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Conducting a Literature Review

A collection of strategies and resources for conducting a literature review

Ways to Organize a Literature Review

Structure Definition Advantages/Disadvantages
Divide the literature into themes or categories Distinct themes from the literature are discussed and analyzed Popular approach because it allows for the integration of theoretical and research literature. Must be sure that themes are clearly related to the literature
Present the literature chronologically Literature is divided into time periods Useful when examining the development of a topic over time
Explore the theoretical and methodological literature Discussion of theoretical literature followed by an exploration of methodological literature to demonstrate precedence for a particular research design Useful when the literature on a topic is mostly theoretical with little or no research literature. Can be used to identify a need for more qualitative research
Examine the theoretical literature and research literature in two sections A comprehensive discussion of both theoretical and research literature in two separate sections May tend to be a description rather than a critical revew

Cronin, P., Ryan, F., & Coughlan, M. (2008). Undertaking a literature review: A step-by-step approach. British Journal of Nursing, 17(1), 38-43. Retrieved from:

For more information on these types of literature review structures, read:

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