Key Steps in a Literature Review

The 5 key steps below are most relevant to narrative reviews. Systematic reviews include the additional step of using a standardized scoring system to assess the quality of each article. More information on  Step 1 can be found here and Step 5 here.

  1. Identify a specific unresolved research question relevant to medicine.
    • Consider the purpose and rationale of a review
    • Clearly articulate the components of the question
  2. Identify relevant studies through a comprehensive, systematic search and in consultation with our Health Sciences Librarian, Rachel Blume.
    • The research question and purpose of your review should guide the development of your search strategy (i.e. which databases to search and which search terms to use)
    • Justify any limitations you create for your search,
  3. Select studies to be included in the review.
    • Determine inclusion and exclusion criteria.
    • Start by reviewing abstracts for relevant articles. Once this is complete, then begin a full text review of the remaining articles.
  4. Chart the data.
    • Develop a data-charting form to extract data from each article. Update this form as needed if you find there is more information worth collecting.
    • The resulting forms will serve as a summary of each article that will facilitate the process of synthesizing your results (i.e. the selected articles).
  5. Collate, summarize, and report the results.
    • In your analysis, include a numerical summary of studies included, an evidence table summarizing included articles, and a qualitative summary of the results.
    • Report the results in the context of the overall purpose or research question.
    • Consider the meaning of your results. Discuss limitations and implications for future research, practice, and/or policy.