Q: How should I review previous studies?

2 Answers to this question

Reviewing previously published articles begins with a thorough literature search. You have to read journal articles, editorials, magazines, survey reports, etc. to find out what research has been done on your topic. There can be thousands of published articles on a particular topic and choosing the ones that are relevant for your study is not an easy task. So make sure you use relevant keywords while you look for related literature. You can also find databases related to your field in order to make your search more precise. 

Alternatively, you can seek help from your librarian to find out which databases, journals, authors, and articles would be the most relevant to you.

Once all the relevant literature has been gathered, it should be organized as follows:

  • Background literature about the broad research topic to introduce the readers to the field of study
  • Recent progress on the study topic which can be organized thematically or chronologically
  • A comparison and contrast of different studies discussing the controversial aspects helps to identify the main gaps that need to be worked upon
  • The strengths and pitfalls of other studies that have tackled the problem statement

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It is alright for authors to ask the reviewers for clarifications regarding their comments. Sometimes reviewers’ comments may not be very clear or they may be difficult to address. In such a situation, authors may require more clarification to be able to make the required revisions.

Generally, peer review is single-blind or double-blind. In any case, authors do not have direct contact with the reviewers and their only point of contact is the journal editor. Therefore, in such instances, the editor should make sure messages are being communicated effectively in both directions. It is the duty of the editor to convey all the reviewers' comments to the author.

Likewise, the editor must also address the clarifications needed by authors: either by providing explanations himself/herself or by conveying the questions raised by the authors to the reviewers and communicating the reviewers' responses back to the author(s).

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