Once you have narrowed down your pool of results, it's time to begin critically appraising your articles. Using a checklist helps you scrutinise articles in a consistent, structured way.
Questions to consider include:
Working through the questions will help you identify the strengths and weakness of each article, and also identify points to draw on when you write about the literature.
As you closely examine full articles, you will be making judgements about why to include or exclude each study from your review. Documenting your reasoning will help you reassure yourself and demonstrate to others that you have been systematic and unbiased in your appraisal decisions.
Keeping track of what you have excluded, and why, will be very helpful if you must defend your work—for instance, if your literature review is part of a dissertation or thesis.
Pulling all the literature you will include in your review into a single chart is a good way to begin to synthesise the literature.
BEST PRACTICE RECOMMENDATION: If you include any direct quotes in your chart (or in any notes) be sure to use quotation marks so that you don’t later mistake the words for your own.
BEST PRACTICE RECOMMENDATION: The more carefully you record each of the steps of your process, the more easily reproducible it will be. This is especially important for research abstracts and articles found in conference proceedings.