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Conducting a Literature Review

A collection of strategies and resources for conducting a literature review

What is a Literature Review?

Conducting a literature review is the process of assessing the current state of research and knowledge on a particular topic or research question. You may conduct a literature review to provide background on your current research and include it as an introduction to your paper, or it may be a formal and systematic method used to understand gaps in the literature and/or synthesize current knowledge on a topic.

Some of these formal literature reviews take the form of:

  • Scoping Reviews: Scoping reviews are a type of evidence synthesis that aims to systematically identify and map the breadth of evidence available on a particular topic, field, concept, or issue, often irrespective of source (ie, primary research, reviews, non-empirical evidence) within or across particular contexts. Scoping reviews can clarify key concepts/definitions in the literature and identify key characteristics or factors related to a concept, including those related to methodological research. (Munn, 2022)
  • Systematic Review: A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question. (Cochrane)
  • Meta Analysis: Meta-analysis is a quantitative, formal, epidemiological study design used to systematically assess previous research studies to derive conclusions about that body of research. Outcomes from a meta-analysis may include a more precise estimate of the effect of treatment or risk factor for disease, or other outcomes, than any individual study contributing to the pooled analysis. (Haidich, 2010)
Steps in a Literature Review:
  • Develop a question
  • Search the literature
  • Analyze the literature
  • Write the review

About Cochrane Reviews. (n.d.). Cochrane Library. Retrieved October 26, 2022, from

Haidich A. B. (2010). Meta-analysis in medical research. Hippokratia, 14(Suppl 1), 29–37.

Munn, Pollock, D., Khalil, H., Alexander, L., Mclnerney, P., Godfrey, C. M., Peters, M., & Tricco, A. C. (2022). What are scoping reviews? Providing a formal definition of scoping reviews as a type of evidence synthesis. JBI Evidence Synthesis, 20(4), 950–952.

TIP: Set up a research consultation appointment at the library for assistance with a literature review. Just fill out and submit the Book A Librarian form:

Why Conduct a Literature Review?

There are many reasons to conduct a literature review:

  • To provide a theoretical framework for a given topic
  • To define terms and variables for an area of research
  • To provide an overview and synthesis of current evidence
  • To demonstrate a gap in the literature
  • To identify methodologies and research techniques for a research area

Baker, J.D. (2016). The purpose, process, and methods of writing a literature review. AORN, 103(3), 265-269. doi: 10.1016/j.aorn.2016.01.016

Books on Reviews

Meta Analysis

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