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Hence researchers tend to be highly averse to repeating or renewing them — indeed with some systematic reviews the design may mean that ‘topping up’ at a later stage is not feasible.Yet over the course of a research project (and perhaps especially in a Ph D project), the analyst’s understanding typically expands hugely.But here too literature reviews often expand as a way of bringing new research staff up to speed.
Such brush-off responses can suggest an entrenched unwillingness by investigators to consider literature not covered in their initial (often partial) review.
We live now in a digital era, in which the idea of a giant initial literature review is of fading relevance, except for properly conducted systematic reviews.
Systematic reviews are highly developed in medicine, and they have spread into social sciences recently via the health sciences.
Critics argue that systematic reviews are most appropriate in fields where quantitative research predominates, where there is high consensus on problem definition, and where methods across studies are broadly comparable (rather than being contested).
aim to give a ‘genetic’ account of the origins and development of understanding for a defined topic.
They usually follow a basically chronological sequence — perhaps broken up into periods treated more as coherent wholes (‘periodization’); or perhaps analytically fragmented into component parts or sub-topics.
These may capture only a proportion of relevant literature, chiefly because academic researchers are endlessly adept at mis-describing their research in titles and in abstracts.
One of the greatest problems of large-scale and formalized literature reviews (both narrative and systematic) is that they take a long time to do.
In the social sciences and humanities, by contrast, an initial literature review may well be refreshed at later stages of long projects.
It is quite common to see researchers looking surprised or even severely affronted when questioners at seminars or conferences, or even journal reviewers, ask that other literature or perspectives are taken into account.