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Doing Your Literature Review – Traditional and Systematic Techniques

A PLETHORA of books has appeared over the past few years on writing literature reviews. However this one is definitely worth a second look. Written by a social scientist, a pharmaceutical scientist and a library scientist, the authors between them have a wealth of experience and authority on the subject.

Examples used to illustrate points draw from health, management of change and environmental recycling. The book is intended primarily for a postgraduate audience, although it is so accessible it would be of interest to third-year undergraduates – and assumes a working knowledge of research design and critical appraisal.

The authors have taken a two-stage approach to organising their material. The first part is called basic skills and they suggest this is skim read by those with more experience. This section covers reading, taking notes and searching. Prepared to skim through it, I was reminded of things I had long forgotten and I picked up a few new tricks.

Part two tackles traditional reviews of various types, systematic reviews and meta-analyses. It addresses approaches to searching, journal ratings, peer review and accurate referencing.

One of the many helpful features of the book is the highlighted tips and handy hints that are

...

Examples used to illustrate points draw from health, management of change and environmental recycling. The book is intended primarily for a postgraduate audience, although it is so accessible it would be of interest to third-year undergraduates – and assumes a working knowledge of research design and critical appraisal.

The authors have taken a two-stage approach to organising their material. The first part is called basic skills and they suggest this is skim read by those with more experience. This section covers reading, taking notes and searching. Prepared to skim through it, I was reminded of things I had long forgotten and I picked up a few new tricks.

Part two tackles traditional reviews of various types, systematic reviews and meta-analyses. It addresses approaches to searching, journal ratings, peer review and accurate referencing.

One of the many helpful features of the book is the highlighted tips and handy hints that are scattered throughout. Such advice includes: ‘Invent a way of identifying your own words and observations, not those of the author, for example by drawing a circle in red around them.’

There are also lots of practical examples of how to do things differently or how to improve them, and there is a wonderful rewrite of a student essay.

This is a great book that took me by surprise and I will be recommending it to students and colleagues alike.

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