One common step in the process to develop a research is the literature review. There are many misunderstandings about what a literature review is. For this reason, today I’m going to summarize a very interesting paper that I have just found about this issue. Here you have the reference:

Rowe, F. (2014). What literature review is not: diversity, boundaries and recommendations. European Journal of Information Systems 23, 241–255, doi:10.1057/ejis.2014.7


Schwarz and colleagues (2006) classified literature review goals as follows:

  1. to summarize prior research,
  2. to critically examine contributions of past research,
  3. to explain the results of prior research found within research streams,
  4. to clarify alternative views of past research (not necessarily integrated together).

A four dimensions typology for literature reviews

  • Goal with respect to theory: Describing (a-theoretically), understanding or explaining
  • Breadth: Problem, stream or theme, discipline
  • Systematicity: Inclusion criteria (search process, type of source, period, discipline), coverage, quality assessment, sources description
  • Argumentative strategy: ‘Logical structures in the argumentation enacted in the paper’…’the order of the components of the author’s argument’ (de Vaujany et al, 2011, p. 401)


After defining the purpose of the review, material collection begins, which involves searching, screening and selection of the relevant literature. Material collection corresponds to the first tasks identified by Fink (2010), among seven tasks:

  1. Selecting a research question.
  2. Selecting bibliographic or article databases, websites
    and other sources.
  3. Choosing search terms.
  4. Applying practical screening criteria (e.g. language,
    funding, setting of a study).
  5. Applying methodological screening criteria (adequacy
    of the study coverage and scientific quality).
  6. Doing the review: reliable and valid reviews involve using a standardized form for abstracting data from articles, training reviewers (if more than one) to do the abstraction, monitoring the quality of the review, and pilot testing the process.
  7. Synthesizing the results. Literature review results may be synthesized descriptively. Descriptive syntheses are interpretations of the review’s findings based on the reviewers’ experience and the quality and content of the available literature ‘ (Fink, p. 5).

Review quality assessment

In a systematic review quality assessment may be performed using the DARE methodology based on four questions (Kitchenham et al, 2009):

  1. Are the review’s inclusion and exclusion criteria described and appropriate?
  2. Is the literature search likely to have covered all relevant studies?
  3. Did the reviewers assess the quality/validity of the included studies?
  4. Were the basic data/studies adequately described?