There are three methods of literature review (Slavin, 1986; Harlen and Schlapp, 1998). [Notes taken from Vally Behjou’s PhD thesis: Older Adults and Technology, A Review of Literature 2000-2005]

The traditional approach: review and synthesize relevant topic in a narrative style. This approach has shown to be usceptible to reviewer’s subjectivity (Harlen and Schlapp, 1998).

When traditional approach follows standard procedures, it becomes systematic review. Systematic review is a scientific tool which can be used to summarize, appraise, and communicate the results and implications of otherwise unmanageable quantities of research.

Steps for systematic review:

Determine review questions –> Plan review –> Locate studies –> Set inclusion/exclusion criteria –> Select relevant studies –> Collect data –> Synthesize findings –> Prepare final report –> Document methods in your report (adapted from The Joanna Briggs web page).

Meta-analysis: introduced by Glass in 1976, only deal with quantitative research and follow a detailed statistical analyses approach (Slavin, 1986).

Best-evidence synthesis: introduced by Slavin in 1986, is an alternative approach that embraces both quantitative and qualitative studies.

Written by Shengdong Zhao

Shen is an Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department, National University of Singapore (NUS). He is the founding director of the NUS-HCI Lab, specializing in research and innovation in the area of human computer interaction.