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Literature reviews document analysis

Context for academic research is usually established through a literature review. In non-academic research, such as practitioner research or evaluation, it is more common to use document analysis for context-setting. However, these distinctions are not absolute; some practitioner researchers use academic literature, and some academics use other ways to contextualise their research. Nevertheless, the ethical issues are the same, such as search strategies, bias, citation and plagiarism.

Ethics and literature reviews

Methods Guide
for Comparative Effectiveness Reviews

Methods Guide for Comparative Effectiveness Reviews: Avoiding Bias in Selecting Studies
This is a concern with the potential for bias at a point upstream in the SR process—namely what is the effect of going from the initial question of interest (“what is the effect of intervention X on condition Y?”) to the operational aspects of the review (such as selecting inclusion/exclusion criteria).

The Critical Appraisals Skills Programme

This set of eight critical appraisal tools are designed to be used when reading research, these include tools for Systematic Reviews, Randomised Controlled Trials, Cohort Studies, Case Control Studies, Economic Evaluations, Diagnostic Studies, Qualitative studies and Clinical Prediction Rule.

Tools for assessing risk of reporting biases in studies and syntheses of studies: a systematic review.
Several scales, checklists and domain-based tools for assessing risk of reporting biases exist, but it is unclear how much they vary in content and guidance. This offers a systematic review of the content and measurement properties of such tools.

Systematic reviews have become increasingly popular across the allied health, education, and disability and rehabilitation fields. Unlike traditional narrative reviews, systematic reviews aim to minimize bias in locating, selecting, coding, and aggregating individual studies. The purpose of this brief is to describe critical considerations for appraising the quality of a systematic review. Most of these considerations are relevant to all systematic reviews, including those that are not employing a meta-analysis.

Wiley Online Library

“Time to challenge the spurious hierarchy of systematic over narrative reviews?”

In short, there appears to be a growing divergence between the assumed “hierarchy” of evidence in secondary research, which defines systematic reviews as superior, and what some leading academic journals view as a state-of-the-art (that is, expert-led narrative) review. We believe this is partly because the systematic review format has been erroneously defined as a universal gold standard and partly because the term “narrative review” is frequently misunderstood, misapplied and unfairly dismissed.


“Writing narrative style literature reviews”

DOI: 10.1179/2047480615Z.000000000329

An attempt to define the best practice recommendations for the preparation of a narrative review in clinical research. The quality of a narrative review may be improved by borrowing from the systematic review methodologies that are aimed at reducing bias in the selection of articles for review and employing an effective bibliographic research strategy. The dynamics of narrative review writing, the organizational pattern of the text, the analysis, and the synthesis processes are also discussed.

Wiley Online Library

“Ethical issues in preparing and publishing systematic reviews”

doi: 10.1111/j.1756-5391.2011.01122.x

The medical evidence base, or ‘literature’, forms the basis for clinical and policy decisions, so those who contribute to it have a responsibility to ensure that it is as accurate and unbiased as possible. Since publications are also used to judge the productivity of individuals and departments, and to select candidates for academic positions, it is important that those who did the work receive fair credit. Preparing a systematic review is a form of research, and should therefore be undertaken in a responsible manner to ensure integrity and avoid misconduct. This paper sets out practical and ethical issues to be considered when preparing and publishing a systematic review.

Wiley Online Library

“Ethics in systematic reviews”

A systematic review of the literature is the scientific way of synthesising a plethora of information, by exhaustively searching out and objectively analysing the studies dealing with a given issue. However, the question of ethics in systematic reviews is rarely touched upon. This could lead to some drawbacks, as systematic reviews may contain studies with ethical insufficiencies, may be a possible way to publish unethical research and may also be prone to conflict of interest. Finally, informed consent given for an original study is not necessarily still valid at the systematic review level. There is no doubt that routine ethical assessment in systematic reviews would help to improve the ethical and methodological quality of studies in general. However, ethical issues change so much with time and location, and are so broad in scope and in context that it appears illusory to search for a universal, internationally accepted standard for ethical assessment in systematic reviews. Some simple suggestions could nevertheless be drawn from the present reflection and are discussed in the paper.


“Ethical Standards Rapid Literature Review: Final Report”

This rapid review of ethics related to research, evaluation and monitoring was commissioned by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Its purpose is to inform an associated set of guidance for DFID staff working on research, evaluation and monitoring, provide wider reference within DFID and to identify good practice. The review draws on both published and unpublished research and practice of donors, research funders and professional associations that relate to ethical standards, principles and guidance in research, evaluation and monitoring. It considers research and evaluation ethics in relation to development and humanitarian work, both of which are important areas for DFID, and makes specific reference to safeguarding issues. [NB This is not a systematic review instead adopted a snowball method.]