on the evidence at present, or to note that the evidence will be discussed later. This default is dangerous for it is easy to talk about what you want to do, and give the impression that you have already done it. With a literature review one can trail exactly what material has been used in just the same manner as a good piece of data trail. Data trails can have errors however, and a comparison of trail quality between the author’s previous study on the same topic, and a study less successful in regards to publication, might be interesting.

2. Factors Influencing the Number of Sources

Levy and Ellis also suggest that a good literature review is the foundation of solid research. In order to understand this, we have to consider what the material contained within the literature review is. When conducting research, the main activity that needs to be done is problem-solving. An effective problem-solving process starts by gathering the necessary information about the problem, analyzing the gathered information, and then making a decision on the best solution based on the analyzed information.

1. Justify the research proposal 2. Formulate research questions 3. Avoid duplication of work 4. Identify methods to be used in the research 5. Interpret the results 6. Demonstrate competence 7. Transfer information from one area to another

According to Levy and Ellis, the following are the key reasons for conducting a literature review:

This defines literature review as a careful and considered examination of published and non-published work in any research field, case in point, industry, enterprise, or offshoot. The purpose is to identify the issues that need to be solved and help readers understand the problem and the necessary steps to find a solution. This definition is consistent with the definition of literature review given by Porter et al. (2006) and Tranfield et al. (2003).

3. Guidelines for Determining the Number of Sources

Focus on the importance of the topic. The worst source selection mistake is including sources merely because they are “there.” The mere existence of a source—whether in someone’s office or buried in one of the library’s special collections—does not in itself make that source worthy of inclusion in the literature review. There has to be a reason. A source that was consulted but did not have a major influence on the present literature review—and was not particularly useful in understanding either the specific subfield or the current debate within the field—should not be included. In practice, however, it can be exceedingly difficult to weed out sources when there is always the fear that removing even one source might detract from the comprehensiveness of the literature review. The result is an inflated literature review that only confuses the reader. Remember quality is far more important than quantity. Often a good way to tell that this mistake has been made is an unusually long literature review and reference section for the length of the paper, which contains repetition or lists sources only in a particular category with no information given on the specific sources. Using the data and theory, developing a model. A more concrete approach towards determining the number of sources can be had by trying to “model” the number of sources required for the literature review as a function of some variables. What would be the most important variables in determining the number of sources? In fact, the number of sources required is implicitly determined for each researcher every time the researcher is in the position to write a literature review. The purpose of the present research is only to make this process more conscious and precise. Model development would be particularly useful to future researchers if there were some manner of testing the best model. Model development is closely tied to the different methods the researcher might use to answer the question at hand, so typically this would involve multiple models and would not necessarily result in a final best model. Model development provides an objective focus in the sense that in an attempt to “address all alternative sources of bias before concluding,” one of the bias sources will be the lack of coverage of the literature review.

4. Common Mistakes to Avoid

Failing to narrow a topic. Many people do not take into account how broad an area. One way to prevent this is being incredibly careful when setting up the limits and scope of your review. You need to consider factors such as how far back you want to research; the types of sources (articles, books, medical records, personal commentary); whether you want to only include certain ethnic groups or regions, etc. You should consider keeping a list of keywords and boolean terms to include in your search strategy. Last but not least, only look for information that is actually relevant to answering your research question, and ignore anything that isn’t. Being able to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information is an incredibly important skill, and it takes time and practice to develop.

Starting a literature review can be a daunting task. Often, people make many of the same mistakes outlined here. Common ones include the inability to focus on the topic, not searching for current sources, poor organization, and self-referencing.

5. Conclusion

The conclusion is that the optimal number of sources can provide a more solid foundation for a literature review. In this article, we have proposed a novel methodology for determining the minimum number of references needed for a literature review to be considered a solid form of research. This method was based on systematically reviewing the history of an area of research to determine how much new information is being generated in the field. We did this by comparing the number of primary resources against the frequency of a specific event occurring. By plotting these data on a probability curve, we were able to qualitatively judge the point at which a new event had little chance of occurring. We then made the novel extension of using the probability of a specific event occurring twice to calculate the information added by the second source of an event. We felt this was the best method for determining the amount of new information gained from a resource and how much saturation had occurred on a given topic. Although the nature of events and sources in the resources we studied were too varied to assign a specific number of sources to information saturation, we feel that this is possible for a specific field of research and recommend this method be tried by others.

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