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Review Writing in Health and Medicine

Overview: Literature/Narrative Reviews

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A literature review is “a thematic synthesis of sources used to provide readers with an up-to-date summary of theoretical and empirical findings on a particular topic.”

Cisco, J. (2014). Teaching the Literature Review: A Practical Approach for College Instructors. Teaching and Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, 2(2), 41-57.

Steps for writing a literature review:

  • Find & Evaluate

    • Perform a literature search - you librarian can help you with this.  Make sure you narrow your topic to make it easier to find a manageable number of sources and to get a good survey of the material.

    • Spend time reading and managing the information in the literature you found.

  • Summarize

    • Summarize the information you find in each of your sources. Look at each source: What are the findings, the methodology, theories, etc.? 

  • Synthesize

    • After reviewing your summaries, you will start to notice common themes or ideas within your resources.  Sometimes putting this information into a matrix can be helpful to organize your resources and group them by their themes; you can start weaving them together.

  • Write

    • Now you will take all of that information and integrate it.  Organize the literature.  Literature reviews are typically organized in one of the following ways:

      • Chronologically (show a progression of a particular methodology), or

      • Thematically - by idea/theme (progression of time may still be important in this organization as well).

Additional Resources:

Grant, M. J., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91-108. Retrieved from doi:10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

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