Collegiality. Collegiality in science means recognizing your colleagues. Science is a social activity as well as an intellectual one, done by a community whose culture is the scientific method. This community resolves disagreements not by conflict but by appeals to logic and evidence, i.e. by research. Scientists who disagree about ideas agree to abide by research conclusions. One respects research colleagues by reading and referencing their research. To ignore other’s work or to copy their words without quoting them disrespects the scientific community. Respect the scientific community by reading, referencing and building on other’s work.
The literature review should cover all the important research relevant to the topic. Describing important research is like describing well–known land marks while describing relevant research is like describing features that apply to your journey. Both are important, as not describing well-known landmarks suggests you don’t know the area and describing what is irrelevant wastes people’s time. Don’t make the common mistake of describing well-known research that isn’t relevant to your topic.
Important research. Every topic has key authors who have had significant impact and the literature review must show you are aware of them. Even if you disagree with their ideas, show that you understand what they have said. To not do so suggests you are ignorant of what is important. Cover all the important ideas that affect the topic, both old and new. The literature review should cover all important work relevant to the topic, both old and new.
Relevant research. Given the research topic and scope, focus the literature review so as to not waste the reader’s time. Readers of research want one topic treated well not a superficial skimming of many topics. A literature review is not an exercise in showing how much you know. If you want to say many things, then write many papers. However interesting a citation is, if it is irrelevant to your topic drop it. Don’t mention it just to accumulate references. A good literature review focuses on papers relevant to the topic, e. g. I once reviewed a paper on online education authentication that spent a lot of time describing well–known online education authors who didn’t mention the authentication issue. Research outside the topic scope doesn’t add value to the literature review. A literature review should only discuss research that is relevant to the topic
Multi-disciplinary. In modern research in one field can and often does have implications for another, e.g. psychology research can relate to research on web sites. If the topic overlaps another field, consider referencing it, as this can be source of synergy and innovation. Is relevant literature from other disciplines mentioned?
Precedence. Precedence refers to the research that immediately precedes and leads to yours. Given the amount of research done, probably something similar has been done earlier. A good strategy for new researchers is to find a successful precedence paper and carefully follow and learn from it. Establishing a precedent also gives others confidence that your work is worthy. Pay especial attention to such work and give credit to those who have preceded you. As Newton said: “If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” Finding a precedence in accepted research is helpful, as you can use the same method, tools or analysis, and perhaps also avoid any criticism of their work. A good literature review describes the research that immediately precedes your work.
Contribution. Given a precedent, clarify how your research adds to it, to show an original contribution. Research is not just about getting results but also adding value. As a knowledge contributor, you may add to theory or results, or both. Be aware that taking a new theory perspective is challenging, as reviewers wedded” to the current theory will object, so expect a rocky road to publication as genuinely new theories can polarize reviewers, i. e. some love it and some hate it. Unfortunately, the current review system favors conformity, as any one of four reviewers hating a paper can block its publication. Yet if no-one ever differed from established theory science would not progress! Describe any theory contribution in the literature review.
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