What is a Literature Review?
A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, time period or research. It can be a simple summary of sources but usually combines a summary and a synthesis of material.
1. Define a topic and audience:
must be interesting to you
an important aspect of the field
a well-defined issue
2. Search and Re-Search the Literature:
3. Take NOTES while reading
4. Choose the type of review to write:
5. Keep the review focused, but broad interest. (could discuss other disciplines affected)
6. Be Critical and consistent:
A 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.
It can be helpful to 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.
Original by Marco Pautasso. PLOS. July 2013, vol. 9, issue 7.
AVOID these traps:
Questions: Your Librarian, Susan Koskinen, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Step 1: Define research topic = find a focus
The problems addressed by the review should be in clear, structured questions. Once review questions have been set, modifications should be allowed only if alternative ways of defining the populations, interventions, outcomes or study designs become apparent.
Step 2: Identify relevant work
Read review articles. The search for studies should be extensive. Multiple resources should be searched without language restrictions. The study selection criteria should flow directly from the review questions and be specified a priori. Reasons for inclusion and exclusion should be recorded.
Step 3: Assess the quality of sources
Study quality assessment is relevant to every step of a review. Selected studies should get a critical appraisal and design-based quality checklists.
Step 4: Summarize the evidence
Data synthesis consists of study characteristics, quality and effects of statistical methods.
Step 5: Interpret the findings = keep your own voice
Be careful of bias, determine whether the overall summary can be trusted, and, if not, the effects observed in high-quality studies should be used for generating inferences.