But this enforced childhood can have adverse effects on the developments of Ph D students’ research.
It tends to feed the illusion that problems’ solutions are to be found by an extended literature hunt, rather than by getting stuck into seriously trying to solve them for yourself.
Hence researchers tend to be highly averse to repeating or renewing them — indeed with some systematic reviews the design may mean that ‘topping up’ at a later stage is not feasible.
Yet over the course of a research project (and perhaps especially in a Ph D project), the analyst’s understanding typically expands hugely.
(As Schopenhauer famously said: ‘Do not read — think!
’)In research projects principal investigators are more experienced and tend to be quicker off the mark.
They need a thorough understanding of how problems fields relate to each other, which is inherently very difficult to acquire at the start of projects.
Finally critics argue that a great many ‘dumb’ systematic reviews are now being churned out, using full text searches for precise word combinations in article or book titles.
But here too literature reviews often expand as a way of bringing new research staff up to speed.
They also help construct an audit trail to convince grant-funders that no ‘duplicative’ work has been undertaken.