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- A literature review is a critical, analytical summary and synthesis of the current knowledge of a topic. As a researcher, you collect the available literature on a topic, and then select the literature that is most relevant for your purpose. Your written literature review summarizes and analyses the themes, topics, methods, and results of that literature in order to inform the reader about the history and current status of research on that topic.
What purpose does a literature review serve?
- The literature review informs the reader of the researcher's knowledge of the relevant research already conducted on the topic under discussion, and places the author's current study in context of previous studies.
- As part of a senior project, the literature review points out the current issues and questions concerning a topic. By relating the your research to a knowledge gap in the existing literature, you should demonstrate how his or her proposed research will contribute to expanding knowledge in that field.
- Short Literature Review Sample This literature review sample guides students from the thought process to a finished review.
- Literature Review Matrix (Excel Doc) Excel file that can be edited to suit your needs.
- Literature Review Matrix (PDF) Source: McLean, Lindsey. "Literature Review." CORA (Community of Online Research Assignments), 2015. https://www.projectcora.org/assignment/literature-review.
- Academic Writer (formerly APA Style Central) This link opens in a new window Academic Writer (formerly APA Style Central) features three independent but integrated centers that provide expert resources necessary for teaching, learning, and applying the rules of APA Style.
- Sample Literature Reviews: Univ. of West Florida Literature review guide from the University of West Florida library guides.
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) Sample literature review in APA from Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL)
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ACAP LEARNING RESOURCES
ACAP Pathfinder: Literature Review
- What is a Literature Review?
Examples of Literature Reviews
- The Research Question
- Types of Literature
- How to Search
- Recording the Search
- Reference Management
- Evaluating the Literature
Types of Literature Reviews
There isn't one ideal type of literature review and you may need to employ a range of methods and provide reasons for your choices depending on the research area, problem and methodology. Aveyard (2014) describes a number of ways to approach writing a literature review. Most importantly though, take a close look at your assessment task, the associated marking criteria and access the support material on the first page of this guide. These will guide you towards an application of the fundamental characteristics required in the review.
Below are some examples of literature reviews written by ACAP students . Use these to gain an understanding of the generic structure and language used when writing your own literature reviews.
Evidence-Based Practice & Systematic Reviews
As a result of a vast increase in the availability of information, practitioners have an increasing responsibility to provide services based on best practice that has been informed by evidence-based research. Practitioners then, use evidence-based practice (EBP) to make decisions about the care of clients (techniques, strategies, interventions, treatments and so on) based on the most up-to-date and judicious use of systematically researched evidence.
Given the vast amount of information available and the varying quality of research conducted in and around EBP, the need for systematic reviews has emerged in order to provide a way to collect, analyse and draw conclusions, particularly about a field where the research may indicate inconsistencies or contradictory findings.
While you cannot use systematic reviews as a part of the research for your literature reviews, they are extremely valuable sources of information and an essential guide to best practice for professionals. While researching for your literature reviews, use EBPs and systematic reviews to gain an understanding of the issues in and around your topic and employ the citation chaining process to extract research that is usable in your assessment tasks. The tabs below will connect you to some examples of both.
- STUDENT EXAMPLES
- EBSCO EXAMPLES
- SYSTEMATIC REVIEWS
- EVIDENCE-BASED PRACTICE
- Literature Reviews in Ebsco Just a few examples from a search of counselling and psychotherapy literature reviews in EbscoHost databases.
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What is a Literature Review?
The scholarly conversation.
A literature review provides an overview of previous research on a topic that critically evaluates, classifies, and compares what has already been published on a particular topic. It allows the author to synthesize and place into context the research and scholarly literature relevant to the topic. It helps map the different approaches to a given question and reveals patterns. It forms the foundation for the author’s subsequent research and justifies the significance of the new investigation.
A literature review can be a short introductory section of a research article or a report or policy paper that focuses on recent research. Or, in the case of dissertations, theses, and review articles, it can be an extensive review of all relevant research.
- The format is usually a bibliographic essay; sources are briefly cited within the body of the essay, with full bibliographic citations at the end.
- The introduction should define the topic and set the context for the literature review. It will include the author's perspective or point of view on the topic, how they have defined the scope of the topic (including what's not included), and how the review will be organized. It can point out overall trends, conflicts in methodology or conclusions, and gaps in the research.
- In the body of the review, the author should organize the research into major topics and subtopics. These groupings may be by subject, (e.g., globalization of clothing manufacturing), type of research (e.g., case studies), methodology (e.g., qualitative), genre, chronology, or other common characteristics. Within these groups, the author can then discuss the merits of each article and analyze and compare the importance of each article to similar ones.
- The conclusion will summarize the main findings, make clear how this review of the literature supports (or not) the research to follow, and may point the direction for further research.
- The list of references will include full citations for all of the items mentioned in the literature review.
Key Questions for a Literature Review
A literature review should try to answer questions such as
- Who are the key researchers on this topic?
- What has been the focus of the research efforts so far and what is the current status?
- How have certain studies built on prior studies? Where are the connections? Are there new interpretations of the research?
- Have there been any controversies or debate about the research? Is there consensus? Are there any contradictions?
- Which areas have been identified as needing further research? Have any pathways been suggested?
- How will your topic uniquely contribute to this body of knowledge?
- Which methodologies have researchers used and which appear to be the most productive?
- What sources of information or data were identified that might be useful to you?
- How does your particular topic fit into the larger context of what has already been done?
- How has the research that has already been done help frame your current investigation ?
Examples of Literature Reviews
Example of a literature review at the beginning of an article: Forbes, C. C., Blanchard, C. M., Mummery, W. K., & Courneya, K. S. (2015, March). Prevalence and correlates of strength exercise among breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer survivors . Oncology Nursing Forum, 42(2), 118+. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.sonoma.idm.oclc.org/ps/i.do?p=HRCA&sw=w&u=sonomacsu&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA422059606&asid=27e45873fddc413ac1bebbc129f7649c Example of a comprehensive review of the literature: Wilson, J. L. (2016). An exploration of bullying behaviours in nursing: a review of the literature. British Journal Of Nursing , 25 (6), 303-306. For additional examples, see:
Galvan, J., Galvan, M., & ProQuest. (2017). Writing literature reviews: A guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences (Seventh ed.). [Electronic book]
Pan, M., & Lopez, M. (2008). Preparing literature reviews: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (3rd ed.). Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Pub. [ Q180.55.E9 P36 2008]
- Write a Literature Review (UCSC)
- Literature Reviews (Purdue)
- Literature Reviews: overview (UNC)
- Review of Literature (UW-Madison)
Evidence Matrix for Literature Reviews
The Evidence Matrix can help you organize your research before writing your lit review. Use it to identify patterns and commonalities in the articles you have found--similar methodologies ? common theoretical frameworks ? It helps you make sure that all your major concepts covered. It also helps you see how your research fits into the context of the overall topic.
- Evidence Matrix Special thanks to Dr. Cindy Stearns, SSU Sociology Dept, for permission to use this Matrix as an example.
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PSY 246 - Adolescent Psychology: Literature Review
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Sample Literature Review
- SAMPLE Literature Review in APA7 (PDF) This is a PDF for you to use as an example of the formatting and content of a literature review for this assignment.
Click on the link above to open the PDF for the SAMPLE Literature Review
Don't forget that all the journal/scholarly articles you choose will be on the same topic. Do NOT choose magazine or newspaper articles for this assignment.
For more help finding scholarly journal articles with research, see Find Articles.
For more help with APA references and in-text citations, see APA 7 Citation Help .
Best Databases for the Psychology Literature Review
How the Library Helps You Identify Types of Sources
Other Helpful Library Resources
- APA Citation Page Use this page to help you create references and in-text citations for APA 7.
- Finding Articles for Psychology, including those with Original Research Information on this page helps students find articles with original research and explains the sections of a scholarly journal article.
Finding Scholarly Articles in the Library's Database
What is a Literature Review
The literature review that you write summarizes and explains research that has been done on a particular topic. All of the articles will be on the same topic . You've seen literature reviews in academic articles that are written to show what's already been researched and why the authors choose to do their own research. Since you aren't actually conducting long, extensive research, you are are looking at a body of research and looking for common issues and also the progression of research (more sophisticated, taking new angles, etc.).
Content of the Review
The introduction explains the focus and establishes the importance of the subject. It discusses what kind of work has been done on the topic and identifies any controversies within the ﬁeld or any recent research which has raised questions about earlier assumptions. It may provide background or history. It concludes with a purpose or thesis statement. This statement will sum up and evaluate the state of the art in this ﬁeld of research.
Often divided by headings/subheadings, the body summarizes and evaluates the current state of knowledge in the ﬁeld. It notes major themes or topics, the most important trends, and any ﬁndings about which researchers agree or disagree.
The conclusion summarizes all the evidence presented and shows its significance.You should suggest any practical applications of the research as well as the implications and possibilities for future research.
How to Write A Literature Review
1. find a working topic.
Look at your textbook and Blackboard information. You should find a topic that's not too broad or too narrow. For example, developmental disabilities may be too broad but autism may be a better fit.
2. Review the Literature
- Use one of the psychology databases.
- Remember that the reference lists of recent articles and reviews can lead to valuable papers
- Use the date slider bar to find older articles that might be considered "seminal" or the foundation for later studies.
3. Read the Selected Articles Thoroughly and Evaluate Them
- What assumptions do most/some researchers seem to be making?
- What methodologies do they use? what testing procedures, subjects, material tested?
- Evaluate and synthesize the research ﬁndings and conclusions drawn
- Note experts in the ﬁeld: names/labs that are frequently referenced
- Watch for popularity of theories and how this has/has not changed over time
4. Develop a Working Thesis
Write a one or two sentence statement summarizing the conclusion you have reached about the major trends and developments you see in the research that has been done on your subject.
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Psychology Literature Reviews Samples For Students
604 samples of this type
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This essays delves into the question whether or not Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, is insane or merely feigning this state. Through the utilization of several quotes and deeper analysis of the protagonist’s actions and words, this essay endeavors to provide enough information to buttress the fact that Hamlet is not actually marred by insanity, but rather that his sanity was so well presented that everyone believed in it, while he cleared his path towards a bloody revenge.
Theories on Personality Development Literature Review
Development is defined as the act of adaptation while personality development basically refers to the mental, emotional, psychological, temperamental and behavioral growth that one acquires (Schulz and Heckhausen, 1996). Also, personality development can be described as the averagely constant and stable features and characteristics a person bears with time (Alea, Diehl and Bluck, 2004). Personality development usually is an attribute associated with age and experience.
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15 Literature Review Examples
Literature reviews are a necessary step in a research process and often required when writing your research proposal . They involve gathering, analyzing, and evaluating existing knowledge about a topic in order to find gaps in the literature where future studies will be needed.
Ideally, once you have completed your literature review, you will be able to identify how your research project can build upon and extend existing knowledge in your area of study.
Generally, for my undergraduate research students, I recommend a narrative review, where themes can be generated in order for the students to develop sufficient understanding of the topic so they can build upon the themes using unique methods or novel research questions.
For more advanced students and scholars, literature reviews like systematic and meta-analyses may be more fitting, especially if the review is not to identify potential areas of research but to present practical and clinical recommendations based directly upon a reading of the literature.
Literature Review Examples
For the following types of literature review, I present an explanation and overview of the type, followed by links to some real-life literature reviews on the topics.
1. Narrative Review Examples
Also known as a traditional literature review, the narrative review provides a broad overview of the studies done on a particular topic.
It often includes both qualitative and quantitative studies and may cover a wide range of years.
The narrative review’s purpose is to identify commonalities, gaps, and contradictions in the literature .
I recommend to my students that they should gather their studies together, take notes on each study, then try to group them by themes that form the basis for the review (see my step-by-step instructions at the end of the article).
Title: Communication in healthcare: a narrative review of the literature and practical recommendations
Citation: Vermeir, P., Vandijck, D., Degroote, S., Peleman, R., Verhaeghe, R., Mortier, E., … & Vogelaers, D. (2015). Communication in healthcare: a narrative review of the literature and practical recommendations. International journal of clinical practice , 69 (11), 1257-1267.
Overview: This narrative review analyzed themes emerging from 69 articles about communication in healthcare contexts. Five key themes were found in the literature: poor communication can lead to various negative outcomes, discontinuity of care, compromise of patient safety, patient dissatisfaction, and inefficient use of resources. After presenting the key themes, the authors recommend that practitioners need to approach healthcare communication in a more structured way, such as by ensuring there is a clear understanding of who is in charge of ensuring effective communication in clinical settings.
- Burnout in United States Healthcare Professionals: A Narrative Review (Reith, 2018) – read here
- Examining the Presence, Consequences, and Reduction of Implicit Bias in Health Care: A Narrative Review (Zestcott, Blair & Stone, 2016) – read here
- A Narrative Review of School-Based Physical Activity for Enhancing Cognition and Learning (Mavilidi et al., 2018) – read here
- A narrative review on burnout experienced by medical students and residents (Dyrbye & Shanafelt, 2015) – read here
2. Systematic Review Examples
This type of literature review is more structured and rigorous than a narrative review. It involves a detailed and comprehensive plan and search strategy derived from a set of specified research questions.
The key way you’d know a systematic review compared to a narrative review is in the methodology: the systematic review will likely have a very clear criteria for how the studies were collected, and clear explanations of exclusion/inclusion criteria.
The goal is to gather the maximum amount of valid literature on the topic, filter out invalid or low-quality reviews, and minimize bias. Ideally, this will provide more reliable findings, leading to higher-quality conclusions and recommendations for further research.
You may note from the examples below that the ‘method’ sections in systematic reviews tend to be much more explicit, often noting rigid inclusion/exclusion criteria and exact keywords used in searches.
Title: The importance of food naturalness for consumers: Results of a systematic review
Citation: Roman, S., Sánchez-Siles, L. M., & Siegrist, M. (2017). The importance of food naturalness for consumers: Results of a systematic review. Trends in food science & technology , 67 , 44-57.
Overview: This systematic review included 72 studies of food naturalness to explore trends in the literature about its importance for consumers. Keywords used in the data search included: food, naturalness, natural content, and natural ingredients. Studies were included if they examined consumers’ preference for food naturalness and contained empirical data. The authors found that the literature lacks clarity about how naturalness is defined and measured, but also found that food consumption is significantly influenced by perceived naturalness of goods.
- A systematic review of research on online teaching and learning from 2009 to 2018 (Martin, Sun & Westine, 2020) – read here
- Where Is Current Research on Blockchain Technology? (Yli-Huumo et al., 2016) – read here
- Universities—industry collaboration: A systematic review (Ankrah & Al-Tabbaa, 2015) – read here
- Internet of Things Applications: A Systematic Review (Asghari, Rahmani & Javadi, 2019) – read here
This is a type of systematic review that uses statistical methods to combine and summarize the results of several studies.
Due to its robust methodology, a meta-analysis is often considered the ‘gold standard’ of secondary research , as it provides a more precise estimate of a treatment effect than any individual study contributing to the pooled analysis.
Furthermore, by aggregating data from a range of studies, a meta-analysis can identify patterns, disagreements, or other interesting relationships that may have been hidden in individual studies.
This helps to enhance the generalizability of findings, making the conclusions drawn from a meta-analysis particularly powerful and informative for policy and practice.
Title: Cholesterol and Alzheimer’s Disease Risk: A Meta-Meta-Analysis
Citation: Sáiz-Vazquez, O., Puente-Martínez, A., Ubillos-Landa, S., Pacheco-Bonrostro, J., & Santabárbara, J. (2020). Cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease risk: a meta-meta-analysis. Brain sciences, 10(6), 386.
O verview: This study examines the relationship between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Researchers conducted a systematic search of meta-analyses and reviewed several databases, collecting 100 primary studies and five meta-analyses to analyze the connection between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease. They find that the literature compellingly demonstrates that low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels significantly influence the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
- The power of feedback revisited: A meta-analysis of educational feedback research (Wisniewski, Zierer & Hattie, 2020) – read here
- How Much Does Education Improve Intelligence? A Meta-Analysis (Ritchie & Tucker-Drob, 2018) – read here
- A meta-analysis of factors related to recycling (Geiger et al., 2019) – read here
- Stress management interventions for police officers and recruits (Patterson, Chung & Swan, 2014) – read here
Other Types of Reviews
- Scoping Review: This type of review is used to map the key concepts underpinning a research area and the main sources and types of evidence available. It can be undertaken as stand-alone projects in their own right, or as a precursor to a systematic review.
- Rapid Review: This type of review accelerates the systematic review process in order to produce information in a timely manner. This is achieved by simplifying or omitting stages of the systematic review process.
- Integrative Review: This review method is more inclusive than others, allowing for the simultaneous inclusion of experimental and non-experimental research. The goal is to more comprehensively understand a particular phenomenon.
- Critical Review: This is similar to a narrative review but requires a robust understanding of both the subject and the existing literature. In a critical review, the reviewer not only summarizes the existing literature, but also evaluates its strengths and weaknesses. This is common in the social sciences and humanities .
- State-of-the-Art Review: This considers the current level of advancement in a field or topic and makes recommendations for future research directions. This type of review is common in technological and scientific fields but can be applied to any discipline.
How to Write a Narrative Review (Tips for Undergrad Students)
Most undergraduate students conducting a capstone research project will be writing narrative reviews. Below is a five-step process for conducting a simple review of the literature for your project.
- Search for Relevant Literature: Use scholarly databases related to your field of study, provided by your university library, along with appropriate search terms to identify key scholarly articles that have been published on your topic.
- Evaluate and Select Sources: Filter the source list by selecting studies that are directly relevant and of sufficient quality, considering factors like credibility , objectivity, accuracy, and validity.
- Analyze and Synthesize: Review each source and summarize the main arguments in one paragraph (or more, for postgrad). Keep these summaries in a table.
- Identify Themes: With all studies summarized, group studies that share common themes, such as studies that have similar findings or methodologies.
- Write the Review: Write your review based upon the themes or subtopics you have identified. Give a thorough overview of each theme, integrating source data, and conclude with a summary of the current state of knowledge then suggestions for future research based upon your evaluation of what is lacking in the literature.
Literature reviews don’t have to be as scary as they seem. Yes, they are difficult and require a strong degree of comprehension of academic studies. But it can be feasibly done through following a structured approach to data collection and analysis. With my undergraduate research students (who tend to conduct small-scale qualitative studies ), I encourage them to conduct a narrative literature review whereby they can identify key themes in the literature. Within each theme, students can critique key studies and their strengths and limitations , in order to get a lay of the land and come to a point where they can identify ways to contribute new insights to the existing academic conversation on their topic.
Ankrah, S., & Omar, A. T. (2015). Universities–industry collaboration: A systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 31(3), 387-408.
Asghari, P., Rahmani, A. M., & Javadi, H. H. S. (2019). Internet of Things applications: A systematic review. Computer Networks , 148 , 241-261.
Dyrbye, L., & Shanafelt, T. (2016). A narrative review on burnout experienced by medical students and residents. Medical education , 50 (1), 132-149.
Geiger, J. L., Steg, L., Van Der Werff, E., & Ünal, A. B. (2019). A meta-analysis of factors related to recycling. Journal of environmental psychology , 64 , 78-97.
Martin, F., Sun, T., & Westine, C. D. (2020). A systematic review of research on online teaching and learning from 2009 to 2018. Computers & education , 159 , 104009.
Mavilidi, M. F., Ruiter, M., Schmidt, M., Okely, A. D., Loyens, S., Chandler, P., & Paas, F. (2018). A narrative review of school-based physical activity for enhancing cognition and learning: The importance of relevancy and integration. Frontiers in psychology , 2079.
Patterson, G. T., Chung, I. W., & Swan, P. W. (2014). Stress management interventions for police officers and recruits: A meta-analysis. Journal of experimental criminology , 10 , 487-513.
Reith, T. P. (2018). Burnout in United States healthcare professionals: a narrative review. Cureus , 10 (12).
Ritchie, S. J., & Tucker-Drob, E. M. (2018). How much does education improve intelligence? A meta-analysis. Psychological science , 29 (8), 1358-1369.
Roman, S., Sánchez-Siles, L. M., & Siegrist, M. (2017). The importance of food naturalness for consumers: Results of a systematic review. Trends in food science & technology , 67 , 44-57.
Sáiz-Vazquez, O., Puente-Martínez, A., Ubillos-Landa, S., Pacheco-Bonrostro, J., & Santabárbara, J. (2020). Cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease risk: a meta-meta-analysis. Brain sciences, 10(6), 386.
Vermeir, P., Vandijck, D., Degroote, S., Peleman, R., Verhaeghe, R., Mortier, E., … & Vogelaers, D. (2015). Communication in healthcare: a narrative review of the literature and practical recommendations. International journal of clinical practice , 69 (11), 1257-1267.
Wisniewski, B., Zierer, K., & Hattie, J. (2020). The power of feedback revisited: A meta-analysis of educational feedback research. Frontiers in Psychology , 10 , 3087.
Yli-Huumo, J., Ko, D., Choi, S., Park, S., & Smolander, K. (2016). Where is current research on blockchain technology?—a systematic review. PloS one , 11 (10), e0163477.
Zestcott, C. A., Blair, I. V., & Stone, J. (2016). Examining the presence, consequences, and reduction of implicit bias in health care: a narrative review. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations , 19 (4), 528-542
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