Relevance and coverage of the literature
You may have sourced literature in order to answer a particular question, solve a problem or gain further insight into a particular topic or aspect of research. An effective search will provide you with the literature most suited to the purpose of your search through the selection of good key words and search terms. The more efficient the search and the more relevant and suitable the sources retrieved, the easier it will be to evaluate the literature.
Rather than reading the whole text (Rumsey 2004) to initially assess for relevance, you might like to assess relevance by reading or checking:
- the contents
- the abstract
- the summary
- the introduction
- the preface
- the synopsis
or to skim read or scan the document.
How is the resource relevant to your research or the purpose of your literature search? What does it bring to the table - what new knowledge or perspective does it provide? How will you record this?
If the source is relevant, what kind of coverage of the topic does it offer?
Coverage refers to how much of the topic or subject of interest is covered by the literature and to what extent. Consideration should be given to whether the topic is; introduced, summarised, covered in full and in great detail or whether a particular aspect of the topic is covered.
Coverage can be divided into 3 key concerns (Cooke 2001);
- and scope.
Grouping literature sources
As you assess the relevance and coverage of a source you might also like to divide your sourced literature into groups. In fact, whilst assessing relevance and coverage is an ideal point to do this. Grouping the sourced literature might help you to cope with large volumes of literature and may also help you to spot patterns across the literature as they emerge. As you continue to evaluate the literature, grouping will also help you to begin to build an argument. For example, if your sourced literature reveals a topical argument then it might be useful to divide the literature into groups according to which 'side of the argument' they take. Some of the literature may take a neutral stance. Or perhaps it may be more appropriate to divide the literature you have sourced into basic, intermediate and more advanced levels of knowledge. If, how and when to group your literature is subjective.