Systematically Reviewing Previous Work

  • S. Wood-Dauphinee
  • B. McPeek


Many of us tend to regard reviewing previous literature as an unexciting chore, perhaps because well-read laboratory chiefs appear to consider the research review as a low-priority activity to be delegated to a research assistant or the most junior member of the team. For many, the excitement lies in carrying out a new experiment to add more information to what already exists. They regard poring over old research reports as a boring or less creative step. This is a major error in thinking. The accumulation of evidence is an important goal underlying all scientific inquiry. This is as true of surgery as of theoretical physics. An individual study is seldom an isolated event, but rather part of a continuum in which each new endeavor builds upon preceding work. New findings lose much of their value if they are not linked with the accumulated wisdom, both theoretical and empirical, of earlier reports.


Research Library Average Effect Size Selective Vagotomy Junior Member Weak Study 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Glass GV. Primary, secondary, and meta-analysis of research. Educ Res 1975; 5: 3–8.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Glass GV. Meta-analysis: an approach to the synthesis of research results. Res Sc Teach 1982; 19: 93–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    University Group Diabetes Program (UGDP) Study. Journal of Diabetes 1970;19:Suppl 2:740–850.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    McPeek B, Gilbert JP. Onset of postoperative jaundice related to anesthetic history. Brit Med J 1974; 3: 615–617.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Moses LE, Mosteller F. Afterword for the study of death rates. Chapter IV-8 in The National Halothane Study; a study of the possible association between halothane anesthesia and postoperative hepatic necrosis. Bunker JP, Forrest WH Jr., Mosteller F, Vandam LD, editors. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969:395–408.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Hewett P, Chalmers TC. Using MEDLINE to peruse the literature. Controlled Clinical Trials 1985; 6: 75–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hewett P, Chalmers TC. Perusing the literature: methods of assessing MEDLINE and related databases. Controlled Clinical Trials 1985; 6: 168–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Chalmers TC. The randomized controlled trial as a basis for therapeutic decisions. Chapter 2 in J. Lachin, Tygstrup N, Juhl E, editors. The Randomized Clinical Trial and Therapeutic Decisions. New York: Marcel Dekker, 1982.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Gilbert JP, McPeek B, Mosteller F. Statistics and ethics in surgery and anesthesia. Science 1977(a); 198: 684–689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gilbert JP, McPeek B, Mosteller F. Progress in surgery and anesthesia: benefits and risks of innovative therapy. Chapter 9 in Costs, risks and benefits of surgery. Bunker JP, Barnes BA, and Mosteller F, editors. Oxford University Press, NY: 1977(b);124–169.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Bearman JB, Loewenson DB, Gullen WH. Muenchs postulates, laws and corollaries. Biometrics Note 4, Bethesda, MD: Office of Biometry and Epidemiology, National Eye Institute, NIH, 1974.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Stock WA, Okun M, Haring M, Witter R. Age difference in subjective well-being: a meta-analysis. In Evaluation Studies Review Annual. Light RJ, editor. Beverly Hills, CA: Light RJ, editor. 1983; 8: 279–302.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Straw RB. Deinstitutionalization in mental health: a meta-analysis. In Evaluation Studies Review Annual. Light RJ editor. Beverly Hills, CA: Light RJ editor. 1983; 8: 253–278.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Yin RK, Yates D. Street level governments: as sessing decentralization and urban services. Los Angeles, CA: Rand Corp, 1974.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ottenbacher KJ, Peterson P. The efficacy of vestibular stimulating as a form of specific sensory enrichment. Clinical Pediatrics 1983; 23: 418–433.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Smith ML, Glass GV. Meta-analysis of psychotherapy outcome studies. American Psychology 1976; 32: 752–760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Rosenthal R. Combining results of independent studies. Psychological Bulletin 1978; 85: 185–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Cooper, HM. Scientific guidelines for conducting integrative research reviews. Review of Education Research 1982; 52: 291–302.Google Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Light RJ, Pillemer DB. Summing up—the science of reviewing research. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1984.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Wood-Dauphinee
  • B. McPeek

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations