The type of review embarked upon in service of the research project is informed by the academic discipline of the study and the purpose of it. Although systematic reviews have in recent times been utilised within the social sciences it is not a feasible approach for my specific research topic which is exploratory in nature. My research examines the use of social media as a tool of strategic military media management in a hybrid media environment.
The review is multi disciplinary in nature drawing upon sources within security studies and communications studies across diverse topics such as war, political economy of the media, military doctrine, government policy and technology. Thus the literature is divergent, largely theoretical and encompasses multiple definitions and an inconsistency of key words that make it inappropriate for the prescribed methodology of the systematic review. Another challenge posed by the systematic review to my research topic is that a significant amount of the literature is located outside of traditional bibliographic databases and is what is referred to as grey literature that draws upon military doctrine, government reports and media reportage. The systematic review as a research method is one that is too restrictive for my research topic as it is best applied to a precise empirical research question, drawing predominantly from peer review articles where the data is largely homogenous.Scooping Review – a critical literature review which documents what is already known in the field and then uses critical analysis to identify inconsistencies or gaps in the research to highlight the original contribution that my research topic can make. The desired output of this review is to map the general topic area, weaving together the contributions of the original authors in a logical, systematic and critical way to make a coherent argument for the significance of my research objectives.
Although the systematic review is not a method I feel appropriate to my research topic, the traditional review may still be conducted in a systematic and transparent way. Included in my review will be a short methods section explaining the sources covered in the review and outlining the selection rationale for the literature so that the reader may make their own assessment of the integrity and validity of my argument.One of the significant benefits of conducting a traditional literature review on my research topic is the ability to add new thoughts, literature and themes to my plan throughout the review process. The nature of my research focus upon military use of social media is one that attempts to hit a moving target as it is constantly evolving. In contrast to a systematic methodology defined by a narrow focus upon predetermined criteria, the explorative and creative nature of the traditional review affords me the flexibility to explore different ideas and literature sources over the course of the review process.The value of this kind of review is that it can unearth original insights which may have otherwise been neglected through the exclusion and quality control procedures that are required within the systematic review model.
Although a level of subjectivity is implicit within the traditional review process the inclusion of a methods section that informs the reader of my search description and selection rationale prior to the synthesis and analysis of the literature can be adopted as best practice. The traditional literature review is one more suited to the qualitative nature of my research topic and one that does not demand a dichotomous decision as to what material must be included or excluded from the review.