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NU481 - Issues in Nursing Research & Management: Literature Reviews

A research guide for nursing students in NU481.

Writing Center Guides to Writing Literature Reviews

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What is a Literature Review?

Part of your assignment will be to retrieve and review 8 scholarly nursing research articles published within the last five years in order to write literature review. But what is a literature review?

Literature reviews:

  • Use your own words (do not provide a mere series of quotes stitched together with connecting words)
  • Provide the reader with the information needed to understand the research problem, bringing them along a logical path to your hypothesis or research question.
  • Provide background information within a critical context, but in an unbiased, objective manner
  • Identify, summarize, explain, and critique the current state of the art/science and key findings
  • Identify, summarize, discuss major trends, schools of thought, or debates on or around a subject
  • Identify current gaps in the research, inconsistent findings
  • Identify errors or out-dated methods or techniques in previous research
  • Examine a treatment or process systematically, across similar studies to provide evidence-based treatment options (this type of review is called a systematic review)
  • Often end with suggestions for further research to fill in gaps you have identified in the literature (this provides a useful lead-in showing the need for and a description of the methods, results, and discussion of your own research study).

You will search the professional literature in databases like CINAHL, PubMed, the Cochrane Library, and Proquest Nursing and Allied Health Source for information pertaining to your research topic, and then summarize, synthesize and contextualize that information.

Start with creating a Research Matrix (as outlined by your professor) to help you analyze and organize the studies you find. A research matrix can be created as a table in Microsoft Word or in Microsoft Excel:

Research Matrix
APA Citation to article Research problem or Study purpose Quantitative or Qualitative? & Level of Evidence? Key concepts/Theoretical framework Clinical implications & Gaps in evidence Standard of Care & Recommendations Comments
Article 1            
Article 2            


Literature reviews should not be a mere listing and description of each article, but should be organized in a way that aids the reader in understanding the subject being reviewed. They can be organized in several different ways, for example:

  • by major trends or school of thought,
  • by timeline/chronological,
  • by theme,
  • by type of study being reviewed (qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, etc.)