what types of literature reviews are there

what types of literature reviews are there

Types of Literature Reviews: A Comprehensive Overview

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1. Introduction to Literature Reviews

It is therefore no wonder that scholars in all disciplines may feel pressed to publish as much as they can and as fast as they can. A variety of issues must be responsibly considered in choosing research topics, designing studies, interpreting findings, drawing inferences, and utilizing the work of others. Readers of the scholarship of others typically find their subjects by using literature reviews. And in taking on the practical and often taxing job of preparing literature reviews, authors consequently open their careers to formidable challenges. Not the least of these challenges is the need to comprehend the array of objectives, purposes, and foci that a literature review can have. There are many, and a single article simply cannot cover them all in depth. Our objective in this article, then, is simply to list and describe the many types of literature reviews that researchers often write.

Scholars in most disciplines are increasingly pressed for time. Braxton, Hull, Norton, Helmet, and Willet (2001) argue that research productivity is a key measure of faculty job performance, and faculty members in many disciplines are under considerable pressure to produce written scholarship. Time is at a premium, for professors are burdened with teaching and service, as well as research and writing. Professors in research-intensive universities, in particular, are expected to be both good teachers and productive researchers. Many universities therefore provide in their promotion and tenure policies for assigning higher weight to research contributions than to either teaching or service. This emphasis on productivity in research and writing is paralleled in many other professions as well. Managers in business and government, as well as practicing professionals such as doctors and architects, are also called upon to produce written material.

2. Narrative Literature Reviews

The aim of the narrative literature review was to give an overview of the various forms of literature reviews. There are elements of these different review types that can be used together to better serve the research community. The rationale of a literature review develops with a better understanding of what a literature review actually is and what it entails. If one does assume a theoretical framework into an empirical context of a study, and there are no research questions formulated, there would have been a more logical research design. That is the rationale that was operationalized at a later stage. Anyway, it seems clear to us after considering the nature of research study that warranted a diverse approach to a literature review as we see in the typology.

The narrative review has a broader aim than the systematic review and attempts to synthesize results from different types of studies. There does not need to be a specific question or report an exhaustive search of the literature as the systematic review must. Instead, it can describe and discuss reservations in researchers’ interpretations. The author is often searching for understanding, rather than a detailed level of knowledge. The hypothesis of the narrative review may not be recognized until the review is complete. Its aim is to offer a new interpretation of a particular issue within the area of review. Given that a hypothesis may not be present at the commencement of the research, this type of review can be useful for novice researchers who want to expand their knowledge of a specific line of inquiry.

3. Systematic Literature Reviews

Has our current knowledge been informed by reliable evidence? Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have become favored methods for assembling and interpreting evidence available from research. In areas with a rich and complex literature, an exhaustive review of all available research is desirable (and often required), so both strengths and weaknesses of the literature can be thoroughly documented. In areas characterized by overwhelming empirical evidence, those summary findings can be used to inform policymakers and other stakeholders about the potential impact of supporting specific programs and policies, and the numerous opportunities for “next step” research. As new studies become available, systematic reviews and meta-analyses provide an empirical avenue to synthesize those findings and update the evidence available for guiding future decisions.

Not every mental health intervention for children works. Some interventions have harmful or unintended consequences. Many interventions that appear promising when tested with a small number of children (or in the lab) do not have the desired effects when tested with large and diverse samples of children—often, the interventions might be associated with weak effects or no effect. There are many reasons given for these mixed outcomes and failures such as the research methods used; the nature of interventions; the characteristics of the children, families, and communities; and issues related to funding, service delivery, training, and ethical concerns.

The basis of a systems approach: systematic reviews in three key areas of children’s mental health intervention research.

4. Scoping Reviews

Scoping reviews are a type of literature review that aims to map research in a particular field or area of research. Scoping reviews require broader research questions, which makes them more iterative and exploratory in nature than one might expect when conducting a systematic review. They are also in the guide for authors of PhD studies. Please refer to the guide for authors of the respective journal to prepare your work according to the specific requirements.

In recent years, various types of reviews have emerged, including scoping reviews, umbrella reviews, and others. Although these types of reviews are mostly used for complex or multi-faceted research topics, authors are often unsure about how these reviews differ from standard reviews and whether they should be synthesizing different types of literature. In this chapter, the authors summarize the difference between these various reviews and describe their purpose, methods, and possible outputs. They also discuss the key features necessary for writing each type of review, the purpose of a rapid review, and the people who might be interested in each one.

5. Meta-Analyses and Meta-Syntheses

Indeed, conducting a meta-synthesis study can be helpful when the purpose is to assess and integrate individual qualitative sources, as well as to construct and develop theories. It also provides guidelines that help make its specific methods systematic and vigorous, therefore giving methodological credibility.

In meta-synthesis, we consider, compare and analyze a set of pre-existing qualitative studies. With these studies, a set of unrefined themes can be identified, from which a comprehensive set of descriptive themes can be considered. This can involve revising and combining themes, one-by-one, or forming new ones. Furthermore, the interpretation of new, abstract synthesized themes can also be provided.

The main criticisms of meta-analysis concern their interdependency, managing the different features of individual studies (causal variables and assumptions), the nature of causality, and internal and external analysis validity. The goal of a meta-synthesis is to integrate these qualitative findings, to identify similarities and differences among various identified themes, and to provide an interpretive outcome that contributes to theory and additional qualitative research on a specified topic. Meta-synthesis extends the interpretive knowledge of qualitative research.

Meta-analysis is used to synthesize quantitative research findings by integrating and merging statistics from several studies on a particular topic. This kind of review provides a comprehensive summary of the current research evidence as well as statistical results. A crucial component of meta-analysis is the statistical estimation and characterization of study results (including confidence intervals, significance probabilities, and heterogeneity statistics) in order to specify the overall effect. Meta-analysis is known to provide more credible and error-free results.

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