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Literature Reviews

This guide will define what a literature review is and provide examples for constructing literature reviews in the humanities, social sciences, and health sciences.

Steps for Writing your Lit Review

Pulling together a good lit review is not usually a linear process—authors will often need to go back and check the literature while developing their ideas and to stay up to date on the latest updates/breakthroughs in a particular field. This also means you should not try writing your literature review in one sitting, but constantly working on it before, during, and even after your study is complete.

  1. Choose a topic or field that you are genuinely interested in researching and possibly contributing to.
  2. Collect as much information on that topic as possible that pertains to your research questions or purpose.
  3. Analyze and select the material that is most relevant and useful. Look for common themes or gaps in the published literature.
  4. Describe and summarize each article as it pertains to your research. It is okay to include quotes sparingly. 
  5. Demonstrate how the content relates to your own by emphasizing the significance, connections, or gaps in the selected articles. 

Remember, the key is to summarize and synthesize.

Source: Kevin H. (2018) How to write a literature review. Wordvice.

Lit Review Process

For Nursing Students

A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. The key characteristics of a systematic review are:

  • a clearly defined question with inclusion & exclusion criteria 
  • rigorous & systematic search of the literature
  • critical appraisal of included studies
  • data extraction and management
  • analysis & interpretation of results
  • report for publication


Source: Brown University Library. (2020). Systematic and literature reviews