Top critical review
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Okay. Lacking in SPECIFIC advice and information.
on 30 January 2013
This book is supposed to be a guide on "doing a literature review in health & social care". In an attempt to accomplish this, the book is divided into the following 8 chapters:
(1) Why do a literature review in health and social care?
(2) What literature will be relevant to my literature review?
(3) How do I develop a research question?
(4) How do I search for literature?
(5) How do I critically appraise the literature?
(6) How do I synthesise my findings?
(7) How do I discuss my findings and make recommendations?
(8) How do I present my literature review?
Commonly asked questions
As a broad overview to the literature review process, to initiate, focus and collect one's thoughts, regarding how one plans on tackling the daunting task of conducting a literature review, this book is a reasonable starting point. Personally, I can understand why this book is popular, because the chapter headings themselves, focus on all the pertinent questions one should ask themselves before starting a literature review.
My main gripe with this book is that it gives very little SPECIFIC advice, it just seemed a bit superficial. The author has taken the key steps of the 'SYSTEMATIC review' (SR) process, used them as chapter headings, without really providing specific information and clarity within each chapter, regarding a SYSTEMATIC literature review.
In chapter 3: How do I develop a research question? The author informs us the question should be clear and unambiguous, answerable, talks about refining and reconsidering the question - granted, all valid points. However, it does not inform the reader (who may be doing a SR) that one needs to be very clear when developing their research question about (i) the population [e.g. school children, diabetics]; (ii) the intervention +/- comparator [e.g. teaching methodology, medical treatment]; (iii) the outcome measure [e.g. improvement in test scores, better glucose control]; (iv) the study design [e.g. qualitative interviews, RCTs], of the studies to be included in the review. Yes, I appreciate and accept that this is not a book on conducting a SR specifically, but given its title (literature review) and chapter headings (that basically name the key steps of a SR), I expected the basics to be mentioned (just my opinion).
I suspect many students undergraduate/postgraduate (and other healthcare/allied professionals) may well be doing a SR as a literature review - they are methodologically robust (if done properly) and at the top of the hierarchy of evidence. In my opinion, if one is planning on conducting a SR, they may well be better served with a book outlining the basics of conducting a SR specifically. Personally, I have first-hand experience of facing the daunting task of doing a systematic literature review, without any prior experience, and I found the following book invaluable: 'Systematic reviews to support evidence-based medicine' [please note: I have no affiliation with the authors whatsoever, there is no conflict of interest].
Overall, this is a reasonable, basic book to whet your appetite and get your inspirational juices flowing in anticipation of conducting a literature review, in the broadest sense possible. However, in my opinion, it lacks specific information and advice. Therefore, depending on the type of review you are conducting, you will very likey need to look elsewhere for further detail and clarification (e.g if conducting a SR).
Disclaimer: I borrowed this book from the library (2007 edition) and did not purchase it on Amazon. Nonetheless, this is my very honest opinion, after reading this book in its entirety.