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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, Shannon Kealey.

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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