One of the tasks in my short-to-mid-term plan is to convert my dissertation into several research papers. In this context, I was thinking about extracting my dissertation's literature review (which is IMHO quite detailed) and re-working it by adding academic value, so that it can be published as conceptual paper or literature survey paper in a good peer-reviewed outlet, such as conference proceedings or, preferably, journal. With that in mind, I am interested in learning other people's ideas for and approaches to adding value to traditional review of literature and/or making it more rigorous. At the present time, my thoughts and ideas on approaching the subject are as follows:

  • Integrate research streams into and propose a comprehensive conceptual framework;

  • Identify gaps in research coverage and suggest corresponding future research directions;

  • Identify commonalities and differences in research approaches and methods, used to study different topics and areas within and across research streams, belonging to the paper's scope.

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    This is going to be field dependent. In my field, good peer reviewed journals simply do not publish what you describe as "conceptual" or "literature survey" papers. Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 0:25
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    @NateEldredge: Thank you. Hopefully, people from fields, other than mathematics, will share their thoughts and perspectives. Just to clarify: my field is information systems, which is multi-disciplinary (typically, an intersection of CS/SE/IT, management science and social sciences). However, I welcome opinions of people from all disciplines. Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 1:13

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Your question very field dependent. In my social sciences field, literature reviews 1) answer some kind of open question in the field, just like an empirical paper does and 2) are, these days, usually systematic reviews.

You'll hear a lot of researchers talk about the right "time" for a literature review. They may say it's too early for a lit review in the field, or that it's the "right time." What that usually means is that there's enough collected empirical research in the field to do the review but ALSO that there's some sort of open question or idea that the literature review contributes to. Turn it back on yourself: if you were looking for papers in your field, what kind of literature review would you want to read? Methodological ones are good; there's a well-cited one in my field that reviews the empirical work in my area using a specific method that I use, and it's very useful in conceptualizing and writing my own papers.

More theoretical ones can be useful, too, if you're trying to answer a question: What really IS this X that people in the field have been talking about in 27 different ways - can we come up with a unifying concept or underlying theme that makes it easier to talk about that X? (I think that's the first idea that you highlighted in your question.) There are about a million papers on whether Y affects Z; have we come to some sort of conclusion as a discipline about whether and how Y really does affect Z? In my field, the people who write these papers are usually senior scholars (or a team that usually has a senior, established person on it). Some journals don't accept them unless they specifically invite the scholar to write one, or unless the scholar contacts the journal ahead of time with an outline or plan for what they want to write.

Basically, journals don't want a random summary or even a simple synthesis of several papers. They want a review that's going to push the field forward in some way. Most dissertation literature reviews don't do that - but if you can write your review in such a way that it does (or at least lay the foundation so that when you go back to it later, it's easy to transform it into one that does) you'll have an easier time getting it published.

The other thing is that in my field, these days, most journals want systematic reviews. It's a very specific way of doing a literature view that makes it akin in format to an empirical paper: with bounded year dates, specific search terms, and a systematic way of deciding whether to include or exclude papers (hence the name "systematic review"). It's a way of trying to ensure that authors don't only include papers that support their views. Many times systematic reviews also include a meta-analysis; I suspect that they are more likely to get published if they do.

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    I appreciate your nice, detailed and insightful answer (+1; will likely accept). Actually, your thoughts on the subject are strikingly in line with my understanding of it and made my thoughts less fuzzy. I've seen many systematic reviews, maybe that's because my field (information systems) significantly intersects with social sciences :-) (and, some, perhaps, even consider it as such). Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 22:27

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