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When nothing is sure, everything is possible.

—Margaret Drabble


The information provided in this chapter will assist the reader to:

  • Understand the process of approaching and undertaking a literature review.

  • Identify potential resources to facilitate the research or evidence-based practice literature review process.

  • Conduct a literature search.

  • Organize self and material in order to write a literature review.


Now that you have explored some research questions and settled on one that you would like to answer, the next step is to conduct an overview of your topic to determine if the question has already been adequately addressed. If so, then you need to modify your question. If not, then your process moves into a review of the literature. Many novice researchers ask, “Why is this necessary? Why can’t I just start in on my project?” There are several reasons:

  • Perhaps someone has already researched your question, or one just like it, and the answer is already published. You certainly would not want to waste your time and that of your subjects by repeating what has already been reasonably well researched.

  • Perhaps someone has tried to investigate your question or one very similar and met with insurmountable problems (e.g., not finding a test instrument sensitive enough to measure one of the crucial variables or not being able to prompt adequate narratives to show the depth and breadth of your question). This information would be useful before embarking on a similar project.

  • Perhaps someone has investigated your question or a very similar one, but not in the same way that you intend to investigate it. You may plan to use slightly different methods or subject characteristics. You would, however, want to benefit from the information that could be gleaned from the previous study.

  • Someone may have already studied one component of the topic, and you can build on that research, thus saving yourself time and energy.

  • You might wish to place your study in context with similar studies so that the reader will know how to perceive your work.

  • You must place the study within the theoretical base that informs the question(s) from the perspective that you feel gives the optimal insight to the problem (e.g., biomechanical, occupational science, or social constructivist theory). An increased understanding of the topic and the literature will assist you in the process.

  • It will be reassuring if you find reasons in the literature to suggest why the study you propose will address the problem and how your study is capable of solving the problem or answering the question.

  • While searching the literature, you will likely find evidence that will prompt you to revise or change your question. It may need a different emphasis; for example, you may decide to look for a correlational effect ...

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