Reviewing what’s already out there – also known as doing a ‘literature review’ – is the best way to start any research project. It avoids repeating what others have already done, saving time and money (and embarrassment). It will help you to clarify and justify the focus of your planned research. And it will show that you know the context on this issue, giving credibility and authority to your work. If you are going to hire researchers, conducting an initial review will ensure that you are paying them to generate new information, and will help you to engage with them on the topic, so improving its quality.
Part of Oxfam’s Research Guideline series, this is the second version of this guideline, which was originally published on 22 November 2012. It has been updated with the help of Oxfam’s partners INASP and Research4Life, to reflect recent developments in making digital resources accessible to researchers across the world.