Literature review / desk research

Literature reviews / desk research involves a thorough review of key published and unpublished sources relating to a specific issue. The purpose of this type of work is to bring a client up to date with the current knowledge and thinking on a subject. It also sets the work in context, to help avoid duplication and identify areas for further research. A good literature review will:

  • Compare different views and opinions
  • Pull together authors that draw similar conclusions
  • Critique different methods used to form opinions
  • Highlight ground-breaking studies
  • Highlight areas where more research needs to be done
  • Relate any work currently being done to the established opinions
  • Summarise what the existing range of literature says on a subject

Systematic review

  • A systematic review focuses very specifically on a particular issue or question.
  • A systematic review will draw up sets of criteria to select studies that will be included in the review. One of the most common criteria used to select studies is based on their methodology.
  • The researcher will select a number of places to search for existing studies using pre-defined search categories on sites such as Pubmed or Medline.
  • They will then comprehensively review all studies that match the criteria and come up with conclusions based on available and relevant studies in a particular area.

Example: Undertake a systematic review to look at the effectiveness of the use the financial incentives to encourage quitting smoking