The Value of Literature Reviews

September 12, 2019

The Value of Literature Reviews

The points made include:

A literature review is tedious to produce and read Coming across a good paper can be highly stimulating. for a given topic very similar reviews will turn up in a variety of papers. ‘Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly cited in many papers Some authors simply write in a way that is difficult to improve on.

Literature reviews look backwards and don’t bring new ideas to the table the nature of a review is to look back but the review might lead to new ideas.
Literature reviews follow existing streams of thought it’s what’s said/written after the review that is important. When reading journal articles usually read the Abstract and Conclusions first. Find them interesting then try and find out whether anyone else is also interested and what else has been said about the topic.
A literature review is a controlling, heritage-preserving system. Again think it depends on whether you take a glass half full or glass half empty view of literature reviews. They can be stepping stones to ‘greater things’.

Perhaps what we need is periods of writing without literature reviews.  Sometimes, we need to get passionate about a new idea or dream of a new creation. A literature review is a paint-by-numbers scheme that tells us what has been done and gives us a sense of which little areas our research can fill in. In times of change, we need a blank canvas to guide our thinking, not a largely-filled in “normal science” view of the world.

Find digging into the literature can be stimulating. However, do find it very time consuming and also that need to get ‘steeped’ in it to get anything useful out of it. Can’t just dip in and out. Need a concentrated period of uninterrupted time to follow through from literature review to literature review to get a feel for what the general consensus of opinion is, what the evidence base is and from that what do think of the ideas. Perhaps it’s not the literature review that is the problem, but how people interpret them and react to them. Personally, find that need to review the literature even if don’t write about it. How do know that my idea is ‘new’ or ‘novel’ unless have had a good look round first? In fact, it is usually the case that someone else has always already thought about what initially for me might be a ‘new’ idea.

A literature review prevents me from ‘jumping in with both feet’ and Even with a literature review still fall into these traps. So overall think in favour of literature reviews for the learning process and somehow we need to find ways of sharing and evidencing what we have found with our readers without our writing becoming tedious and boring as a result. Perhaps what is needed is not to get rid of literature reviews or the process of reviewing the literature, but to explore new ways of presenting the information gathered from literature reviews that would more readily engage and inform readers. Suspect though that it will be difficult to break the traditional patterns.

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