A literature review is used to support your study in the theoretical context of your thesis. You’re looking for prior research on your topic. These research are frequently published as journal articles (scientific publications).
Why is quality so vital?
The better the articles in your literature review, the better your research will be. Using low-quality articles increases the danger of drawing unfounded conclusions. Your boss will constantly check the sources of your conclusions.
We will provide an example to demonstrate how to evaluate a scientific publication. Using the article below as an example:
Perrett, D. I., et al (1999). SYMMETRY AND HUMAN APPEAL 2, 295-307. http://www.grajfoner.com/Clanki/Perrett%201999%20Symetry%20Attractiveness.pdf
This article discusses the relationship between facial symmetry and facial beauty.
Points to consider
Publishes the article:
The journal in which an article appears speaks something about its quality. The Journal Quality List ranks journals (JQL). If the journal you used is ranked #1 in your professional field in the JQL, you can believe the article is top-notch.
The example article is published in Evolution and Human Behavior. The journal is not on the Journal Quality List, although it appears to be among the best in Psychology (see Journal Ranking at http://www.ehbonline.org/). The source is thus suitable for use.
So, if a journal isn’t on the Journal Quality List, google it. You will then learn more about the journal’s quality.
- Who wrote it?
Next, find out who wrote the article:
- Who is the author of the paper?
- Has the author done extensive research?
- What do others think of the author?
- Who is the author?
- Where does the author teach? Is this university reputable?
The article’s lead author (Perrett) has previously studied predictors of beauty. Penton-Voak, another author, worked on these research. Both Perrett and Penton-Voak taught at the University of St Andrews in 1999. This university is ranked #100 in the world. Less is known about the other authors. Maybe these were students helping lecturers.
- When was it published?
Date of publication: The latest study is best. If the study is older, see if any follow-up studies have been done. Maybe the author did more study and published more useful results.
Using Google Scholar, select ‘Since 2014′ from the left-hand column. When in doubt, pick ‘Since 2013′. The most recent studies are found by working along the row.
The example article was published in 1999. Since then, there has probably been a lot of follow-up research done. So I soon located a 2013 Google Scholar article on symmetry and facial beauty in children. The sample article from 1999 is definitely a fine place to start, but it’s best to see how study on the issue has progressed.
- What do other researchers think?
Find out who the research professionals are. Do they endorse or criticize the research?
I found the article mentioned 325 times in Google Scholar! So the article is mentioned in at least 325 other articles. The authors of the other articles are experts in their fields. The authors who quote the essay do not critique it.
- Assess the quality
Now check back: how did the article do on the aforementioned points? That determines quality.
The example article got a ‘fair’ to ‘good’ score on all points. So we can call the article qualitatively good and incorporate it in a literature review. However, due to the article’s age, it is prudent to seek out more recent studies.