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Advancing the science of literature reviewing in social research : the focused mapping review and synthesis

Bradbury-Jones, Carolyn and Breckenridge, Jenna P. and Clarke, Maria T. and Herber, Oliver R. and Jones, Christine and Taylor, Julie (2019) Advancing the science of literature reviewing in social research : the focused mapping review and synthesis. International Journal of Social Research Methodology. pp. 1-12. ISSN 1364-5579

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Literature reviews are an important and popular part of synthesising evidence across a range of disciplines. There are numerous approaches, each with their distinctive features and purposes. The aim of this article is to advance the science of literature reviewing by describing a new form of review: The ‘Focused Mapping Review and Synthesis’ (FMRS). We critique the approach and highlight its similarities and differences in relation to existing review methodologies. There are four key features of FMRS. It: 1) focuses on a defined field of knowledge rather than a body of evidence; 2) creates a descriptive map or topography of key features of research within the field rather than a synthesis of findings; 3) comments on the overall approach to knowledge production rather than the state of the evidence; 4) examines this within a broader epistemological context. The FMRS can be used to answer questions that might not be appropriate for other review types and potentially offers a useful addition to the methodological toolkit of social researchers from multiple disciplines.