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How well accepted has been (systematic) literature reviews in your research field, these days?!

I come from computer science field, more specifically Software Engineering. Some professors I keep in touch usually ask their students to perform a systematic literature review (SLR) as a research kickoff, rather than performing any kind of unstructured review. However, it's become harder and harder to get such kind of publication accepted in a highly-ranked publication (e.g., a qualified journal or conf). My feeling is that, in a certain extent, the community has already saturated the amount of papers reporting on reviews.

Hence, I'd like to know a point of view of people from other research fields, as well as their expertise on measuring the tradeoff time devoted to conduct a SRL vs. likelihood of having such a kind of publication accepted by a good venue.

  • This site is not best suited for polling questions, see FAQ. Please reformulate in a way that there can be one answer or tick Community Wiki. – Piotr Migdal Apr 17 '12 at 20:45
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    The point of doing a literature review is not to get a publication. – JeffE Apr 18 '12 at 4:01
  • @JeffE: Unless, of course, you've been asked to take part in writing an invited review article! – aeismail Apr 18 '12 at 7:15
  • @aeismail - That's true, but if you're the caliber of researcher being invited to write a review article, you're likely not asking this question :) – eykanal Apr 18 '12 at 12:30
  • @eykanal: That's why I said invited to take part—not the actual invitee! :-) – aeismail Apr 18 '12 at 13:48
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A systematic literature review is never a bad thing. At the worst, you have a large database of literature that you can cite in future work. as well as a feeling for where the "low-hanging fruit" might lie. It will also give you a framework on which to build and grow your literature collection over time.

So whether or not you are able to publish it, a literature review is a good thing (within reason—don't spend six months doing nothing but reading literature papers!).

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In Mechanical/Aerospace engineering it has been my experience that most research projects start off with a systematic review. Some journals will consider such reviews for publication, but the goal is usually not a publication, but to build a background in the area and to find potential gaps in current research.

Another thing I have found helpful is to periodically review your review. This is important especially for longer term projects (PhDs, continuations/extension of previous research). I try to do a quick followup review every few months or so to make sure my review stays current. The duration between updates will vary based on the research and the discipline. Once you have the initial review in place, keeping it current should take only a little bit of time and effort.

  • What the time interval you usually apply between an update in your reviews (what do you mean by "every few months")?! Is it a kind "fixed schedule" you use to update them?! Has it been a good practice among your peers?! – Ivan Machado Apr 23 '12 at 17:11
  • I usually do a review at the beginning of a semester and at the start of the summer, which breaks down to about 4 months between reviews. If you are in a faster moving discipline, you may need to review more often or perhaps set something like a Google Alert to notify you when a relevant search is updated. I will also do a quick update any time I am writing a conference or journal paper to make sure that any references in my introduction are up to date. – Brian Maicke Apr 24 '12 at 14:14
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In Epidemiology (and medicine generally) systematic literature reviews - and the meta-analysis subset that come from systematic reviews that can report pooled summary estimates - are extremely well accepted.

A novel systematic review, while it will take some time, is generally speaking worth a publication at least somewhere - unless someone has already done said review, at which point your work is done anyway. They've also started to be parsed as "no more work than you should have been doing anyway" - in order to get good priors for Bayesian analysis, a truly comprehensive view of the literature, etc. you might very well already be doing a systematic review.

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