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HSC_NRS_NUR 4333 - Research & Evidence Based Practice

What is a literature review?

Quick Overview:

A literature review is a discussion of previously published information on a particular topic, providing summary and synthesis to help readers understand the research that has been completed on a subject and why it is important. Unlike a research paper, a literature review does not develop a new argument, instead the review focuses on what has been argued or proven in past papers. However, a literature review should not just be an annotated bibliography that lists the sources found; the literature review should be organized thematically. 

How to Write a Literature Review

The Literature Review Process

Here are some research planning suggestions as you prepare to write your literature review:

  • Pick a topic that fits the scope of your assignment. Make sure it is narrow enough that you will not get bogged down trying to search through and summarize hundreds of articles. 
  • Pick a topic that you find interesting. If you're personally connected to your topic the entire process will be less stressful and more enjoyable. 
  • Ask a answerable and focused research question. Break down your topic into specific questions, then see if each question is "researchable" by searching library databases for articles that might answer it. You may need to revise your question if there isn't enough relevant information available.
  • Break your research question down into the most important key terms. These terms can be used as keywords when you are searching for books and articles. 
  • When you find a helpful article, check their cited sources to find other, related research. 
  • DON'T PANIC. Completing a research project can be complicated and frustrating, but you don't have to go through it on your own. If you run into difficulties feel free to contact your instructor with assignment-related questions or concerns and myself for help with the research process. 

It can be hard to picture what a successful nursing literature review should look like, even after learning about the essential components. Here are some examples of published literature reviews on issues related to nursing education:

Are you having trouble accessing articles? Consult the “Accessing Articles” tab under “Conducting Research” on the left side of this guide for information on how to access articles.

Literature Review Assignment

  1. Title Page
  2. Abstract includes the following:
    1. Aims (of the paper)
    2. Background
    3. Data Sources
    4. Review Methods
    5. Results
    6. Conclusion
  3. Introduction – This will be labeled as your paper title in your actual paper.
    1. Define the topic, together with your reason for selecting the topic. You could also point out overall trends, gaps, particular themes etc. Provide a clear explanation of your topic and a thesis statement.
  4. Body
    1. In the body of the paper you discuss your sources. This is one way you could organize your discussion:
      1. The Review
      2. Aim/s: State the aim/s of the review. Include research topic/objectives/questions/hypothesis(es).
      3. Search methods: Include search strategy, inclusion/exclusion criteria, databases searched, keywords, languages, and publishing dates.  
      4. Search outcome: Search outcome and audit trail if appropriate - application of inclusion/exclusion criteria. How many articles did you find with your search terms? How did you decide to keep or reject these articles? The point of this section is to allow someone to replicate your search.
      5. Summarize included studies. You may want a table for this added to your appendix. See your APA manual for details. 
    2. Results
      1. Present the results of your review using appropriate subheadings.
      2. You may wish to use a table to help present this information.
      3. Remember that this is a synthesis. Present the major themes rather than individual papers.
    3.  Discussion
      1. Start with limitations and strength of the evidence.
      2. Draw out the applicability, theoretical and practical implications of the review findings.
  5. Conclusion:
    1. This should not be a summary/repetition of the findings.
    2. Identify implications/recommendations for practice/research/education/management as appropriate, and consistent with the limitations.     
    3. If appropriate, consider whether nursing conceptual or theoretical frameworks could guide future research about the topic of the review.
    4. Discuss the major contributions, evaluate the current position, and point out flaws in methodology, gaps in research, contradictions, and areas for further study. Word limit: 250
  6. References