scientific literature review

scientific literature review

The Importance of Scientific Literature Review

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1. Introduction

When scientists set out to contribute to the body of knowledge in their field, their first thoughts are likely to be of the experiments they will carry out. They are motivated by phenomena they find intriguing, or by hunches that the conventional wisdom may be wrong. They set to work testing their ideas, and as often as not, the results are unexpected. A phenomenon they expected to be hard to understand turns out to be trivial when approached in a different way; research question proves ill-posed; the hypothesis is flatly refuted. In any event, it is common for the results of the study to be surprising in some way, and survival of the study to be achieved by a long series of trial and error operations. The study is a tortuous journey through uncharted territory. At this point, the scientist is ready to embark on a literature review. Starting the review is the important thing, continuing it is crucial, and value of its results is inestimable. By review, we do not mean simply a cursory survey in which the token example of everything pertinent is noted. At its best, the review is a painstaking and careful examination of a defined field, an examination which attempts to identify every significant piece of work, assess its validity, and its utility, and thus represents a methodical effort to accumulate, sift, and appraise the existing stock of knowledge. While it may not manifest all these ideal characteristics, the general aim of the review is an important one, and its product is valuable to the extent that it approximates those that reviewed. The literature review is found in virtually all research undertakings, and it is as important, perhaps more so, than the actual research is.

2. Benefits of Conducting a Scientific Literature Review

The identification of a ‘conceptual framework’ can also be very useful to the development of your work. By organising relevant literature that aims to provide a new theoretical understanding could provide a good base for your own work to build from. This can be represented by a diagram which could be useful in demonstrating to others what you see the links in this literature to be.

In order to cover what ground you feel is necessary, your review should try and identify the areas of potential or actual controversy. In doing so provide evidence of your understanding of the subject and be able to pose research questions that are pertinent for the future.

Coverage through time. This may involve having to address different searches for different aspects of your review. High quality work will cover back a long way, and will still be able to identify criteria to compare the past with more recent work. This can help clarify the path of progress in your chosen field.

Length of the review You should assess the literature in terms of the quality of either individual works or categories of work. This is valuable, because it can identify the weakness in where work has progressed, by identifying the areas in which there is little good research. This can be an opportunity for you to do useful primary research. An evaluation can be addressed with a system of criteria.

A good literature review shows signposting from the general, through to the more specific and locates your work in the wider field.

3. Steps to Conduct a Scientific Literature Review

The first thing to start a review is collecting articles on the topic. In some cases, it is an advantage to have some random pieces of paper or notes on the article. So that if you come across an article again which you have already read, you can make a decision based on these notes to quickly know whether it is an article relevant to your field of interest. Then start to organize your articles by topic. One major trend that must be followed is to organize reference information in a very useful way so that it is recognizable where every piece of information came from, and it should be obvious which bits of information are direct quotations or ideas that require citation. This will save enormous amounts of time later on. The next step is to start looking for common themes between the articles. New ideas will be “discovered” along the way, and this is a good thing, however, be very cautious not to deviate from the original topic. Keeping a detailed progress of the review is very important, so that others can learn from the potential mistakes or dead-ends in the review. Another useful practice is to utilize a theory such as “PRISMA” (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses). This is a type of flow diagram which is used as a guideline for a systematic review. It is very useful as a checklist to ensure everything has been covered in the review. A direct practical application of using PRISMA is to use it as a guide to writing the review.

4. Challenges in Conducting a Scientific Literature Review

The next phase of the literature review involves searching for and selecting relevant studies. A primary goal of the search process is to locate the existing studies that are of the highest possible quality. This is to reduce bias and increase the validity of the review’s findings. It is assumed that the research conducted at the study design phase may be used to formulate data that has been collected but not yet published. To ensure that all possibly included studies have been located, extensive searching is required. This may involve contacting experts in the field to locate obscure studies. All searches having any relevance to the review must be recorded. This can be facilitated by use of a PRISMA flow diagram to track the number of studies found at each search phase and document any that have been excluded.

Although by defining the scope in the beginning, there are various reasons why this may change during the course of the review and it may be necessary for readers to alter their criteria. This could be due to an inadequate amount of data being collected or the quality of the studies found. Criteria may also change for pragmatic reasons such as a change in search strategy or needing to involve a research assistant. Any changes to the SLR’s scope should be tracked and documented. This will allow readers to understand the reason for the change and determine if it has affected the review’s findings. If any part of the scope has been altered too greatly, it may be necessary to conduct a new review.

Methodology is an important component of a scientific literature review. An approach to define the scope of the SLR study should be clearly declared. According to reference [12], various types of reviews require different methodologies to be conducted. To define this, a SLR can be conducted to produce a quality of the evidence on the effectiveness of an intervention. This would require the SLR to search RCTs and draw conclusions from pooled data. Other reviews aimed at building or testing a theory require different types of studies to be included. Mixed method reviews can also be conducted in social science research. All of these need to be carefully planned. By combining data relating to a specific study design and the studies purpose, a standard can be set for what is to be included. Finally, a well-defined methodology will allow the review to be reproduced at a later date.

5. Conclusion

Reflecting on the implicit and explicit questions posed by means of our review of the literature, we can now provide a coherent conclusion. Has the increase in HIV research output impacted the incidence of recent infections in sub-Saharan Africa? Considering the confines of this literature review, the answer is no. This conclusion contradicts our original hypothesis, but it is crucial to appraise the value of negative findings. We believe that there are valuable lessons to be learned from this investigation into the transformation of knowledge into health for the betterment of future public health initiatives.

The importance of conducting a scientific literature review is many, and all of them are essentially very good reasons as to why it is an essential area of scientific research. As a researcher, you are doing an essential part of the clinical method. Writing one and being able to adhere to it places you in the higher echelons of the medical career and proves helpful in acquiring long-term achievement. It is essential to be able to examine clinical credibility when you’re studying any data, and an exceptional manner to try this is via reviewing the literature. It is an important step, whether or not it’s to assess the feasibility of a mission, trying to find out new thoughts, revisiting previous work or attempting to examine the foundation of a particular scientific area. Finally, the findings of your literature assessment can be proving ground for generating new hypotheses.

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