systematic review

Do you know what a systematic review is? If you don’t it means you are probably not a scientist or if you are then maybe a historian.

I had heard of systematic reviews before and I knew that colleagues from the more exact sciences did them for faculty members. Not only did I learn what they are exactly, but I also now know how to conduct one.

It’s very easy. Because basically its an information retrieval instruction for staff done by discussing the specifics of a certain research project.

In this case it was a group of history researchers and medical science researchers wanting to know how American culture had influenced Dutch culture. (or something to that extent)

Normally Humanities research does not happen very systematically. “We” like to browse. But because this was partly a medical study the method of research had to be partly systematic as well.

This means taking apart the main question(s) asked and dividing them in to well formed sub questions so that every aspect of the question is well defined and not only describing the outcome of the question and concluding something from that but also describing how and why the question came about and meticulously describing the process of doing the research. “Showing your work.”

I know what you’re thinking. This is how even historians do their research. They do, but there are aspects to historical research that make it slightly more complicated and less formulaic as it is for more exact sciences.

Most historical research is published in a book not in an article. Most of the time they are only printed and not brought out as an ebook. How do you check if a new book is a good one without being able to scan the blurb? Use reviews. Where do you find reviews? What if an important article is in a compendium and not in a journal? How will you know if you’ve not missed it? You have to be very thorough and know exactly which database covers which kind of material. That’s why they come to us.

The funny thing is, this is what we try and teach first and second year students as well.


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