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One of my colleagues told me about a weblog that replied on my previous entry entitled “Likert Scale: How to (Ab)use them?”. I browsed through the weblog and I found it is very useful as well as very informative. I would like to encourage all visitors to visit and read the weblog here.

16 years later, the debate continues.  A nice discussion of the debate is found on the Research Methodology blog by Hisham bin Md-Basir.  It’s a nice blog, with thoughtful entries that summarize methodological articles in the social and design sciences.

To be fair, though, this blog entry summarizes an article on the “likert scales are not interval” side of the debate.  For a balanced listing of references, see Can Likert Scale Data Ever Be Continuous?

Article by Rumrill, Phillip  D. Jr., and Fitzgerald, Shawn M. (2001) in Work, 16:2.


This paper describes one of the literature review method that is most interpretive-qualitative in nature, i.e. the narrative review [i]. Although the discussion is very specific to the area of rehabilitation research (one research area in education), I believe that the main points are also applicable to other fields in social and design science research [ii], especially IS research [iii].


I collect all the important points of discussion, and put them here without reference to the specific field where this paper is originally based on.


In the literature, researchers used narrative literature review to: (i) describe the current states of both art (i.e., practice) and science (i.e., research) in focused areas of inquiry; (ii) add dimensions of insight or application that are not available in existing literature, and; (iii) provide critical analyses of standing works. The results of the review are normally in the form of: (i) postulate or proposition of advance new theories and models; (ii) arguments of important and/or controversial topics; (iii) present of the “how to” tips and strategies to improve best practices, and; (iv) description of the latest developments in the field (present new perspectives pertains to the important and emerging issues).


General guideline to conduct narrative literature review:

  1. Identify a research area;
  2. Identify inclusion criteria for studies;
  3. Select studies that meet the inclusion criteria;
  4. Identify themes that emerge from the set of studies, and;
  5. Draw conclusions.


Limitations of narrative literature review:

  1. The nature of the method that is too subjective (in the determination of which studies to include, the way the studies are analyzed, and the conclusions drawn);
  2. The possibility of misleading in drawing conclusions (that are normally due to selection bias, subjective weighing of the studies chosen for the review, unspecified inclusion criteria, and failure to consider the relationships between study characteristics and study results, and;
  3. The problem in determining and integrating complex interactions (that may exist) when large set of studies is involved.


[i] Click here for the full list of literature review methods.

[ii] Until now, many of my colleagues are not in the know of what is actually termed as ‘design science’. Many of them asked me what the differences between ‘social science’ and ‘design science’ are. Why should we have ‘design science’ after the establishment and the long history of ‘social science’? For them, here is the answer.

[iii] Social science and behavioral research describe a significant proportion of all IS research (Straub, Boudreau & Gefen (2004, p.383)).





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