What is a Literature Review?
A literature review seeks to identify, analyze and summarize the published research literature about a specific topic. Literature reviews are assigned as course projects; included as the introductory part of masters and PhD theses; and are conducted before undertaking any new scientific research project.
The purpose of a literature review is to establish what is currently known about a specific topic and to evaluate the strength of the evidence upon which that knowledge is based. A review of a clinical topic may identify implications for clinical practice. Literature reviews also identify areas of a topic that need further research.
A systematic review is a literature review that follows a rigorous process to find all of the research conducted on a topic and then critically appraises the research methods of the highest quality reports. These reviews track and report their search and appraisal methods in addition to providing a summary of the knowledge established by the appraised research.
The UNC Writing Center provides a nice summary of what to consider when writing a literature review for a class assignment. The online book, Doing a literature review in health and social care : a practical guide (2010), is a good resource for more information on this topic.
Obviously, the quality of the search process will determine the quality of all literature reviews. Anyone undertaking a literature review on a new topic would benefit from meeting with a librarian to discuss search strategies. A consultaiton with a librarian is strongly recommended for anyone undertaking a systematic review.
Use the email form on our Ask a Librarian page to arrange a meeting with a librarian.