A literature review is a review of literature focused on a research question to identify, appraise, select and synthesize all high quality research evidence relevant to that question.
Literature review surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources (e.g. dissertations, conference proceedings) relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, providing a description, summary, and critical evaluation of each work. The purpose is to offer an overview of significant literature published on a topic.
Similar to primary research, development of the literature review requires four stages:
Literature reviews should comprise the following elements:
In assessing each piece, consideration should be given to:
3. Definition and Use/Purpose
A literature review may constitute an essential chapter of a thesis or dissertation, or may be self-contained review of writing on a subject. In either case, its purpose is to:
The literature review itself, however, does not present new primary scholarship.
Annual Reviews critically reviews significant primary research literature. Each article provides a gateway to the essential primary research literature referenced within each topic.
BIOSIS Previews: enter your search, use limit to "Literature Types" and Review (if available).
Coverage: 1926 - present
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: enter your search, limit to review.
Coverage: date varies | Some full text |
Embase: enter your search, left menu, use limit to "Literature types" and select reivew / apply.
Embase is a key resource for systematic reviews and researching evidence-based medicine. Coverage: dates vary
PubMed: enter your search, select filter - 'review'. Includes Systematic Reviews search limit, and peer review. (Guide: HTML | PDF).
Covers: 1946 - present
1. Define a topic or research focus to start:
must be interesting to you / an important aspect of the field / a well-defined issue
2. Choose the type of review to write:
3. Search for relevant work & re-search the Literature:
4. Assess the quality of sources & take NOTES while reading.
5. Keep the review focused, but broad interest. (could discuss other disciplines affected)
6. Be Critical and consistent:
The reader should have an idea of
- The major achievements in the reviewed field.
- The areas of debate.
- The outstanding research questions.
7. Find a logical structure. Use a MIND-MAP to draw a conceptual scheme of the review.
8. Make use of feedback. Can be peer-reviewed or someone reading a draft.
9. Include your own relevant research but be objective.
10. Be Up-to-date, do not forget older studies.
11. Summarize the evidence
12. Interpret the findings = keep your own voice
AVOID these traps:
Original by Marco Pautasso. PLOS. July 2013, vol. 9, issue 7.
Questions: Your Librarian, Susan Koskinen, firstname.lastname@example.org