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Bio-Inspired Design: IB 32: Lit Reviews

what is

Not to be confused with a book review, a literature review surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources (e.g. dissertations, conference proceedings) relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, providing a description, summary, and critical evaluation of each work. The purpose is to offer an overview of significant literature published on a topic.

Systematic reviews are reviews of high-quality randomized controlled trials often crucial to evidence-based medicine. Systematic reviews are common to all sciences where data are collected, published in the literature, and an assessment of methodological quality for a precisely defined subject would be helpful.
Ten Simple Rules for doing a Systemic Review. Pautasso, Marco. “Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review.” Ed. Philip E. Bourne. PLoS Computational Biology 9.7 (2013): e1003149. PMC. Web. 27 July 2016.

Ten Steps for Writing a Literature Review:

1. Define a topic and audience:
    must be interesting to you
    an important aspect of the field
    a well-defined issue

2. Search and Re-Search the Literature:

  • keep track of databases and search items
  • keep a list of papers and pdfs,
  • use a management system: Refworks, EndNote, Mendeley
  • define criteria for exclusion
  • use reviews

3. Take NOTES while reading

4. Choose the type of review to write:

  • Mini-review: shorter in length, cover a specific time frame, or narrow subject area
  • Full review: longer, deeper coverage includes details.
  • Descriptive: focuses on methodology, findings, interpretation
  • Integrative: attempt to find common ideas and concepts.

5. Keep the review focused, but broad interest. (could discuss other disciplines affected)

6. Be Critical and consistent: 
A reader should have an idea of
 - The major achievements in the reviewed field.
 - The areas of debate.
 - The outstanding research questions.

7. Find a logical structure.

It can be helpful to use a mind-map to draw a conceptual scheme of the review.

Mind Map Art

8. Make use of feedback. Can be peer-reviewed or someone reading a draft.

9. Include your own relevant research but be objective.

10. Be Up-to-date, do not forget older studies.

Original by Marco Pautasso. PLOS. July 2013, vol. 9, issue 7.

AVOID these traps:

  • Trying to read everything: try to read the most relevant work instead.
  • Reading not writing: writing is a way of thinking, - write many drafts.
  • Reminder: Review papers can have abstracts and illustrations.
  • Failing to keep bibliographic information: remember that you will be writing a page entitled “References” at some point.
  • Organizing your review chronologically: Organize your paper by ideas.

Questions:  Your Librarian, Susan Koskinen, skoskine@berkeley.edu

Find Literature and Systematic Reviews

Annual Reviews
Each article provides essential primary research literature referenced within each topic.

BIOSIS Previews
Limit to literature reviews in left menu.
Coverage: 1926 - present

Cochrane Library
Databases of evidence to inform decision-making.
Coverage:  date varies | Some full text

Embase
Key resource for conducting systematic reviews and researching evidence-based medicine.
Coverage: dates vary

Components

Components: four stages:

  • Problem formulation—which topic or field is being examined and what are its component issues?
  • Literature search—finding materials relevant to the subject being explored
  • Data evaluation—determining which literature makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the topic
  • Analysis and interpretation—discussing the findings and conclusions of pertinent literature

Literature reviews should comprise the following elements:

  • overview of the subject, issue or theory under consideration, with the objectives of the literature review
  • Division of work into categories such as a particular position, against, or offering alternative theses entirely
  • Explanation of how each work is similar to and how it varies from the others
  • Conclusions are considered in the argument, convincing opinions, or the greatest contribution to the understanding and development of the research area.

In assessing each piece, consider:

  • Provenance - What are the author's credentials? Are the author's arguments supported by evidence (e.g. primary historical material, case studies, narratives, statistics, recent scientific findings)?
  • Objectivity—Is the author's perspective even-handed or prejudicial? Is contrary data considered or is certain pertinent information ignored to prove the author's point?
  • Persuasiveness—Which of the author's theses are most/least convincing?
  • Value—Are the author's arguments and conclusions convincing? Does the work ultimately contribute in any significant way to an understanding of the subject?

Definition and Use/Purpose
A literature review may constitute an essential chapter of a thesis or dissertation, or may be a self-contained review of writings on a subject.
In either case, it should:

  • Place each work in the context of its contribution to the understanding of the subject under review
  • Describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration
  • Identify new ways to interpret, and shed light on any gaps in, previous research
  • Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies
  • Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication of effort
  • Point toward further research
  • Place one's original work (in the case of theses or dissertations) in the context of existing literature

The literature review itself, however, does not present new primary scholarship.

Standards

PRISMA: Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. It is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

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