A literature review is a critical analysis and summation of scholarly work on a given topic. It can be used to validate a thesis or to raise a question for future research. A literature review might stand alone, or it may be incorporated as a foundational direction for new research.
Literature reviews aren’t just for master’s projects or scholarly publications, though. They can be used to support practice changes and develop protocols.
Is there an issue in the workplace that you think needs addressing? Conducting a literature review is the first step to making an evidence-based practice change.
Tips For Conducting a Literature Review
1. Search smart
Do you find yourself sifting through lots of articles that wind up being irrelevant to your research? Nix that problem from the get-go by familiarizing yourself with a few key Boolean operators. Boolean operators are a helpful search technique that tells the search engine more accurately what you’re looking for. Don’t forget to keep track of key words you’ve already used. And make sure to stick with relevant research that speaks to your topic.
2. Organize your research
Filling in a matrix in detail can be tedious, but it will save you an enormous amount of trouble when you get to the writing stage. Sonoma State University offers a free downloadable Evidence Matrix to get started.
3. Critique the evidence
What are the variables? What methods were used? Is the research significant? What were the limitations? The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, made available through the ANA, has a useful tool to assist the researcher in evaluating the evidence.
4. Structure your literature review
The introduction should cover the general topic, the research question at hand, and the significance of the research. The body of the review is a detailed exploration of the research question through examples that support your argument. The conclusion should tie in with the introduction: what were the overall findings? What were the limitations? How can the findings be used or what direction should future research take?
Johns Hopkins School of Nursing Research Evidence Appraisal