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*Thread* - How to do a literature review

1) Decide on your topic- keep the scope broad to start with. You don’t yet know what’s out there or where the gaps are.

2) Identify themes, debate and gaps - Start with a broad search, evaluate the arguments and identify the gaps.
3) Look through journals, books and search engines. Highly cited papers are useful but also look at those which perhaps aren’t as well cited too- equally important in a lit search. Get an idea of up to date and slightly older works too. Helps to keep track via an excel sheet.
4) Evaluate sources. Look at:

- methodology
- sample size
- spread of study
- literature which the paper relies upon
- discussion angle
- conclusions (in the context of the study type and methodology).

Remember that just because it’s published doesn’t make it high quality!
5) Form your own opinions. I like to base mine on:
- how this work relates to other published work
- how this work uses theories and conceptual approaches
- how robust is the methodology?
- are the conclusions valid?
- What does this work potentially contribute in practice?
6) The more you read, the easier the subtleties in work will stand out and this helps to identify those narrow gaps upon which you can formulate a research question for further exploration.
7) Formulating a good research question requires:
- A thorough literature review
- Insights into what can be validly done methodologically
8) A note about methodology and methods.

Remember methodology and methods aren’t the same. Methodology is the theoretical stance which supports your elected method. Method is how you do choose to do your research.

Options include: quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods.
How you choose the best approach depends upon what your research question is. Your method affects what results you obtain and what conclusions you can draw from your data and to what extent you can fully answer your research question.
9) My added tip - the wildcard.
Think why you are doing the lit search? What is your aim? If the aim is to influence policy making or provide the evidence base behind policy making or an intervention- read up on policies in the space and the evidence behind them
10) “don’t reinvent the wheel” - yes that’s true and hence the point of a lit review but remember sometimes the wheel DOES need to be reinvented if evaluating a current intervention identifies that further work is needed or evidence that a different approach is needed.
11) Writing up your literature review
- Outline the scope of your review and how you have done it
- Start broad
- Use subheadings to hone in on specific areas.
- The more lit you have read, the tighter your wording will be and the more closet referenced your review will be.
It takes time. Don’t give up! Good luck 😍. Drop me a line @marinasoltan_ if any queries.
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