Why is it important to do a literature review in research?

Why is it important to do a literature review in research?

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 “A substantive, thorough, sophisticated literature review is a precondition for doing substantive, thorough, sophisticated research”. Boote and Baile 2005

Authors of manuscripts treat writing a literature review as a routine work or a mere formality. But a seasoned one knows the purpose and importance of a well-written literature review.  Since it is one of the basic needs for researches at any level, they have to be done vigilantly. Only then the reader will know that the basics of research have not been neglected.

Importance of Literature Review In Research

The aim of any literature review is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of existing knowledge in a particular field without adding any new contributions.   Being built on existing knowledge they help the researcher to even turn the wheels of the topic of research.  It is possible only with profound knowledge of what is wrong in the existing findings in detail to overpower them.  For other researches, the literature review gives the direction to be headed for its success. 

The common perception of literature review and reality:

As per the common belief, literature reviews are only a summary of the sources related to the research. And many authors of scientific manuscripts believe that they are only surveys of what are the researches are done on the chosen topic.  But on the contrary, it uses published information from pertinent and relevant sources like

  • Scholarly books
  • Scientific papers
  • Latest studies in the field
  • Established school of thoughts
  • Relevant articles from renowned scientific journals

and many more for a field of study or theory or a particular problem to do the following:

  • Summarize into a brief account of all information
  • Synthesize the information by restructuring and reorganizing
  • Critical evaluation of a concept or a school of thought or ideas
  • Familiarize the authors to the extent of knowledge in the particular field
  • Encapsulate
  • Compare & contrast

By doing the above on the relevant information, it provides the reader of the scientific manuscript with the following for a better understanding of it:

  • It establishes the authors’  in-depth understanding and knowledge of their field subject
  • It gives the background of the research
  • Portrays the scientific manuscript plan of examining the research result
  • Illuminates on how the knowledge has changed within the field
  • Highlights what has already been done in a particular field
  • Information of the generally accepted facts, emerging and current state of the topic of research
  • Identifies the research gap that is still unexplored or under-researched fields
  • Demonstrates how the research fits within a larger field of study
  • Provides an overview of the sources explored during the research of a particular topic

Importance of literature review in research:

The importance of literature review in scientific manuscripts can be condensed into an analytical feature to enable the multifold reach of its significance.  It adds value to the legitimacy of the research in many ways:

  • Provides the interpretation of existing literature in light of updated developments in the field to help in establishing the consistency in knowledge and relevancy of existing materials
  • It helps in calculating the impact of the latest information in the field by mapping their progress of knowledge.
  • It brings out the dialects of contradictions between various thoughts within the field to establish facts
  • The research gaps scrutinized initially are further explored to establish the latest facts of theories to add value to the field
  • Indicates the current research place in the schema of a particular field
  • Provides information for relevancy and coherency to check the research
  • Apart from elucidating the continuance of knowledge, it also points out areas that require further investigation and thus aid as a starting point of any future research
  • Justifies the research and sets up the research question
  • Sets up a theoretical framework comprising the concepts and theories of the research upon which its success can be judged
  • Helps to adopt a more appropriate methodology for the research by examining the strengths and weaknesses of existing research in the same field
  • Increases the significance of the results by comparing it with the existing literature
  • Provides a point of reference by writing the findings in the scientific manuscript
  • Helps to get the due credit from the audience for having done the fact-finding and fact-checking mission in the scientific manuscripts
  • The more the reference of relevant sources of it could increase more of its trustworthiness with the readers
  • Helps to prevent plagiarism by tailoring and uniquely tweaking the scientific manuscript not to repeat other’s original idea
  • By preventing plagiarism , it saves the scientific manuscript from rejection and thus also saves a lot of time and money
  • Helps to evaluate, condense and synthesize gist in the author’s own words to sharpen the research focus
  • Helps to compare and contrast to  show the originality and uniqueness of the research than that of the existing other researches
  • Rationalizes the need for conducting the particular research in a specified field
  • Helps to collect data accurately for allowing any new methodology of research than the existing ones
  • Enables the readers of the manuscript to answer the following questions of its readers for its better chances for publication
  • What do the researchers know?
  • What do they not know?
  • Is the scientific manuscript reliable and trustworthy?
  • What are the knowledge gaps of the researcher?

22. It helps the readers to identify the following for further reading of the scientific manuscript:

  • What has been already established, discredited and accepted in the particular field of research
  • Areas of controversy and conflicts among different schools of thought
  • Unsolved problems and issues in the connected field of research
  • The emerging trends and approaches
  • How the research extends, builds upon and leaves behind from the previous research

A profound literature review with many relevant sources of reference will enhance the chances of the scientific manuscript publication in renowned and reputed scientific journals .

References:

http://www.math.montana.edu/jobo/phdprep/phd6.pdf

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What is the Purpose of a Literature Review?

What is the Purpose of a Literature Review?

4-minute read

  • 23rd October 2023

If you’re writing a research paper or dissertation , then you’ll most likely need to include a comprehensive literature review . In this post, we’ll review the purpose of literature reviews, why they are so significant, and the specific elements to include in one. Literature reviews can:

1. Provide a foundation for current research.

2. Define key concepts and theories.

3. Demonstrate critical evaluation.

4. Show how research and methodologies have evolved.

5. Identify gaps in existing research.

6. Support your argument.

Keep reading to enter the exciting world of literature reviews!

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a critical summary and evaluation of the existing research (e.g., academic journal articles and books) on a specific topic. It is typically included as a separate section or chapter of a research paper or dissertation, serving as a contextual framework for a study. Literature reviews can vary in length depending on the subject and nature of the study, with most being about equal length to other sections or chapters included in the paper. Essentially, the literature review highlights previous studies in the context of your research and summarizes your insights in a structured, organized format. Next, let’s look at the overall purpose of a literature review.

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Literature reviews are considered an integral part of research across most academic subjects and fields. The primary purpose of a literature review in your study is to:

Provide a Foundation for Current Research

Since the literature review provides a comprehensive evaluation of the existing research, it serves as a solid foundation for your current study. It’s a way to contextualize your work and show how your research fits into the broader landscape of your specific area of study.  

Define Key Concepts and Theories

The literature review highlights the central theories and concepts that have arisen from previous research on your chosen topic. It gives your readers a more thorough understanding of the background of your study and why your research is particularly significant .

Demonstrate Critical Evaluation 

A comprehensive literature review shows your ability to critically analyze and evaluate a broad range of source material. And since you’re considering and acknowledging the contribution of key scholars alongside your own, it establishes your own credibility and knowledge.

Show How Research and Methodologies Have Evolved

Another purpose of literature reviews is to provide a historical perspective and demonstrate how research and methodologies have changed over time, especially as data collection methods and technology have advanced. And studying past methodologies allows you, as the researcher, to understand what did and did not work and apply that knowledge to your own research.  

Identify Gaps in Existing Research

Besides discussing current research and methodologies, the literature review should also address areas that are lacking in the existing literature. This helps further demonstrate the relevance of your own research by explaining why your study is necessary to fill the gaps.

Support Your Argument

A good literature review should provide evidence that supports your research questions and hypothesis. For example, your study may show that your research supports existing theories or builds on them in some way. Referencing previous related studies shows your work is grounded in established research and will ultimately be a contribution to the field.  

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A Guide to Literature Reviews

Importance of a good literature review.

  • Conducting the Literature Review
  • Structure and Writing Style
  • Types of Literature Reviews
  • Citation Management Software This link opens in a new window
  • Acknowledgements

A literature review is not only a summary of key sources, but  has an organizational pattern which combines both summary and synthesis, often within specific conceptual categories . A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information in a way that informs how you are planning to investigate a research problem. The analytical features of a literature review might:

  • Give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations,
  • Trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates,
  • Depending on the situation, evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant research, or
  • Usually in the conclusion of a literature review, identify where gaps exist in how a problem has been researched to date.

The purpose of a literature review is to:

  • Place each work in the context of its contribution to understanding the research problem being studied.
  • Describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration.
  • Identify new ways to interpret prior research.
  • Reveal any gaps that exist in the literature.
  • Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies.
  • Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication of effort.
  • Point the way in fulfilling a need for additional research.
  • Locate your own research within the context of existing literature [very important].
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  • Next: Conducting the Literature Review >>
  • Last Updated: May 10, 2024 11:34 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.mcmaster.ca/litreview

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  • University of Texas Libraries

Literature Reviews

  • What is a literature review?
  • Steps in the Literature Review Process
  • Define your research question
  • Determine inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • Choose databases and search
  • Review Results
  • Synthesize Results
  • Analyze Results
  • Librarian Support

What is a Literature Review?

A literature or narrative review is a comprehensive review and analysis of the published literature on a specific topic or research question. The literature that is reviewed contains: books, articles, academic articles, conference proceedings, association papers, and dissertations. It contains the most pertinent studies and points to important past and current research and practices. It provides background and context, and shows how your research will contribute to the field. 

A literature review should: 

  • Provide a comprehensive and updated review of the literature;
  • Explain why this review has taken place;
  • Articulate a position or hypothesis;
  • Acknowledge and account for conflicting and corroborating points of view

From  S age Research Methods

Purpose of a Literature Review

A literature review can be written as an introduction to a study to:

  • Demonstrate how a study fills a gap in research
  • Compare a study with other research that's been done

Or it can be a separate work (a research article on its own) which:

  • Organizes or describes a topic
  • Describes variables within a particular issue/problem

Limitations of a Literature Review

Some of the limitations of a literature review are:

  • It's a snapshot in time. Unlike other reviews, this one has beginning, a middle and an end. There may be future developments that could make your work less relevant.
  • It may be too focused. Some niche studies may miss the bigger picture.
  • It can be difficult to be comprehensive. There is no way to make sure all the literature on a topic was considered.
  • It is easy to be biased if you stick to top tier journals. There may be other places where people are publishing exemplary research. Look to open access publications and conferences to reflect a more inclusive collection. Also, make sure to include opposing views (and not just supporting evidence).

Source: Grant, Maria J., and Andrew Booth. “A Typology of Reviews: An Analysis of 14 Review Types and Associated Methodologies.” Health Information & Libraries Journal, vol. 26, no. 2, June 2009, pp. 91–108. Wiley Online Library, doi:10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x.

Meryl Brodsky : Communication and Information Studies

Hannah Chapman Tripp : Biology, Neuroscience

Carolyn Cunningham : Human Development & Family Sciences, Psychology, Sociology

Larayne Dallas : Engineering

Janelle Hedstrom : Special Education, Curriculum & Instruction, Ed Leadership & Policy ​

Susan Macicak : Linguistics

Imelda Vetter : Dell Medical School

For help in other subject areas, please see the guide to library specialists by subject .

Periodically, UT Libraries runs a workshop covering the basics and library support for literature reviews. While we try to offer these once per academic year, we find providing the recording to be helpful to community members who have missed the session. Following is the most recent recording of the workshop, Conducting a Literature Review. To view the recording, a UT login is required.

  • October 26, 2022 recording
  • Last Updated: Oct 26, 2022 2:49 PM
  • URL: https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/literaturereviews

Creative Commons License

  • UConn Library
  • Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide
  • Introduction

Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide — Introduction

  • Getting Started
  • How to Pick a Topic
  • Strategies to Find Sources
  • Evaluating Sources & Lit. Reviews
  • Tips for Writing Literature Reviews
  • Writing Literature Review: Useful Sites
  • Citation Resources
  • Other Academic Writings

What are Literature Reviews?

So, what is a literature review? "A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries." Taylor, D.  The literature review: A few tips on conducting it . University of Toronto Health Sciences Writing Centre.

Goals of Literature Reviews

What are the goals of creating a Literature Review?  A literature could be written to accomplish different aims:

  • To develop a theory or evaluate an existing theory
  • To summarize the historical or existing state of a research topic
  • Identify a problem in a field of research 

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1997). Writing narrative literature reviews .  Review of General Psychology , 1 (3), 311-320.

What kinds of sources require a Literature Review?

  • A research paper assigned in a course
  • A thesis or dissertation
  • A grant proposal
  • An article intended for publication in a journal

All these instances require you to collect what has been written about your research topic so that you can demonstrate how your own research sheds new light on the topic.

Types of Literature Reviews

What kinds of literature reviews are written?

Narrative review: The purpose of this type of review is to describe the current state of the research on a specific topic/research and to offer a critical analysis of the literature reviewed. Studies are grouped by research/theoretical categories, and themes and trends, strengths and weakness, and gaps are identified. The review ends with a conclusion section which summarizes the findings regarding the state of the research of the specific study, the gaps identify and if applicable, explains how the author's research will address gaps identify in the review and expand the knowledge on the topic reviewed.

  • Example : Predictors and Outcomes of U.S. Quality Maternity Leave: A Review and Conceptual Framework:  10.1177/08948453211037398  

Systematic review : "The authors of a systematic review use a specific procedure to search the research literature, select the studies to include in their review, and critically evaluate the studies they find." (p. 139). Nelson, L. K. (2013). Research in Communication Sciences and Disorders . Plural Publishing.

  • Example : The effect of leave policies on increasing fertility: a systematic review:  10.1057/s41599-022-01270-w

Meta-analysis : "Meta-analysis is a method of reviewing research findings in a quantitative fashion by transforming the data from individual studies into what is called an effect size and then pooling and analyzing this information. The basic goal in meta-analysis is to explain why different outcomes have occurred in different studies." (p. 197). Roberts, M. C., & Ilardi, S. S. (2003). Handbook of Research Methods in Clinical Psychology . Blackwell Publishing.

  • Example : Employment Instability and Fertility in Europe: A Meta-Analysis:  10.1215/00703370-9164737

Meta-synthesis : "Qualitative meta-synthesis is a type of qualitative study that uses as data the findings from other qualitative studies linked by the same or related topic." (p.312). Zimmer, L. (2006). Qualitative meta-synthesis: A question of dialoguing with texts .  Journal of Advanced Nursing , 53 (3), 311-318.

  • Example : Women’s perspectives on career successes and barriers: A qualitative meta-synthesis:  10.1177/05390184221113735

Literature Reviews in the Health Sciences

  • UConn Health subject guide on systematic reviews Explanation of the different review types used in health sciences literature as well as tools to help you find the right review type
  • << Previous: Getting Started
  • Next: How to Pick a Topic >>
  • Last Updated: Sep 21, 2022 2:16 PM
  • URL: https://guides.lib.uconn.edu/literaturereview

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Libraries | Research Guides

Literature reviews, what is a literature review, learning more about how to do a literature review.

  • Planning the Review
  • The Research Question
  • Choosing Where to Search
  • Organizing the Review
  • Writing the Review

A literature review is a review and synthesis of existing research on a topic or research question. A literature review is meant to analyze the scholarly literature, make connections across writings and identify strengths, weaknesses, trends, and missing conversations. A literature review should address different aspects of a topic as it relates to your research question. A literature review goes beyond a description or summary of the literature you have read. 

  • Sage Research Methods Core Collection This link opens in a new window SAGE Research Methods supports research at all levels by providing material to guide users through every step of the research process. SAGE Research Methods is the ultimate methods library with more than 1000 books, reference works, journal articles, and instructional videos by world-leading academics from across the social sciences, including the largest collection of qualitative methods books available online from any scholarly publisher. – Publisher

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  • Next: Planning the Review >>
  • Last Updated: May 2, 2024 10:39 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.northwestern.edu/literaturereviews

Grad Coach

What Is A Literature Review?

A plain-language explainer (with examples).

By:  Derek Jansen (MBA) & Kerryn Warren (PhD) | June 2020 (Updated May 2023)

If you’re faced with writing a dissertation or thesis, chances are you’ve encountered the term “literature review” . If you’re on this page, you’re probably not 100% what the literature review is all about. The good news is that you’ve come to the right place.

Literature Review 101

  • What (exactly) is a literature review
  • What’s the purpose of the literature review chapter
  • How to find high-quality resources
  • How to structure your literature review chapter
  • Example of an actual literature review

What is a literature review?

The word “literature review” can refer to two related things that are part of the broader literature review process. The first is the task of  reviewing the literature  – i.e. sourcing and reading through the existing research relating to your research topic. The second is the  actual chapter  that you write up in your dissertation, thesis or research project. Let’s look at each of them:

Reviewing the literature

The first step of any literature review is to hunt down and  read through the existing research  that’s relevant to your research topic. To do this, you’ll use a combination of tools (we’ll discuss some of these later) to find journal articles, books, ebooks, research reports, dissertations, theses and any other credible sources of information that relate to your topic. You’ll then  summarise and catalogue these  for easy reference when you write up your literature review chapter. 

The literature review chapter

The second step of the literature review is to write the actual literature review chapter (this is usually the second chapter in a typical dissertation or thesis structure ). At the simplest level, the literature review chapter is an  overview of the key literature  that’s relevant to your research topic. This chapter should provide a smooth-flowing discussion of what research has already been done, what is known, what is unknown and what is contested in relation to your research topic. So, you can think of it as an  integrated review of the state of knowledge  around your research topic. 

Starting point for the literature review

What’s the purpose of a literature review?

The literature review chapter has a few important functions within your dissertation, thesis or research project. Let’s take a look at these:

Purpose #1 – Demonstrate your topic knowledge

The first function of the literature review chapter is, quite simply, to show the reader (or marker) that you  know what you’re talking about . In other words, a good literature review chapter demonstrates that you’ve read the relevant existing research and understand what’s going on – who’s said what, what’s agreed upon, disagreed upon and so on. This needs to be  more than just a summary  of who said what – it needs to integrate the existing research to  show how it all fits together  and what’s missing (which leads us to purpose #2, next). 

Purpose #2 – Reveal the research gap that you’ll fill

The second function of the literature review chapter is to  show what’s currently missing  from the existing research, to lay the foundation for your own research topic. In other words, your literature review chapter needs to show that there are currently “missing pieces” in terms of the bigger puzzle, and that  your study will fill one of those research gaps . By doing this, you are showing that your research topic is original and will help contribute to the body of knowledge. In other words, the literature review helps justify your research topic.  

Purpose #3 – Lay the foundation for your conceptual framework

The third function of the literature review is to form the  basis for a conceptual framework . Not every research topic will necessarily have a conceptual framework, but if your topic does require one, it needs to be rooted in your literature review. 

For example, let’s say your research aims to identify the drivers of a certain outcome – the factors which contribute to burnout in office workers. In this case, you’d likely develop a conceptual framework which details the potential factors (e.g. long hours, excessive stress, etc), as well as the outcome (burnout). Those factors would need to emerge from the literature review chapter – they can’t just come from your gut! 

So, in this case, the literature review chapter would uncover each of the potential factors (based on previous studies about burnout), which would then be modelled into a framework. 

Purpose #4 – To inform your methodology

The fourth function of the literature review is to  inform the choice of methodology  for your own research. As we’ve  discussed on the Grad Coach blog , your choice of methodology will be heavily influenced by your research aims, objectives and questions . Given that you’ll be reviewing studies covering a topic close to yours, it makes sense that you could learn a lot from their (well-considered) methodologies.

So, when you’re reviewing the literature, you’ll need to  pay close attention to the research design , methodology and methods used in similar studies, and use these to inform your methodology. Quite often, you’ll be able to  “borrow” from previous studies . This is especially true for quantitative studies , as you can use previously tried and tested measures and scales. 

Free Webinar: Literature Review 101

How do I find articles for my literature review?

Finding quality journal articles is essential to crafting a rock-solid literature review. As you probably already know, not all research is created equally, and so you need to make sure that your literature review is  built on credible research . 

We could write an entire post on how to find quality literature (actually, we have ), but a good starting point is Google Scholar . Google Scholar is essentially the academic equivalent of Google, using Google’s powerful search capabilities to find relevant journal articles and reports. It certainly doesn’t cover every possible resource, but it’s a very useful way to get started on your literature review journey, as it will very quickly give you a good indication of what the  most popular pieces of research  are in your field.

One downside of Google Scholar is that it’s merely a search engine – that is, it lists the articles, but oftentimes  it doesn’t host the articles . So you’ll often hit a paywall when clicking through to journal websites. 

Thankfully, your university should provide you with access to their library, so you can find the article titles using Google Scholar and then search for them by name in your university’s online library. Your university may also provide you with access to  ResearchGate , which is another great source for existing research. 

Remember, the correct search keywords will be super important to get the right information from the start. So, pay close attention to the keywords used in the journal articles you read and use those keywords to search for more articles. If you can’t find a spoon in the kitchen, you haven’t looked in the right drawer. 

Need a helping hand?

what is the importance of a literature review

How should I structure my literature review?

Unfortunately, there’s no generic universal answer for this one. The structure of your literature review will depend largely on your topic area and your research aims and objectives.

You could potentially structure your literature review chapter according to theme, group, variables , chronologically or per concepts in your field of research. We explain the main approaches to structuring your literature review here . You can also download a copy of our free literature review template to help you establish an initial structure.

In general, it’s also a good idea to start wide (i.e. the big-picture-level) and then narrow down, ending your literature review close to your research questions . However, there’s no universal one “right way” to structure your literature review. The most important thing is not to discuss your sources one after the other like a list – as we touched on earlier, your literature review needs to synthesise the research , not summarise it .

Ultimately, you need to craft your literature review so that it conveys the most important information effectively – it needs to tell a logical story in a digestible way. It’s no use starting off with highly technical terms and then only explaining what these terms mean later. Always assume your reader is not a subject matter expert and hold their hand through a journe y of the literature while keeping the functions of the literature review chapter (which we discussed earlier) front of mind.

A good literature review should synthesise the existing research in relation to the research aims, not simply summarise it.

Example of a literature review

In the video below, we walk you through a high-quality literature review from a dissertation that earned full distinction. This will give you a clearer view of what a strong literature review looks like in practice and hopefully provide some inspiration for your own. 

Wrapping Up

In this post, we’ve (hopefully) answered the question, “ what is a literature review? “. We’ve also considered the purpose and functions of the literature review, as well as how to find literature and how to structure the literature review chapter. If you’re keen to learn more, check out the literature review section of the Grad Coach blog , as well as our detailed video post covering how to write a literature review . 

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This post is an extract from our bestselling short course, Literature Review Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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16 Comments

BECKY NAMULI

Thanks for this review. It narrates what’s not been taught as tutors are always in a early to finish their classes.

Derek Jansen

Thanks for the kind words, Becky. Good luck with your literature review 🙂

ELaine

This website is amazing, it really helps break everything down. Thank you, I would have been lost without it.

Timothy T. Chol

This is review is amazing. I benefited from it a lot and hope others visiting this website will benefit too.

Timothy T. Chol [email protected]

Tahir

Thank you very much for the guiding in literature review I learn and benefited a lot this make my journey smooth I’ll recommend this site to my friends

Rosalind Whitworth

This was so useful. Thank you so much.

hassan sakaba

Hi, Concept was explained nicely by both of you. Thanks a lot for sharing it. It will surely help research scholars to start their Research Journey.

Susan

The review is really helpful to me especially during this period of covid-19 pandemic when most universities in my country only offer online classes. Great stuff

Mohamed

Great Brief Explanation, thanks

Mayoga Patrick

So helpful to me as a student

Amr E. Hassabo

GradCoach is a fantastic site with brilliant and modern minds behind it.. I spent weeks decoding the substantial academic Jargon and grounding my initial steps on the research process, which could be shortened to a couple of days through the Gradcoach. Thanks again!

S. H Bawa

This is an amazing talk. I paved way for myself as a researcher. Thank you GradCoach!

Carol

Well-presented overview of the literature!

Philippa A Becker

This was brilliant. So clear. Thank you

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  • What is a Literature Review? | Guide, Template, & Examples

What is a Literature Review? | Guide, Template, & Examples

Published on 22 February 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 7 June 2022.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research.

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarise sources – it analyses, synthesises, and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

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Table of contents

Why write a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1: search for relevant literature, step 2: evaluate and select sources, step 3: identify themes, debates and gaps, step 4: outline your literature review’s structure, step 5: write your literature review, frequently asked questions about literature reviews, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a dissertation or thesis, you will have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position yourself in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your dissertation addresses a gap or contributes to a debate

You might also have to write a literature review as a stand-alone assignment. In this case, the purpose is to evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of scholarly debates around a topic.

The content will look slightly different in each case, but the process of conducting a literature review follows the same steps. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research objectives and questions .

If you are writing a literature review as a stand-alone assignment, you will have to choose a focus and develop a central question to direct your search. Unlike a dissertation research question, this question has to be answerable without collecting original data. You should be able to answer it based only on a review of existing publications.

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research topic. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list if you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can use boolean operators to help narrow down your search:

Read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

To identify the most important publications on your topic, take note of recurring citations. If the same authors, books or articles keep appearing in your reading, make sure to seek them out.

You probably won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on the topic – you’ll have to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your questions.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models and methods? Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • How does the publication contribute to your understanding of the topic? What are its key insights and arguments?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible, and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can find out how many times an article has been cited on Google Scholar – a high citation count means the article has been influential in the field, and should certainly be included in your literature review.

The scope of your review will depend on your topic and discipline: in the sciences you usually only review recent literature, but in the humanities you might take a long historical perspective (for example, to trace how a concept has changed in meaning over time).

Remember that you can use our template to summarise and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using!

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It’s important to keep track of your sources with references to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography, where you compile full reference information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

You can use our free APA Reference Generator for quick, correct, consistent citations.

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To begin organising your literature review’s argument and structure, you need to understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly-visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat – this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organising the body of a literature review. You should have a rough idea of your strategy before you start writing.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarising sources in order.

Try to analyse patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organise your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text, your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

If you are writing the literature review as part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate your central problem or research question and give a brief summary of the scholarly context. You can emphasise the timeliness of the topic (“many recent studies have focused on the problem of x”) or highlight a gap in the literature (“while there has been much research on x, few researchers have taken y into consideration”).

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, make sure to follow these tips:

  • Summarise and synthesise: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole.
  • Analyse and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole.
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources.
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transitions and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts.

In the conclusion, you should summarise the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasise their significance.

If the literature review is part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate how your research addresses gaps and contributes new knowledge, or discuss how you have drawn on existing theories and methods to build a framework for your research. This can lead directly into your methodology section.

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a dissertation , thesis, research paper , or proposal .

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarise yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your  dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

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Conducting a literature review: why do a literature review, why do a literature review.

  • How To Find "The Literature"
  • Found it -- Now What?

Besides the obvious reason for students -- because it is assigned! -- a literature review helps you explore the research that has come before you, to see how your research question has (or has not) already been addressed.

You identify:

  • core research in the field
  • experts in the subject area
  • methodology you may want to use (or avoid)
  • gaps in knowledge -- or where your research would fit in

It Also Helps You:

  • Publish and share your findings
  • Justify requests for grants and other funding
  • Identify best practices to inform practice
  • Set wider context for a program evaluation
  • Compile information to support community organizing

Great brief overview, from NCSU

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Writing a Literature Review

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A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research ( scholarship ) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.

Where, when, and why would I write a lit review?

There are a number of different situations where you might write a literature review, each with slightly different expectations; different disciplines, too, have field-specific expectations for what a literature review is and does. For instance, in the humanities, authors might include more overt argumentation and interpretation of source material in their literature reviews, whereas in the sciences, authors are more likely to report study designs and results in their literature reviews; these differences reflect these disciplines’ purposes and conventions in scholarship. You should always look at examples from your own discipline and talk to professors or mentors in your field to be sure you understand your discipline’s conventions, for literature reviews as well as for any other genre.

A literature review can be a part of a research paper or scholarly article, usually falling after the introduction and before the research methods sections. In these cases, the lit review just needs to cover scholarship that is important to the issue you are writing about; sometimes it will also cover key sources that informed your research methodology.

Lit reviews can also be standalone pieces, either as assignments in a class or as publications. In a class, a lit review may be assigned to help students familiarize themselves with a topic and with scholarship in their field, get an idea of the other researchers working on the topic they’re interested in, find gaps in existing research in order to propose new projects, and/or develop a theoretical framework and methodology for later research. As a publication, a lit review usually is meant to help make other scholars’ lives easier by collecting and summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing research on a topic. This can be especially helpful for students or scholars getting into a new research area, or for directing an entire community of scholars toward questions that have not yet been answered.

What are the parts of a lit review?

Most lit reviews use a basic introduction-body-conclusion structure; if your lit review is part of a larger paper, the introduction and conclusion pieces may be just a few sentences while you focus most of your attention on the body. If your lit review is a standalone piece, the introduction and conclusion take up more space and give you a place to discuss your goals, research methods, and conclusions separately from where you discuss the literature itself.

Introduction:

  • An introductory paragraph that explains what your working topic and thesis is
  • A forecast of key topics or texts that will appear in the review
  • Potentially, a description of how you found sources and how you analyzed them for inclusion and discussion in the review (more often found in published, standalone literature reviews than in lit review sections in an article or research paper)
  • Summarize and synthesize: Give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: Don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically Evaluate: Mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: Use transition words and topic sentence to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts.

Conclusion:

  • Summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance
  • Connect it back to your primary research question

How should I organize my lit review?

Lit reviews can take many different organizational patterns depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the review. Here are some examples:

  • Chronological : The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time, which helps familiarize the audience with the topic (for instance if you are introducing something that is not commonly known in your field). If you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze the patterns, turning points, and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred (as mentioned previously, this may not be appropriate in your discipline — check with a teacher or mentor if you’re unsure).
  • Thematic : If you have found some recurring central themes that you will continue working with throughout your piece, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about women and religion, key themes can include the role of women in churches and the religious attitude towards women.
  • Qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the research by sociological, historical, or cultural sources
  • Theoretical : In many humanities articles, the literature review is the foundation for the theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You can argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach or combine various theorical concepts to create a framework for your research.

What are some strategies or tips I can use while writing my lit review?

Any lit review is only as good as the research it discusses; make sure your sources are well-chosen and your research is thorough. Don’t be afraid to do more research if you discover a new thread as you’re writing. More info on the research process is available in our "Conducting Research" resources .

As you’re doing your research, create an annotated bibliography ( see our page on the this type of document ). Much of the information used in an annotated bibliography can be used also in a literature review, so you’ll be not only partially drafting your lit review as you research, but also developing your sense of the larger conversation going on among scholars, professionals, and any other stakeholders in your topic.

Usually you will need to synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This means drawing connections between sources to create a picture of the scholarly conversation on a topic over time. Many student writers struggle to synthesize because they feel they don’t have anything to add to the scholars they are citing; here are some strategies to help you:

  • It often helps to remember that the point of these kinds of syntheses is to show your readers how you understand your research, to help them read the rest of your paper.
  • Writing teachers often say synthesis is like hosting a dinner party: imagine all your sources are together in a room, discussing your topic. What are they saying to each other?
  • Look at the in-text citations in each paragraph. Are you citing just one source for each paragraph? This usually indicates summary only. When you have multiple sources cited in a paragraph, you are more likely to be synthesizing them (not always, but often
  • Read more about synthesis here.

The most interesting literature reviews are often written as arguments (again, as mentioned at the beginning of the page, this is discipline-specific and doesn’t work for all situations). Often, the literature review is where you can establish your research as filling a particular gap or as relevant in a particular way. You have some chance to do this in your introduction in an article, but the literature review section gives a more extended opportunity to establish the conversation in the way you would like your readers to see it. You can choose the intellectual lineage you would like to be part of and whose definitions matter most to your thinking (mostly humanities-specific, but this goes for sciences as well). In addressing these points, you argue for your place in the conversation, which tends to make the lit review more compelling than a simple reporting of other sources.

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Research on research? If you find this idea rather peculiar, know that nowadays, with the huge amount of information produced daily all around the world, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep up to date with all of it. In addition to the sheer amount of research, there is also its origin. We are witnessing the economic and intellectual emergence of countries like China, Brazil, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates, for example, that are producing scholarly literature in their own languages. So, apart from the effort of gathering information, there must also be translators prepared to unify all of it in a single language to be the object of the literature survey. At Elsevier, our team of translators is ready to support researchers by delivering high-quality scientific translations , in several languages, to serve their research – no matter the topic.

What is a literature review?

A literature review is a study – or, more accurately, a survey – involving scholarly material, with the aim to discuss published information about a specific topic or research question. Therefore, to write a literature review, it is compulsory that you are a real expert in the object of study. The results and findings will be published and made available to the public, namely scientists working in the same area of research.

How to Write a Literature Review

First of all, don’t forget that writing a literature review is a great responsibility. It’s a document that is expected to be highly reliable, especially concerning its sources and findings. You have to feel intellectually comfortable in the area of study and highly proficient in the target language; misconceptions and errors do not have a place in a document as important as a literature review. In fact, you might want to consider text editing services, like those offered at Elsevier, to make sure your literature is following the highest standards of text quality. You want to make sure your literature review is memorable by its novelty and quality rather than language errors.

Writing a literature review requires expertise but also organization. We cannot teach you about your topic of research, but we can provide a few steps to guide you through conducting a literature review:

  • Choose your topic or research question: It should not be too comprehensive or too limited. You have to complete your task within a feasible time frame.
  • Set the scope: Define boundaries concerning the number of sources, time frame to be covered, geographical area, etc.
  • Decide which databases you will use for your searches: In order to search the best viable sources for your literature review, use highly regarded, comprehensive databases to get a big picture of the literature related to your topic.
  • Search, search, and search: Now you’ll start to investigate the research on your topic. It’s critical that you keep track of all the sources. Start by looking at research abstracts in detail to see if their respective studies relate to or are useful for your own work. Next, search for bibliographies and references that can help you broaden your list of resources. Choose the most relevant literature and remember to keep notes of their bibliographic references to be used later on.
  • Review all the literature, appraising carefully it’s content: After reading the study’s abstract, pay attention to the rest of the content of the articles you deem the “most relevant.” Identify methodologies, the most important questions they address, if they are well-designed and executed, and if they are cited enough, etc.

If it’s the first time you’ve published a literature review, note that it is important to follow a special structure. Just like in a thesis, for example, it is expected that you have an introduction – giving the general idea of the central topic and organizational pattern – a body – which contains the actual discussion of the sources – and finally the conclusion or recommendations – where you bring forward whatever you have drawn from the reviewed literature. The conclusion may even suggest there are no agreeable findings and that the discussion should be continued.

Why are literature reviews important?

Literature reviews constantly feed new research, that constantly feeds literature reviews…and we could go on and on. The fact is, one acts like a force over the other and this is what makes science, as a global discipline, constantly develop and evolve. As a scientist, writing a literature review can be very beneficial to your career, and set you apart from the expert elite in your field of interest. But it also can be an overwhelming task, so don’t hesitate in contacting Elsevier for text editing services, either for profound edition or just a last revision. We guarantee the very highest standards. You can also save time by letting us suggest and make the necessary amendments to your manuscript, so that it fits the structural pattern of a literature review. Who knows how many worldwide researchers you will impact with your next perfectly written literature review.

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What is a literature review?

A literature review is an integrated analysis -- not just a summary-- of scholarly writings and other relevant evidence related directly to your research question.  That is, it represents a synthesis of the evidence that provides background information on your topic and shows a association between the evidence and your research question.

A literature review may be a stand alone work or the introduction to a larger research paper, depending on the assignment.  Rely heavily on the guidelines your instructor has given you.

Why is it important?

A literature review is important because it:

  • Explains the background of research on a topic.
  • Demonstrates why a topic is significant to a subject area.
  • Discovers relationships between research studies/ideas.
  • Identifies major themes, concepts, and researchers on a topic.
  • Identifies critical gaps and points of disagreement.
  • Discusses further research questions that logically come out of the previous studies.

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1. Choose a topic. Define your research question.

Your literature review should be guided by your central research question.  The literature represents background and research developments related to a specific research question, interpreted and analyzed by you in a synthesized way.

  • Make sure your research question is not too broad or too narrow.  Is it manageable?
  • Begin writing down terms that are related to your question. These will be useful for searches later.
  • If you have the opportunity, discuss your topic with your professor and your class mates.

2. Decide on the scope of your review

How many studies do you need to look at? How comprehensive should it be? How many years should it cover? 

  • This may depend on your assignment.  How many sources does the assignment require?

3. Select the databases you will use to conduct your searches.

Make a list of the databases you will search. 

Where to find databases:

  • use the tabs on this guide
  • Find other databases in the Nursing Information Resources web page
  • More on the Medical Library web page
  • ... and more on the Yale University Library web page

4. Conduct your searches to find the evidence. Keep track of your searches.

  • Use the key words in your question, as well as synonyms for those words, as terms in your search. Use the database tutorials for help.
  • Save the searches in the databases. This saves time when you want to redo, or modify, the searches. It is also helpful to use as a guide is the searches are not finding any useful results.
  • Review the abstracts of research studies carefully. This will save you time.
  • Use the bibliographies and references of research studies you find to locate others.
  • Check with your professor, or a subject expert in the field, if you are missing any key works in the field.
  • Ask your librarian for help at any time.
  • Use a citation manager, such as EndNote as the repository for your citations. See the EndNote tutorials for help.

Review the literature

Some questions to help you analyze the research:

  • What was the research question of the study you are reviewing? What were the authors trying to discover?
  • Was the research funded by a source that could influence the findings?
  • What were the research methodologies? Analyze its literature review, the samples and variables used, the results, and the conclusions.
  • Does the research seem to be complete? Could it have been conducted more soundly? What further questions does it raise?
  • If there are conflicting studies, why do you think that is?
  • How are the authors viewed in the field? Has this study been cited? If so, how has it been analyzed?

Tips: 

  • Review the abstracts carefully.  
  • Keep careful notes so that you may track your thought processes during the research process.
  • Create a matrix of the studies for easy analysis, and synthesis, across all of the studies.
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A literature review surveys prior research published in books, scholarly articles, and any other sources relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, and by so doing, provides a description, summary, and critical evaluation of these works in relation to the research problem being investigated. Literature reviews are designed to provide an overview of sources you have used in researching a particular topic and to demonstrate to your readers how your research fits within existing scholarship about the topic.

Fink, Arlene. Conducting Research Literature Reviews: From the Internet to Paper . Fourth edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2014.

Importance of a Good Literature Review

A literature review may consist of simply a summary of key sources, but in the social sciences, a literature review usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis, often within specific conceptual categories . A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information in a way that informs how you are planning to investigate a research problem. The analytical features of a literature review might:

  • Give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations,
  • Trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates,
  • Depending on the situation, evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant research, or
  • Usually in the conclusion of a literature review, identify where gaps exist in how a problem has been researched to date.

Given this, the purpose of a literature review is to:

  • Place each work in the context of its contribution to understanding the research problem being studied.
  • Describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration.
  • Identify new ways to interpret prior research.
  • Reveal any gaps that exist in the literature.
  • Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies.
  • Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication of effort.
  • Point the way in fulfilling a need for additional research.
  • Locate your own research within the context of existing literature [very important].

Fink, Arlene. Conducting Research Literature Reviews: From the Internet to Paper. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005; Hart, Chris. Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1998; Jesson, Jill. Doing Your Literature Review: Traditional and Systematic Techniques . Los Angeles, CA: SAGE, 2011; Knopf, Jeffrey W. "Doing a Literature Review." PS: Political Science and Politics 39 (January 2006): 127-132; Ridley, Diana. The Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Guide for Students . 2nd ed. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE, 2012.

Types of Literature Reviews

It is important to think of knowledge in a given field as consisting of three layers. First, there are the primary studies that researchers conduct and publish. Second are the reviews of those studies that summarize and offer new interpretations built from and often extending beyond the primary studies. Third, there are the perceptions, conclusions, opinion, and interpretations that are shared informally among scholars that become part of the body of epistemological traditions within the field.

In composing a literature review, it is important to note that it is often this third layer of knowledge that is cited as "true" even though it often has only a loose relationship to the primary studies and secondary literature reviews. Given this, while literature reviews are designed to provide an overview and synthesis of pertinent sources you have explored, there are a number of approaches you could adopt depending upon the type of analysis underpinning your study.

Argumentative Review This form examines literature selectively in order to support or refute an argument, deeply embedded assumption, or philosophical problem already established in the literature. The purpose is to develop a body of literature that establishes a contrarian viewpoint. Given the value-laden nature of some social science research [e.g., educational reform; immigration control], argumentative approaches to analyzing the literature can be a legitimate and important form of discourse. However, note that they can also introduce problems of bias when they are used to make summary claims of the sort found in systematic reviews [see below].

Integrative Review Considered a form of research that reviews, critiques, and synthesizes representative literature on a topic in an integrated way such that new frameworks and perspectives on the topic are generated. The body of literature includes all studies that address related or identical hypotheses or research problems. A well-done integrative review meets the same standards as primary research in regard to clarity, rigor, and replication. This is the most common form of review in the social sciences.

Historical Review Few things rest in isolation from historical precedent. Historical literature reviews focus on examining research throughout a period of time, often starting with the first time an issue, concept, theory, phenomena emerged in the literature, then tracing its evolution within the scholarship of a discipline. The purpose is to place research in a historical context to show familiarity with state-of-the-art developments and to identify the likely directions for future research.

Methodological Review A review does not always focus on what someone said [findings], but how they came about saying what they say [method of analysis]. Reviewing methods of analysis provides a framework of understanding at different levels [i.e. those of theory, substantive fields, research approaches, and data collection and analysis techniques], how researchers draw upon a wide variety of knowledge ranging from the conceptual level to practical documents for use in fieldwork in the areas of ontological and epistemological consideration, quantitative and qualitative integration, sampling, interviewing, data collection, and data analysis. This approach helps highlight ethical issues which you should be aware of and consider as you go through your own study.

Systematic Review This form consists of an overview of existing evidence pertinent to a clearly formulated research question, which uses pre-specified and standardized methods to identify and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect, report, and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review. The goal is to deliberately document, critically evaluate, and summarize scientifically all of the research about a clearly defined research problem . Typically it focuses on a very specific empirical question, often posed in a cause-and-effect form, such as "To what extent does A contribute to B?" This type of literature review is primarily applied to examining prior research studies in clinical medicine and allied health fields, but it is increasingly being used in the social sciences.

Theoretical Review The purpose of this form is to examine the corpus of theory that has accumulated in regard to an issue, concept, theory, phenomena. The theoretical literature review helps to establish what theories already exist, the relationships between them, to what degree the existing theories have been investigated, and to develop new hypotheses to be tested. Often this form is used to help establish a lack of appropriate theories or reveal that current theories are inadequate for explaining new or emerging research problems. The unit of analysis can focus on a theoretical concept or a whole theory or framework.

NOTE: Most often the literature review will incorporate some combination of types. For example, a review that examines literature supporting or refuting an argument, assumption, or philosophical problem related to the research problem will also need to include writing supported by sources that establish the history of these arguments in the literature.

Baumeister, Roy F. and Mark R. Leary. "Writing Narrative Literature Reviews."  Review of General Psychology 1 (September 1997): 311-320; Mark R. Fink, Arlene. Conducting Research Literature Reviews: From the Internet to Paper . 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005; Hart, Chris. Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1998; Kennedy, Mary M. "Defining a Literature." Educational Researcher 36 (April 2007): 139-147; Petticrew, Mark and Helen Roberts. Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide . Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2006; Torracro, Richard. "Writing Integrative Literature Reviews: Guidelines and Examples." Human Resource Development Review 4 (September 2005): 356-367; Rocco, Tonette S. and Maria S. Plakhotnik. "Literature Reviews, Conceptual Frameworks, and Theoretical Frameworks: Terms, Functions, and Distinctions." Human Ressource Development Review 8 (March 2008): 120-130; Sutton, Anthea. Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review . Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, 2016.

Structure and Writing Style

I.  Thinking About Your Literature Review

The structure of a literature review should include the following in support of understanding the research problem :

  • An overview of the subject, issue, or theory under consideration, along with the objectives of the literature review,
  • Division of works under review into themes or categories [e.g. works that support a particular position, those against, and those offering alternative approaches entirely],
  • An explanation of how each work is similar to and how it varies from the others,
  • Conclusions as to which pieces are best considered in their argument, are most convincing of their opinions, and make the greatest contribution to the understanding and development of their area of research.

The critical evaluation of each work should consider :

  • Provenance -- what are the author's credentials? Are the author's arguments supported by evidence [e.g. primary historical material, case studies, narratives, statistics, recent scientific findings]?
  • Methodology -- were the techniques used to identify, gather, and analyze the data appropriate to addressing the research problem? Was the sample size appropriate? Were the results effectively interpreted and reported?
  • Objectivity -- is the author's perspective even-handed or prejudicial? Is contrary data considered or is certain pertinent information ignored to prove the author's point?
  • Persuasiveness -- which of the author's theses are most convincing or least convincing?
  • Validity -- are the author's arguments and conclusions convincing? Does the work ultimately contribute in any significant way to an understanding of the subject?

II.  Development of the Literature Review

Four Basic Stages of Writing 1.  Problem formulation -- which topic or field is being examined and what are its component issues? 2.  Literature search -- finding materials relevant to the subject being explored. 3.  Data evaluation -- determining which literature makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the topic. 4.  Analysis and interpretation -- discussing the findings and conclusions of pertinent literature.

Consider the following issues before writing the literature review: Clarify If your assignment is not specific about what form your literature review should take, seek clarification from your professor by asking these questions: 1.  Roughly how many sources would be appropriate to include? 2.  What types of sources should I review (books, journal articles, websites; scholarly versus popular sources)? 3.  Should I summarize, synthesize, or critique sources by discussing a common theme or issue? 4.  Should I evaluate the sources in any way beyond evaluating how they relate to understanding the research problem? 5.  Should I provide subheadings and other background information, such as definitions and/or a history? Find Models Use the exercise of reviewing the literature to examine how authors in your discipline or area of interest have composed their literature review sections. Read them to get a sense of the types of themes you might want to look for in your own research or to identify ways to organize your final review. The bibliography or reference section of sources you've already read, such as required readings in the course syllabus, are also excellent entry points into your own research. Narrow the Topic The narrower your topic, the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you need to read in order to obtain a good survey of relevant resources. Your professor will probably not expect you to read everything that's available about the topic, but you'll make the act of reviewing easier if you first limit scope of the research problem. A good strategy is to begin by searching the USC Libraries Catalog for recent books about the topic and review the table of contents for chapters that focuses on specific issues. You can also review the indexes of books to find references to specific issues that can serve as the focus of your research. For example, a book surveying the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may include a chapter on the role Egypt has played in mediating the conflict, or look in the index for the pages where Egypt is mentioned in the text. Consider Whether Your Sources are Current Some disciplines require that you use information that is as current as possible. This is particularly true in disciplines in medicine and the sciences where research conducted becomes obsolete very quickly as new discoveries are made. However, when writing a review in the social sciences, a survey of the history of the literature may be required. In other words, a complete understanding the research problem requires you to deliberately examine how knowledge and perspectives have changed over time. Sort through other current bibliographies or literature reviews in the field to get a sense of what your discipline expects. You can also use this method to explore what is considered by scholars to be a "hot topic" and what is not.

III.  Ways to Organize Your Literature Review

Chronology of Events If your review follows the chronological method, you could write about the materials according to when they were published. This approach should only be followed if a clear path of research building on previous research can be identified and that these trends follow a clear chronological order of development. For example, a literature review that focuses on continuing research about the emergence of German economic power after the fall of the Soviet Union. By Publication Order your sources by publication chronology, then, only if the order demonstrates a more important trend. For instance, you could order a review of literature on environmental studies of brown fields if the progression revealed, for example, a change in the soil collection practices of the researchers who wrote and/or conducted the studies. Thematic [“conceptual categories”] A thematic literature review is the most common approach to summarizing prior research in the social and behavioral sciences. Thematic reviews are organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time, although the progression of time may still be incorporated into a thematic review. For example, a review of the Internet’s impact on American presidential politics could focus on the development of online political satire. While the study focuses on one topic, the Internet’s impact on American presidential politics, it would still be organized chronologically reflecting technological developments in media. The difference in this example between a "chronological" and a "thematic" approach is what is emphasized the most: themes related to the role of the Internet in presidential politics. Note that more authentic thematic reviews tend to break away from chronological order. A review organized in this manner would shift between time periods within each section according to the point being made. Methodological A methodological approach focuses on the methods utilized by the researcher. For the Internet in American presidential politics project, one methodological approach would be to look at cultural differences between the portrayal of American presidents on American, British, and French websites. Or the review might focus on the fundraising impact of the Internet on a particular political party. A methodological scope will influence either the types of documents in the review or the way in which these documents are discussed.

Other Sections of Your Literature Review Once you've decided on the organizational method for your literature review, the sections you need to include in the paper should be easy to figure out because they arise from your organizational strategy. In other words, a chronological review would have subsections for each vital time period; a thematic review would have subtopics based upon factors that relate to the theme or issue. However, sometimes you may need to add additional sections that are necessary for your study, but do not fit in the organizational strategy of the body. What other sections you include in the body is up to you. However, only include what is necessary for the reader to locate your study within the larger scholarship about the research problem.

Here are examples of other sections, usually in the form of a single paragraph, you may need to include depending on the type of review you write:

  • Current Situation : Information necessary to understand the current topic or focus of the literature review.
  • Sources Used : Describes the methods and resources [e.g., databases] you used to identify the literature you reviewed.
  • History : The chronological progression of the field, the research literature, or an idea that is necessary to understand the literature review, if the body of the literature review is not already a chronology.
  • Selection Methods : Criteria you used to select (and perhaps exclude) sources in your literature review. For instance, you might explain that your review includes only peer-reviewed [i.e., scholarly] sources.
  • Standards : Description of the way in which you present your information.
  • Questions for Further Research : What questions about the field has the review sparked? How will you further your research as a result of the review?

IV.  Writing Your Literature Review

Once you've settled on how to organize your literature review, you're ready to write each section. When writing your review, keep in mind these issues.

Use Evidence A literature review section is, in this sense, just like any other academic research paper. Your interpretation of the available sources must be backed up with evidence [citations] that demonstrates that what you are saying is valid. Be Selective Select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review. The type of information you choose to mention should relate directly to the research problem, whether it is thematic, methodological, or chronological. Related items that provide additional information, but that are not key to understanding the research problem, can be included in a list of further readings . Use Quotes Sparingly Some short quotes are appropriate if you want to emphasize a point, or if what an author stated cannot be easily paraphrased. Sometimes you may need to quote certain terminology that was coined by the author, is not common knowledge, or taken directly from the study. Do not use extensive quotes as a substitute for using your own words in reviewing the literature. Summarize and Synthesize Remember to summarize and synthesize your sources within each thematic paragraph as well as throughout the review. Recapitulate important features of a research study, but then synthesize it by rephrasing the study's significance and relating it to your own work and the work of others. Keep Your Own Voice While the literature review presents others' ideas, your voice [the writer's] should remain front and center. For example, weave references to other sources into what you are writing but maintain your own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with your own ideas and wording. Use Caution When Paraphrasing When paraphrasing a source that is not your own, be sure to represent the author's information or opinions accurately and in your own words. Even when paraphrasing an author’s work, you still must provide a citation to that work.

V.  Common Mistakes to Avoid

These are the most common mistakes made in reviewing social science research literature.

  • Sources in your literature review do not clearly relate to the research problem;
  • You do not take sufficient time to define and identify the most relevant sources to use in the literature review related to the research problem;
  • Relies exclusively on secondary analytical sources rather than including relevant primary research studies or data;
  • Uncritically accepts another researcher's findings and interpretations as valid, rather than examining critically all aspects of the research design and analysis;
  • Does not describe the search procedures that were used in identifying the literature to review;
  • Reports isolated statistical results rather than synthesizing them in chi-squared or meta-analytic methods; and,
  • Only includes research that validates assumptions and does not consider contrary findings and alternative interpretations found in the literature.

Cook, Kathleen E. and Elise Murowchick. “Do Literature Review Skills Transfer from One Course to Another?” Psychology Learning and Teaching 13 (March 2014): 3-11; Fink, Arlene. Conducting Research Literature Reviews: From the Internet to Paper . 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005; Hart, Chris. Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1998; Jesson, Jill. Doing Your Literature Review: Traditional and Systematic Techniques . London: SAGE, 2011; Literature Review Handout. Online Writing Center. Liberty University; Literature Reviews. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J. and Rebecca Frels. Seven Steps to a Comprehensive Literature Review: A Multimodal and Cultural Approach . Los Angeles, CA: SAGE, 2016; Ridley, Diana. The Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Guide for Students . 2nd ed. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE, 2012; Randolph, Justus J. “A Guide to Writing the Dissertation Literature Review." Practical Assessment, Research, and Evaluation. vol. 14, June 2009; Sutton, Anthea. Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review . Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, 2016; Taylor, Dena. The Literature Review: A Few Tips On Conducting It. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Writing a Literature Review. Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra.

Writing Tip

Break Out of Your Disciplinary Box!

Thinking interdisciplinarily about a research problem can be a rewarding exercise in applying new ideas, theories, or concepts to an old problem. For example, what might cultural anthropologists say about the continuing conflict in the Middle East? In what ways might geographers view the need for better distribution of social service agencies in large cities than how social workers might study the issue? You don’t want to substitute a thorough review of core research literature in your discipline for studies conducted in other fields of study. However, particularly in the social sciences, thinking about research problems from multiple vectors is a key strategy for finding new solutions to a problem or gaining a new perspective. Consult with a librarian about identifying research databases in other disciplines; almost every field of study has at least one comprehensive database devoted to indexing its research literature.

Frodeman, Robert. The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity . New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Another Writing Tip

Don't Just Review for Content!

While conducting a review of the literature, maximize the time you devote to writing this part of your paper by thinking broadly about what you should be looking for and evaluating. Review not just what scholars are saying, but how are they saying it. Some questions to ask:

  • How are they organizing their ideas?
  • What methods have they used to study the problem?
  • What theories have been used to explain, predict, or understand their research problem?
  • What sources have they cited to support their conclusions?
  • How have they used non-textual elements [e.g., charts, graphs, figures, etc.] to illustrate key points?

When you begin to write your literature review section, you'll be glad you dug deeper into how the research was designed and constructed because it establishes a means for developing more substantial analysis and interpretation of the research problem.

Hart, Chris. Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1 998.

Yet Another Writing Tip

When Do I Know I Can Stop Looking and Move On?

Here are several strategies you can utilize to assess whether you've thoroughly reviewed the literature:

  • Look for repeating patterns in the research findings . If the same thing is being said, just by different people, then this likely demonstrates that the research problem has hit a conceptual dead end. At this point consider: Does your study extend current research?  Does it forge a new path? Or, does is merely add more of the same thing being said?
  • Look at sources the authors cite to in their work . If you begin to see the same researchers cited again and again, then this is often an indication that no new ideas have been generated to address the research problem.
  • Search Google Scholar to identify who has subsequently cited leading scholars already identified in your literature review [see next sub-tab]. This is called citation tracking and there are a number of sources that can help you identify who has cited whom, particularly scholars from outside of your discipline. Here again, if the same authors are being cited again and again, this may indicate no new literature has been written on the topic.

Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J. and Rebecca Frels. Seven Steps to a Comprehensive Literature Review: A Multimodal and Cultural Approach . Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2016; Sutton, Anthea. Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review . Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, 2016.

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  • v.35(2); Jul-Dec 2014

Reviewing literature for research: Doing it the right way

Shital amin poojary.

Department of Dermatology, K J Somaiya Medical College, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Jimish Deepak Bagadia

In an era of information overload, it is important to know how to obtain the required information and also to ensure that it is reliable information. Hence, it is essential to understand how to perform a systematic literature search. This article focuses on reliable literature sources and how to make optimum use of these in dermatology and venereology.

INTRODUCTION

A thorough review of literature is not only essential for selecting research topics, but also enables the right applicability of a research project. Most importantly, a good literature search is the cornerstone of practice of evidence based medicine. Today, everything is available at the click of a mouse or at the tip of the fingertips (or the stylus). Google is often the Go-To search website, the supposed answer to all questions in the universe. However, the deluge of information available comes with its own set of problems; how much of it is actually reliable information? How much are the search results that the search string threw up actually relevant? Did we actually find what we were looking for? Lack of a systematic approach can lead to a literature review ending up as a time-consuming and at times frustrating process. Hence, whether it is for research projects, theses/dissertations, case studies/reports or mere wish to obtain information; knowing where to look, and more importantly, how to look, is of prime importance today.

Literature search

Fink has defined research literature review as a “systematic, explicit and reproducible method for identifying, evaluating, and synthesizing the existing body of completed and recorded work produced by researchers, scholars and practitioners.”[ 1 ]

Review of research literature can be summarized into a seven step process: (i) Selecting research questions/purpose of the literature review (ii) Selecting your sources (iii) Choosing search terms (iv) Running your search (v) Applying practical screening criteria (vi) Applying methodological screening criteria/quality appraisal (vii) Synthesizing the results.[ 1 ]

This article will primarily concentrate on refining techniques of literature search.

Sources for literature search are enumerated in Table 1 .

Sources for literature search

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PubMed is currently the most widely used among these as it contains over 23 million citations for biomedical literature and has been made available free by National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), U.S. National Library of Medicine. However, the availability of free full text articles depends on the sources. Use of options such as advanced search, medical subject headings (MeSH) terms, free full text, PubMed tutorials, and single citation matcher makes the database extremely user-friendly [ Figure 1 ]. It can also be accessed on the go through mobiles using “PubMed Mobile.” One can also create own account in NCBI to save searches and to use certain PubMed tools.

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PubMed home page showing location of different tools which can be used for an efficient literature search

Tips for efficient use of PubMed search:[ 2 , 3 , 4 ]

Use of field and Boolean operators

When one searches using key words, all articles containing the words show up, many of which may not be related to the topic. Hence, the use of operators while searching makes the search more specific and less cumbersome. Operators are of two types: Field operators and Boolean operators, the latter enabling us to combine more than one concept, thereby making the search highly accurate. A few key operators that can be used in PubMed are shown in Tables ​ Tables2 2 and ​ and3 3 and illustrated in Figures ​ Figures2 2 and ​ and3 3 .

Field operators used in PubMed search

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Boolean operators used in PubMed search

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PubMed search results page showing articles on donovanosis using the field operator [TIAB]; it shows all articles which have the keyword “donovanosis” in either title or abstract of the article

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PubMed search using Boolean operators ‘AND’, ‘NOT’; To search for articles on treatment of lepra reaction other than steroids, after clicking the option ‘Advanced search’ on the home page, one can build the search using ‘AND’ option for treatment and ‘NOT’ option for steroids to omit articles on steroid treatment in lepra reaction

Use of medical subject headings terms

These are very specific and standardized terms used by indexers to describe every article in PubMed and are added to the record of every article. A search using MeSH will show all articles about the topic (or keywords), but will not show articles only containing these keywords (these articles may be about an entirely different topic, but still may contain your keywords in another context in any part of the article). This will make your search more specific. Within the topic, specific subheadings can be added to the search builder to refine your search [ Figure 4 ]. For example, MeSH terms for treatment are therapy and therapeutics.

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PubMed search using medical subject headings (MeSH) terms for management of gonorrhea. Click on MeSH database ( Figure 1 ) →In the MeSH search box type gonorrhea and click search. Under the MeSH term gonorrhea, there will be a list of subheadings; therapy, prevention and control, click the relevant check boxes and add to search builder →Click on search →All articles on therapy, prevention and control of gonorrhea will be displayed. Below the subheadings, there are two options: (1) Restrict to medical subject headings (MeSH) major topic and (2) do not include MeSH terms found below this term in the MeSH hierarchy. These can be used to further refine the search results so that only articles which are majorly about treatment of gonorrhea will be displayed

Two additional options can be used to further refine MeSH searches. These are located below the subheadings for a MeSH term: (1) Restrict to MeSH major topic; checking this box will retrieve articles which are majorly about the search term and are therefore, more focused and (2) Do not include MeSH terms found below this term in the MeSH hierarchy. This option will again give you more focused articles as it excludes the lower specific terms [ Figure 4 ].

Similar feature is available with Cochrane library (also called MeSH), EMBASE (known as EMTREE) and PsycINFO (Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms).

Saving your searches

Any search that one has performed can be saved by using the ‘Send to’ option and can be saved as a simple word file [ Figure 5 ]. Alternatively, the ‘Save Search’ button (just below the search box) can be used. However, it is essential to set up an NCBI account and log in to NCBI for this. One can even choose to have E-mail updates of new articles in the topic of interest.

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Saving PubMed searches. A simple option is to click on the dropdown box next to ‘Send to’ option and then choose among the options. It can be saved as a text or word file by choosing ‘File’ option. Another option is the “Save search” option below the search box but this will require logging into your National Center for Biotechnology Information account. This however allows you to set up alerts for E-mail updates for new articles

Single citation matcher

This is another important tool that helps to find the genuine original source of a particular research work (when few details are known about the title/author/publication date/place/journal) and cite the reference in the most correct manner [ Figure 6 ].

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Single citation matcher: Click on “Single citation matcher” on PubMed Home page. Type available details of the required reference in the boxes to get the required citation

Full text articles

In any search clicking on the link “free full text” (if present) gives you free access to the article. In some instances, though the published article may not be available free, the author manuscript may be available free of charge. Furthermore, PubMed Central articles are available free of charge.

Managing filters

Filters can be used to refine a search according to type of article required or subjects of research. One can specify the type of article required such as clinical trial, reviews, free full text; these options are available on a typical search results page. Further specialized filters are available under “manage filters:” e.g., articles confined to certain age groups (properties option), “Links” to other databases, article specific to particular journals, etc. However, one needs to have an NCBI account and log in to access this option [ Figure 7 ].

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Managing filters. Simple filters are available on the ‘search results’ page. One can choose type of article, e.g., clinical trial, reviews etc. Further options are available in the “Manage filters” option, but this requires logging into National Center for Biotechnology Information account

The Cochrane library

Although reviews are available in PubMed, for systematic reviews and meta-analysis, Cochrane library is a much better resource. The Cochrane library is a collection of full length systematic reviews, which can be accessed for free in India, thanks to Indian Council of Medical Research renewing the license up to 2016, benefitting users all over India. It is immensely helpful in finding detailed high quality research work done in a particular field/topic [ Figure 8 ].

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Cochrane library is a useful resource for reliable, systematic reviews. One can choose the type of reviews required, including trials

An important tool that must be used while searching for research work is screening. Screening helps to improve the accuracy of search results. It is of two types: (1) Practical: To identify a broad range of potentially useful studies. Examples: Date of publication (last 5 years only; gives you most recent updates), participants or subjects (humans above 18 years), publication language (English only) (2) methodological: To identify best available studies (for example, excluding studies not involving control group or studies with only randomized control trials).

Selecting the right quality of literature is the key to successful research literature review. The quality can be estimated by what is known as “The Evidence Pyramid.” The level of evidence of references obtained from the aforementioned search tools are depicted in Figure 9 . Systematic reviews obtained from Cochrane library constitute level 1 evidence.

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Evidence pyramid: Depicting the level of evidence of references obtained from the aforementioned search tools

Thus, a systematic literature review can help not only in setting up the basis of a good research with optimal use of available information, but also in practice of evidence-based medicine.

Source of Support: Nil.

Conflict of Interest: None declared.

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Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide: Literature Reviews?

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What is a Literature Review?

So, what is a literature review .

"A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available or a set of summaries." - Quote from Taylor, D. (n.d)."The Literature Review: A Few Tips on Conducting it".

  • Citation: "The Literature Review: A Few Tips on Conducting it"

What kinds of literature reviews are written?

Each field has a particular way to do reviews for academic research literature. In the social sciences and humanities the most common are:

  • Narrative Reviews: The purpose of this type of review is to describe the current state of the research on a specific research topic and to offer a critical analysis of the literature reviewed. Studies are grouped by research/theoretical categories, and themes and trends, strengths and weaknesses, and gaps are identified. The review ends with a conclusion section that summarizes the findings regarding the state of the research of the specific study, the gaps identify and if applicable, explains how the author's research will address gaps identify in the review and expand the knowledge on the topic reviewed.
  • Book review essays/ Historiographical review essays : A type of literature review typical in History and related fields, e.g., Latin American studies. For example, the Latin American Research Review explains that the purpose of this type of review is to “(1) to familiarize readers with the subject, approach, arguments, and conclusions found in a group of books whose common focus is a historical period; a country or region within Latin America; or a practice, development, or issue of interest to specialists and others; (2) to locate these books within current scholarship, critical methodologies, and approaches; and (3) to probe the relation of these new books to previous work on the subject, especially canonical texts. Unlike individual book reviews, the cluster reviews found in LARR seek to address the state of the field or discipline and not solely the works at issue.” - LARR

What are the Goals of Creating a Literature Review?

  • To develop a theory or evaluate an existing theory
  • To summarize the historical or existing state of a research topic
  • Identify a problem in a field of research 
  • Baumeister, R.F. & Leary, M.R. (1997). "Writing narrative literature reviews," Review of General Psychology , 1(3), 311-320.

When do you need to write a Literature Review?

  • When writing a prospectus or a thesis/dissertation
  • When writing a research paper
  • When writing a grant proposal

In all these cases you need to dedicate a chapter in these works to showcase what has been written about your research topic and to point out how your own research will shed new light into a body of scholarship.

Where I can find examples of Literature Reviews?

Note:  In the humanities, even if they don't use the term "literature review", they may have a dedicated  chapter that reviewed the "critical bibliography" or they incorporated that review in the introduction or first chapter of the dissertation, book, or article.

  • UCSB electronic theses and dissertations In partnership with the Graduate Division, the UC Santa Barbara Library is making available theses and dissertations produced by UCSB students. Currently included in ADRL are theses and dissertations that were originally filed electronically, starting in 2011. In future phases of ADRL, all theses and dissertations created by UCSB students may be digitized and made available.

Where to Find Standalone Literature Reviews

Literature reviews are also written as standalone articles as a way to survey a particular research topic in-depth. This type of literature review looks at a topic from a historical perspective to see how the understanding of the topic has changed over time. 

  • Find e-Journals for Standalone Literature Reviews The best way to get familiar with and to learn how to write literature reviews is by reading them. You can use our Journal Search option to find journals that specialize in publishing literature reviews from major disciplines like anthropology, sociology, etc. Usually these titles are called, "Annual Review of [discipline name] OR [Discipline name] Review. This option works best if you know the title of the publication you are looking for. Below are some examples of these journals! more... less... Journal Search can be found by hovering over the link for Research on the library website.

Social Sciences

  • Annual Review of Anthropology
  • Annual Review of Political Science
  • Annual Review of Sociology
  • Ethnic Studies Review

Hard science and health sciences:

  • Annual Review of Biomedical Data Science
  • Annual Review of Materials Science
  • Systematic Review From journal site: "The journal Systematic Reviews encompasses all aspects of the design, conduct, and reporting of systematic reviews" in the health sciences.
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Conducting a Literature Review

Benefits of conducting a literature review.

  • Steps in Conducting a Literature Review
  • Summary of the Process
  • Additional Resources
  • Literature Review Tutorial by American University Library
  • The Literature Review: A Few Tips On Conducting It by University of Toronto
  • Write a Literature Review by UC Santa Cruz University Library

While there might be many reasons for conducting a literature review, following are four key outcomes of doing the review.

Assessment of the current state of research on a topic . This is probably the most obvious value of the literature review. Once a researcher has determined an area to work with for a research project, a search of relevant information sources will help determine what is already known about the topic and how extensively the topic has already been researched.

Identification of the experts on a particular topic . One of the additional benefits derived from doing the literature review is that it will quickly reveal which researchers have written the most on a particular topic and are, therefore, probably the experts on the topic. Someone who has written twenty articles on a topic or on related topics is more than likely more knowledgeable than someone who has written a single article. This same writer will likely turn up as a reference in most of the other articles written on the same topic. From the number of articles written by the author and the number of times the writer has been cited by other authors, a researcher will be able to assume that the particular author is an expert in the area and, thus, a key resource for consultation in the current research to be undertaken.

Identification of key questions about a topic that need further research . In many cases a researcher may discover new angles that need further exploration by reviewing what has already been written on a topic. For example, research may suggest that listening to music while studying might lead to better retention of ideas, but the research might not have assessed whether a particular style of music is more beneficial than another. A researcher who is interested in pursuing this topic would then do well to follow up existing studies with a new study, based on previous research, that tries to identify which styles of music are most beneficial to retention.

Determination of methodologies used in past studies of the same or similar topics.  It is often useful to review the types of studies that previous researchers have launched as a means of determining what approaches might be of most benefit in further developing a topic. By the same token, a review of previously conducted studies might lend itself to researchers determining a new angle for approaching research.

Upon completion of the literature review, a researcher should have a solid foundation of knowledge in the area and a good feel for the direction any new research should take. Should any additional questions arise during the course of the research, the researcher will know which experts to consult in order to quickly clear up those questions.

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College & Research Libraries News  ( C&RL News ) is the official newsmagazine and publication of record of the Association of College & Research Libraries,  providing articles on the latest trends and practices affecting academic and research libraries.

C&RL News  became an online-only publication beginning with the January 2022 issue.

Members of the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee: Brian D. Quigley (chair) is head of the sciences division at the University of California, Berkeley Library, email: [email protected] . Thomas R. Caswell (vice-chair) is associate dean for academic engagement at the University of Central Florida Libraries, email: [email protected] . Jennie M. Burroughs is senior program advisor and researcher at the University of Minnesota Libraries, email: [email protected] . Laura Costello is director of access and information services at the University of Minnesota Libraries, email: [email protected] . cristalan ‘tal’ ness is linguistics librarian and social sciences resident librarian at the University of Michigan, email: [email protected] . Kristin Van Diest is digital publishing librarian at Texas State University, email: [email protected] . Minglu Wang is research data management librarian at York University, email: [email protected] . Anna Yang is science librarian at Santa Clara University, email: [email protected] .

what is the importance of a literature review

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ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee

2024 Top Trends in Academic Libraries

A Review of the Trends and Issues

T his article explores the topics and issues that have been trending in academic libraries over the past two years. It draws on research and initiatives from librarians across the profession, highlighting the constant change libraries face. The launch of ChatGPT sparked discussions about the potential impact of artificial intelligence, open access and open science initiatives continued to gain momentum, and the lingering effects of COVID-19 on library workspaces and student well-being remained significant. Rich citations to the literature provide opportunities for further exploration.

AI and AI Literacy

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a trend in academic libraries for several years, but the release of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools has sparked renewed interest in the topic. This could have profound implications for academic libraries in the future. As Andrew M. Cox and Suvodeep Mazumdar note, “There is immense potential for it to increase access to knowledge in fundamental ways, for example through improved search and recommendation, through description of digital materials at scale, through transcription, and through automated translation.” 1 AI also raises a host of ethical and legal issues, ranging from concerns about bias, privacy, non-representative training data, and misinformation to issues around copyright, plagiarism, and exploitation. 2

Due to their ease of use, generative AI tools like ChatGPT have become extremely popular. These tools leverage large language models (LLMs) trained on massive datasets of text or images. LLMs use neural networks and natural language processing to analyze input prompts and generate responses based on the statistical patterns learned from the training data. Beyond ChatGPT, AI is also being incorporated into literature searching, summarization, and programming tools such as Elicit, Semantic Scholar, scite, and Copilot for GitHub. 3 With the growing popularity of these tools among students, faculty are increasingly turning to librarians to help cultivate AI literacy, discussing AI and its impact on literature searching and citations with their classes. 4

Duri Long and Brian Magerko define AI literacy “as a set of competencies that enables individuals to critically evaluate AI technologies; communicate and collaborate effectively with AI; and use AI as a tool online, at home, and in the workplace.” 5 Leo S. Lo outlines a framework to assist librarians and students in developing more effective prompts for generative AI, a process called prompt engineering. As he states, using his framework, “librarians can help students develop critical thinking skills, improve their comprehension of AI-generated content, and optimize AI-based research processes.” 6 It is also important to raise awareness among students of the potential problems associated with AI including accuracy, hallucinations, bias, ethical issues, and environmental impact. Some institutions have begun developing workshop series to discuss and facilitate conversations with students about these issues, 7 and the University of Florida has started an AI Across the Curriculum initiative to introduce all undergraduate students to AI and better prepare them for the future workforce. 8

Academic libraries have also been pursuing possible roles for AI within the library itself. This has included setting up AI research spaces, exploring robotics, investigating ethical issues and implicit bias in machine learning, and experimenting with using AI to classify images, refine metadata, and improve discovery. 9 Many also see a broader role for libraries within the AI landscape. Fiona Bradley calls for libraries to be involved in AI discussions at the national level and notes that “the sector is already participating in consultations and processes to ensure that the future of AI is rights-based, ethical, and transparent.” 10

Open Pedagogy and Instructional Design

Although open educational resource (OER) initiatives are not new, libraries have recently begun expanding their impact by investigating the potential to enrich student learning through open pedagogy. In their timely book, Mary Ann Cullen and Elizabeth Dill explore the foundation, approaches, and implementation of open pedagogy as a strategy for information literacy in higher education. 11 Open pedagogy requires students to be actively involved in the design, creation, and curation of OER learning materials through renewable assignments. These assignments invite students to contribute to the production and dissemination of knowledge, pushing them past more traditional library projects. Wikipedia assignments are among the most popular forms of renewable assignments, encouraging students to find, evaluate, and improve upon the information on its pages. 12 Other examples of renewable assignments include creating research toolkits, online courses, ebooks, and living websites. 13 Each of these renewable assignments allows students to see themselves as active creators of information rather than passive consumers.

According to Eric Werth and Katherine Williams, to increase student motivation, “OER-enabled pedagogy must be structured in a way that allows autonomy, competence, and relatedness.” 14 Aligning OER projects with practical and real-world knowledge can positively impact student engagement. 15 At the heart of this engagement is inclusive practice. By creating a supportive environment where all students have access to the same materials, instructors foster inclusivity in their courses. 16 Instructors can also motivate students to see the value of open pedagogy by helping them find their own interests and passion within these assignments, 17 showing students that they have control over their content, 18 and demonstrating that their work can have a global impact. 19

Concerns have been raised about the high workload and long-term sustainability of open pedagogy. Kate McNally Carter and Ariana Santiago find that “workload was often minimized or entirely overlooked as a factor in many studies in favor of highlighting student success outcomes” and advise working toward sustainability by creating adaptable renewable assignments that can fit into many contexts and subject areas. 20 Bryan McGeary, Christopher Guder, and Ashwini Ganeshan further suggest that broad groups of staff should contribute to this important work for OER-enabled pedagogy to be sustainable. 21

Open Science and Reproducibility

As early advocates for open access and research data management, libraries are now assessing their potential roles in the burgeoning open science movement, which increasingly emphasizes equity, collaboration, reproducibility, security, and privacy in supporting the whole research ecosystem. 22 Much of this recent interest in open science has been spurred by the federal government, with US agencies collaborating on the Year of Open Science campaign, and NASA launching its Transform to Open Science (TOPS) initiative and Open Science 101 virtual training. 23 At the institutional level, many universities and libraries have joined the Higher Education Leadership Initiative for Open Scholarship (HELIOS Open), which aims to collaborate on “a more transparent, inclusive, and trustworthy research ecosystem” through presidential commitment, campus engagement, and communities of practice. 24

As open scholarship gains momentum, libraries face growing calls to expand their roles beyond technical support. Authors from UNESCO emphasize the need for libraries to be “a bridge between local contexts and the global scholarly community,” 25 while LIBER (Association of European Research Libraries) identifies “advancing open science” as a core component of its strategy, aiming for libraries to “stimulate, facilitate, co-develop and manage infrastructures and practices designed to take Open Science to the next level.” 26 Reflecting these calls, a recent book from ACRL positions open science as “an emerging synthesis of the various streams of open.” 27 It recommends changes to incentive structures and urges consolidation of siloed services to create an open infrastructure aligned with open research values and available equally to all researchers. By promoting open practices and facilitating infrastructure development, libraries can solidify their place as leaders in the evolving open scholarship landscape.

As advocates for open science, libraries also contribute to one of its key outcomes: reproducibility. 28 This new area of service requires librarians to become deeply integrated in research communities, understanding researchers’ needs and tools while simultaneously leveraging their unique position as institutional hubs to connect stakeholders and research services partners. 29 Thanks to stricter National Institutes of Health demands for research rigor and reproducibility, health science librarians have emerged as key players in educating researchers on these topics. Their success stories showcase libraries’ potential to deliver valuable instruction in this crucial area, while also underlining the critical need for collaborative partnerships to further enhance research reproducibility services. 30

Open Access and Equitable Publishing

In the wake of recent calls for more open research publication practices, researchers have been exploring the impact of article processing charges, transformative agreements, open access models, and new policy development on equity and access in publishing practices.

Findings show that faculty perceptions of open access publishing have remained virtually the same over the past twenty years, citing commonplace challenges that have yet to be resolved: uncertainty around the prestige of open access journals, confusion around types of open access, and lack of clarity and acceptance of open access in the promotion and tenure process. 31 On the other hand, students increasingly rely on open access articles in their assignments. A study of community college students found that 56.8% of their citations were open access articles, with one key benefit being that they “will still have access to open access search tools after they are no longer in college.” 32

Within that context, many researchers feel that the open access movement has been co-opted by commercial publishers and are advocating for a return to scholar-led publishing communities. Discussing the global limitations of corporate publishing, several authors urge libraries and consortia to support their research communities by avoiding bundled publishing service agreements, contributing to scholar-led initiatives, and redistributing funds to support the Global South. 33 In addition, there is growing understanding that open access does not necessarily mean universal accessibility. Multiple authors have shed light on the inequities within open access publishing, including design practices and publishing cost structures that are exclusionary; researchers recommend libraries focus on integrating accessibility practices into design 34 and support bibliodiversity to emphasize “the critical diversity of authors and scholarly works representing cultures, languages, genres and all kinds of scholarly and scientific endeavours.” 35

A series of new tools and proposals have recently been released to guide libraries and scholars as they work to support a values-driven publishing ecosystem. These guidelines call for systems that enable scholars to choose when their research is made public and decenter the journal article as the sole object of importance in the research lifecycle, 36 encourage libraries to align their publishing infrastructure and practices with key values and ethical frameworks, 37 and propose helping “new and established open access journals in navigating the rapidly changing landscape of open access publishing.” 38

Disrupting and Reconceiving Collection Practices

While there had been actions and initiatives relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in libraries before 2020, much of that effort consisted of broad advocacy and raising awareness. 39 Libraries are increasingly recognizing that making good on public statements will require firm resource commitments, disruption of existing systems, and sustained action in multiple arenas. 40 This work requires deep reflection and disruption: deconstructing systems for collecting and describing materials, deconstructing myths of librarian authority, and deconstructing student assumptions about information.

In recent years, libraries have begun putting more attention and action into re-evaluating library collections and collection management practices. Auditing collections through a social justice lens or to address colonialist and Euro-centric practices involves re-examining values, defining what “diversity” means in the context of collections, and setting tangible markers for progress. 41 In setting these parameters, it’s important to “embrace imperfection,” 42 which might include defining a more targeted goal or an initial starting point. 43 In each case, these efforts are leading to a re-examination of acquisition practices and systems, including approval plans and demand-driven acquisition programs, which may “amplify biases already present in the higher education and publishing industries.” 44

In addition to reallocating collection funds, libraries acting to make their collections more diverse and inclusive are reconsidering personnel commitments and involving more people in collection activities. Reversing earlier trends, some libraries are increasing staff time on collection development and cataloging, and they are partnering with underrepresented communities to select and describe materials. 45 This involves multiple points of outreach and consultation over the course of a project, and it requires libraries to embrace the complexities that their partners share about working with multiple communities. 46 Regardless of approach, libraries will need to consider how to sustain these improvements in collection building and management practices throughout changes in budgets, leadership, and staffing levels. 47

Politicization of Academic Libraries

The landscape of academic libraries continues to be significantly impacted and shaped by a highly political and polarizing climate. As academic libraries navigate this landscape, it becomes crucial for them to strike a balance between neutrality and civic engagement, acknowledging the inherent political dimensions of their collections, programs, and spaces. They must continue to maintain an active role in the enactment of democracy, despite ongoing and future threats.

Renowned scholar John Buschmann contends in several scholarly publications that libraries historically play an important role in the democratic fabric of society and navigate crises while persisting through terrorist acts, 48 politically charged environments, 49 and pandemics. 50 Even during extreme geopolitical crises like wars and international sanctions, libraries are implicated as active participants in affecting and responding to the complex sociopolitical environment they inhabit. 51 In trying to counter fake news rhetoric, libraries can unintentionally be drawn into political processes by simply providing research services and fighting misinformation and disinformation. 52 In one study, several land-grant university library websites were analyzed and found to indeed be “serving as significant providers of political information during politically turbulent times.” 53

Although censorship of library collections using “book bans” has primarily affected public libraries, academic libraries now find they too are being drawn into this heated dialogue, especially surrounding social justice, DEI, and antiracism initiatives. Zoë Abbie Teel contends that anti-DEI legislation may extend its impact to potentially influence library policies and acquisitions, including “the availability of certain materials’’ that may be seen as promoting DEI. 54 The question of whether libraries can remain “neutral” in the face of social injustice has created debate among library practitioners. 55 Steve Rosato discusses the role of academic librarians and publishers as “vanguards” of critical DEI content, 56 and Annis Lee Adams presents an array of antiracism resources to support library staff, emphasizing the active role libraries play in addressing racial issues. 57 Libraries can also amplify their antiracism resources by partnering with other campus stakeholders. 58 Two articles highlight the need for libraries to actively support inclusivity, with Qing H. Stellwagen and Steven Bingo emphasizing cultural celebrations as a means of creating a sense of community on campus 59 and Silvia Vong discussing the impact of racial capitalism on academic librarians and libraries, specifically focusing on issues of representation and equity within library staff. 60

Anti-DEI Legislation, Academic Freedom, and Unionization

In recent years, academic librarians and library staff have experienced the growing challenge of low morale and burnout. 61 Compounding this for many staff, a recent wave of anti-DEI legislation has been introduced and passed in many states. These laws impose restrictions on DEI offices, staff training, diversity statements, and “identity-based preferences for hiring and admissions,” with one state’s legislation compelling public colleges to designate “agents” to oversee “prohibitions on DEI spending.” 62 Some states have also severed ties with the American Library Association (ALA) 63 amid allegations that the association is constrained by its perspectives on gender ideology and a left-leaning bias. 64

The contentious atmosphere surrounding library associations and the uptick in book challenges, particularly against titles by or about LGBTQIA+ people and people of color or relating to DEI content, 65 have implications for academic libraries and academic freedom in particular. The Association of American University Professors emphasizes the significance of “academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance” in providing a foundation for faculty members. 66 Tenure is seen as a crucial safeguard against the censorship and book banning observed in school libraries, ensuring impartiality and protecting academic libraries. 67

Unions may also play a role in protecting academic freedom. Higher education has witnessed an increase in union activities, strikes, and labor activism recently. 68 The pandemic has played a role in sparking these efforts, with one author suggesting it “exacerbated existing issues and brought up new ones,” 69 and 2023–24 ALA President Emily Drabinski has recognized the role of unions in protecting library workers from extremist groups, censorship, and unsafe conditions. 70 Library unions provide guarantees for fair wages, 71 improved working conditions, 72 the preservation of academic freedom, 73 and protection against unilateral decision-making, such as institutional reorganization and reimagining library workers’ research and roles. 74 The recent increase in union activities reflects a growing recognition of the power of collective bargaining to address the multifaceted challenges facing academic libraries in the current sociopolitical climate.

Post-pandemic Workplace and Hybrid Work Environments

The pandemic triggered widespread soul-searching, leading librarians to re-evaluate their priorities and seek workplaces aligned with their values. Not immune from “The Great Reshuffle,” many library staff have considered leaving their positions due to pandemic stress and lack of intrinsic motivators like work-life balance and growth. In a recent survey of academic librarians, nearly half said they were thinking of leaving their job “about half the time or more.” 75 When they remain, they want to have a role in defining the future. In one study, librarians “repeatedly emphasized the need for working conditions going forward to be governed through collegiality and conversation, rather than defaulting to the pre-pandemic organizational norms.” 76 Andrea Falcone and Lyda Fontes McCartin suggest that libraries must adapt to this shift by prioritizing talent retention through improved compensation, workload management, and flexible work options. 77 At the same time, perceived inequities within libraries and universities can fuel dissatisfaction and burnout. 78 Academic librarians may also risk burnout due to the emotional labor inherent in their work: “Meeting the societal and user expectations of being a librarian requires simultaneously regulating or performing one’s own emotions and interpreting, managing, and responding to the emotions of users.” 79 Effective prevention requires emotional literacy and supportive leadership that acknowledges the emotional toll and promotes decompression strategies, especially for librarians of color who often bear the brunt of this burden. 80

In this new workplace environment, many libraries are embracing flexible work arrangements as one strategy for addressing dissatisfaction and burnout. “Many workers now perceive pre-pandemic work modalities and workplace expectations as unnecessary, unrealistic, and undesirable, and employers have taken notice of the shift in employee attitudes.” 81 In fact, recent surveys have shown that three-quarters of academic libraries now offer hybrid work environments with flexible work arrangements. These same studies note that remote work offers benefits like greater productivity and reduced stress while onsite work fosters better onboarding, engagement, and team building. As a result, even when flexible work arrangements are available, usage by staff varies widely, suggesting a diverse workforce with a range of preferences. 82 To foster trust, knowledge, empathy, and community in such a hybrid environment, institutions must acknowledge its complexities and invest in intentional efforts to rebuild a strong academic workplace culture. 83 This new hybrid environment may also require redesigning staff spaces and setting new priorities for onsite work. The physical office is predicted to transform into a space for building social connections, fostering learning, and sparking innovation, which will necessitate intentional leadership that prioritizes face-to-face interaction and facilitates collaboration within a redesigned office environment. 84

Makerspaces and Tech Spaces

Designed for innovative and creative experimentation, makerspaces are defined as “low- and high-tech communal learning environments where people can create, build, and invent with digital and fabrication tools.” 85 While makerspaces started mostly in engineering departments, libraries quickly adopted the idea to become leaders in innovation through technology. In fact, the library is now the most common place for a makerspace to live on an academic campus. 86 Makerspaces found in academic libraries tend to “focus on digital fabrication, using computerized software-driven equipment,” with 3D printers and laser cutters being “the most commonly described equipment in Makerspaces in the research literature.” 87

As libraries continue to assess their user needs, support for these spaces is increasingly important. However, maintaining a thriving makerspace does not come without challenges, which include proper staffing and financial support for costly technology. 88 Despite these challenges, librarians are collaborating more through their makerspaces to amplify student engagement in the library. While not every endeavor has been successful, initiatives like the 3D Selfie Booth 89 and Game Jam 90 showcase library staff’s creativity and highlight positive interactions with makerspace technology, leading authors to express interest in deeper collaboration.

By analyzing student learning styles against major typologies of learning, the effectiveness of the makerspace on student engagement becomes clear. Students using these spaces learn through creation and interaction—with a community, experts, and a real-world environment. In makerspaces, “students are engaging in both content and culture knowledge and skills along with communication, management, ingenuity, and self-awareness.” 91 Students who visit makerspaces on a regular basis are more inclined to continue their use over time, indicating that ongoing engagement is crucial for students to perceive the usefulness of the space. 92

Makerspaces enable students to build self-efficacy, explore their entrepreneurial spirit, 93 and learn skills that will last them long past their academic career. Evolving alongside patron needs, academic libraries are integrating makerspaces into their future vision, offering access to new technologies, collaborative opportunities, and platforms for exploring personal interests. 94

Supporting Student Well-being Post-pandemic

The changes to learning environments and increased social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic had a mental health impact on current and incoming college students including increased rates of depression and anxiety. 95 Academic libraries are adopting new strategies to address student mental health and well-being that go beyond scholarship to support for the whole student. 96 The “whole-university” approach is in use in some institutions with libraries serving as a vital part of an interconnected team of university offices working together to support student mental health. 97 These efforts align with trends focused on offering more personalized, socially centered service in libraries, 98 and they also relate to initiatives to support the evolving usage of library space. Students value the library as a social space and visit libraries as a way to overcome social isolation and find community. 99 For example, students in a recent focus group study noted using physical library spaces to socialize and de-stress 100 while librarians at Virginia Commonwealth University created a guide with audio and visual resources to help students re-create the library mood from home during the pandemic. 101 As another way to prioritize student wellness, libraries are adding leisure reading collections to support mindfulness, 102 and they are weaving mindfulness practices into information literacy instruction. 103 Academic librarians have also been looking inward, acknowledging the emotional work involved in supporting students and managing change through the pandemic. 104

The future holds many hurdles for academic librarians, such as the possible impacts of AI on higher education and the uncertainty of recurring operating and materials budgets. We are simultaneously thrilled by the new possibilities for hybrid teamwork and workspaces, the growing demand for diverse viewpoints, and the integration of innovative methods to provide access to our common resources. These challenges will require new policies and practices, but they will also enable us to innovate, adapt, and respond to complex and evolving phenomena in our common pursuit of supporting student achievement and enhancing teaching, learning, and academic research.

  • Andrew M. Cox and Suvodeep Mazumdar, “Defining Artificial Intelligence for Librarians,” Journal of Librarianship and Information Science , published ahead of print (December 22, 2022), https://doi.org/10.1177/09610006221142029 , p. 2.
  • Fiona Bradley, “Representation of Libraries in Artificial Intelligence Regulations and Implications for Ethics and Practice,” Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association 71, no. 3 (July 3, 2022): 189–200, https://doi.org/10.1080/24750158.2022.2101911 ; Mohammad Hosseini and Kristi Holmes, “The Evolution of Library Workplaces and Workflows via Generative AI,” College & Research Libraries 84, no. 6 (November 1, 2023): 836–42, https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.84.6.836 ; Aileen B. Houston and Edward M. Corrado, “Embracing ChatGPT: Implications of Emergent Language Models for Academia and Libraries,” Technical Services Quarterly 40, no. 2 (April 3, 2023): 76–91, https://doi.org/10.1080/07317131.2023.2187110 .
  • Matthew Hutson, “Could AI Help You to Write Your Next Paper?,” Nature 611, no. 7934 (October 31, 2022): 192–93, https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-03479-w .
  • Lauren Coffey, “AI, the Next Chapter for College Librarians,” Inside Higher Ed , November 3, 2023, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/tech-innovation/libraries/2023/11/03/ai-marks-next-chapter-college-librarians .
  • Duri Long and Brian Magerko, “What Is AI Literacy? Competencies and Design Considerations,” in Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ‘20: CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Honolulu HI USA: ACM, 2020), 1–16, https://doi.org/10.1145/3313831.3376727 , p. 2.
  • Leo S. Lo, “The CLEAR Path: A Framework for Enhancing Information Literacy through Prompt Engineering,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 49, no. 4 (July 2023): 102720, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2023.102720 , p. 3.
  • Amanda Wheatley and Sandy Hervieux, “Separating Artificial Intelligence from Science Fiction: Creating an Academic Library Workshop Series on AI Literacy,” in The Rise of AI: Implications and Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Academic Libraries , ACRL Publications in Librarianship 78 (Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries, 2022), 61–70.
  • Jane Southworth, Kati Migliaccio, Joe Glover, Ja’Net Glover, David Reed, Christopher McCarty, Joel Brendemuhl, Aaron Thomas, “Developing a Model for AI Across the Curriculum: Transforming the Higher Education Landscape via Innovation in AI Literacy,” Computers and Education: Artificial Intelligence 4 (2023): 100127, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.caeai.2023.100127 .
  • Sandy Hervieux and Amanda Wheatley, eds., The Rise of AI: Implications and Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Academic Libraries , ACRL Publications in Librarianship 78 (Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries, 2022).
  • Bradley, “Representation of Libraries in Artificial Intelligence,” 196.
  • Mary Ann Cullen and Elizabeth Dill, eds., Intersections of Open Educational Resources and Information Literacy (Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries, 2022).
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  • Eric Werth and Katherine Williams, “What Motivates Students about Open Pedagogy? Motivational Regulation through the Lens of Self-Determination Theory,” International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 22, no. 3 (August 1, 2021): 34–54, https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v22i3.5373 , p. 48.
  • Vanessa Arce and Rena D Grossman, “Students Speak: Animating Stories about the Value of Information,” in Intersections of Open Educational Resources and Information Literacy , ed. Mary Ann Cullen and Elizabeth Dill (Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries, 2022), 199–211; Trust, Maloy, and Edwards, “College Student Engagement in OER Design Projects.”
  • Lauren Hays and Melissa N. Mallon, “Using OER to Promote Inclusion in Higher Education Institutions,” Currents in Teaching & Learning 12, no. 2 (January 2021): 20–33; Wallis, White, and Kerr, “High Structure Renewable Assignments.”
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  • Trust, Maloy, and Edwards, “College Student Engagement in OER Design Projects.”
  • Kate McNally Carter and Ariana Santiago, “Exploring Sustainability in Library Support for Open Pedagogy Collaborations,” Communications in Information Literacy 17, no. 1 (June 1, 2023): 238–59, https://doi.org/10.15760/comminfolit.2023.17.1.3 , p.241.
  • Bryan McGeary, Christopher Guder, and Ashwini Ganeshan, “Opening up Educational Practices through Faculty, Librarian, and Student Collaboration in OER Creation: Moving from Labour-Intensive to Supervisory Involvement,” Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library & Information Practice & Research 16, no. 1 (January 2021): 1–27, https://doi.org/10.21083/partnership.v16i1.6149 .
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  • Renae J. Watson, Khaleedah Thomas, and Kristine Nowak, “Adhocking It: Overcoming the Overwhelm to Start Creating: Equitable and Inclusive Collections Now,” in Practicing Social Justice in Libraries , ed. Alyssa Brissett and Diana Moronta (Routledge, 2023); Jessica M. Abbazio, Avery Boddie, and Ellen Ogihara, “Music Libraries and an Expanding Repertory: Suggested Strategies for Building Diverse Music Library Collections,” Notes (Music Library Association) 78, no. 3 (2022): 353–79, https://doi.org/10.1353/not.2022.0005 ; Veronica Wells, Michele Gibney, and Mickel Paris, “Student Learning and Engagement in a DEI Collection Audit: Applying the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy,” College & Research Libraries News 83, no. 8 (2022), https://doi.org/10.5860/crln.83.8.335 .
  • Lori Jahnke, Kyle Tanaka, and Christopher Palazzolo, “Ideology, Policy, and Practice: Structural Barriers to Collections Diversity in Research and College Libraries,” College & Research Libraries 83, no. 2 (2022), https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.83.2.166 , p. 175.
  • Bledsoe et al., “Leading by Diversifying Collections.”
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  • Adebowale Adetayo, Khadijat Ajayi, and Ranmilowo Komolafe, “Wars and Sanctions: Do Libraries Have a Role to Play?,” The Reference Librarian 63, no. 3 (July 3, 2022): 102–17, https://doi.org/10.1080/02763877.2022.2100559 .
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  • Adrienne Lu, “Here’s What Florida’s Proposed Anti-DEI Regulations Would Ban,” The Chronicle of Higher Education , October 12, 2023, https://www.chronicle.com/article/heres-what-floridas-proposed-anti-dei-regulations-would-ban .
  • Andrew Atterbury, “Florida Joins Conservative States Severing Ties with National Library Group,” POLITICO Pro, October 31, 2023, https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2023/10/florida-joins-conservative-states-severing-ties-with-national-library-organization-ala-00124516 ; Madalaine Elhabbal, “Montana State Library Commission Breaks Ties with American Library Association Over New President,” CatholicVote (blog), July 11, 2023, https://catholicvote.org/mt-state-library-commission-breaks-ties-with-ala/ .
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  • Raymond Garcia, “American Library Association Reports Record Number of Demands to Censor Library Books and Materials in 2022,” ALAnews, March 2023, https://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2023/03/record-book-bans-2022 .
  • Diana Castillo and Kelly McElroy, “Solidarity Is for Librarians: Lessons from Organizing,” In the Library with the Lead Pipe , August 24, 2022, https://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2022/solidarity/ .
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  • Ryan Quinn, “Report: Higher Ed Unions and Strikes Surged in 2022, 2023,” Inside Higher Ed , September 1, 2023, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/quick-takes/2023/09/01/higher-ed-unions-strikes-surged-2022-2023 .
  • Colleen Flaherty, “When Librarians Unionize,” Inside Higher Ed , January 11, 2022, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/01/12/northwestern-librarians-unionize-following-furloughs-cuts .
  • Emily Drabinski, “Facing Threat of Far Right Violence, Library Workers Seek Safety in Unionization,” Truthout, December 16, 2022, https://truthout.org/articles/facing-threat-of-far-right-violence-library-workers-seek-safety-in-unionization/ .
  • Liam Knox, “School Starts With a Strike at American University,” Inside Higher Ed , August 22, 2022, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/08/23/american-u-staff-strike-higher-wages .
  • Flaherty, “When Librarians Unionize.”
  • Castillo and McElroy, “Solidarity Is for Librarians.”
  • Josh Moody, “Texas A&M Weighs Sweeping Changes to Library,” Inside Higher Ed , May 15, 2022, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/05/16/texas-am-considers-making-sweeping-changes-library .
  • Amy F. Fyn, Amanda Foster Kaufman, and Christina Heady, “Academic Librarian Turnover and Leadership Amidst the Great Reshuffle,” in Forging the Future: ACRL 2023 Proceedings (Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries, 2023), https://www.ala.org/acrl/conferences/acrl2023/papers , p. 2.
  • Amy McLay Paterson, “‘Just The Way We’ve Always Done It’: Who Shapes The New Normal for Academic Libraries?,” Canadian Journal of Academic Librarianship / Revue Canadienne de Bibliothéconomie Universitaire 8 (2022): 1–25, https://doi.org/10.33137/cjal-rcbu.v8.38476 , p.15.
  • Andrea Falcone and Lyda Fontes McCartin, “Strategies for Retaining and Sustaining the Academic Librarian Workforce in Times of Crises,” Journal of Library Administration 62, no. 4 (May 19, 2022): 557–63, https://doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2022.2057132 .
  • Fyn, Kaufman, and Heady, “Academic Librarian Turnover and Leadership Amidst the Great Reshuffle.”
  • Matthew Weirick Johnson and Sylvia Page, “What’s in a Workload? Affect, Burnout, and Complicating Capacity in Academic Librarians,” in Academic Librarian Burnout: Causes and Responses (Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries, 2022), https://escholarship.org/uc/item/6w86w41v , p. 52.
  • Johnson and Page, “What’s in a Workload?”
  • Ashlea Green, “Academic Library Employees and Their Work Modality Options and Preferences,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 49, no. 5 (September 1, 2023): 102764, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2023.102764 , p. 1.
  • Green, “Academic Library Employees and Their Work Modality Options and Preferences”; Daniel Pfeiffer, “New Data Reveal the Future of Remote Work in Libraries,” Choice 360 (blog), February 5, 2024, https://www.choice360.org/libtech-insight/new-data-reveal-the-future-for-remote-work-in-libraries/ .
  • Joshua Kim, “Hybrid Work and the University Conversations We Need to Have,” Inside Higher Ed (blog), July 21, 2023, https://www.insidehighered.com/opinion/blogs/learning-innovation/2023/07/21/hybrid-work-and-university-conversations-we-need-have .
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  • Marijel (Maggie) Melo, Kimberly Hirsh, and Laura March, “Makerspaces in Libraries at U.S. Public Colleges and Universities: A Census,” portal: Libraries and the Academy 23, no. 1 (January 2023): 35–43, https://doi.org/10.1353/pla.2023.0007 , p.35.
  • Melo, Hirsh, and March, “Makerspaces in Libraries at U.S. Public Colleges and Universities.”
  • Emilia C. Bell, Stephanie Piper, and Carmel O’Sullivan, “Users’ Experiences in a Regional Academic Library Makerspace,” Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association 72, no. 2 (April 3, 2023): 135–49, https://doi.org/10.1080/24750158.2023.2202512 .
  • Lawren Wilkins and John DeLooper, “If You Build It, Will They Come? Reflections on Creating a Community College Library Makerspace,” Public Services Quarterly 17, no. 4 (October 2, 2021): 276–85, https://doi.org/10.1080/15228959.2021.1887049 .
  • Alex Watson, “To Thine Own 3D Selfie Be True: Outreach for an Academic Library Makerspace with a 3D Selfie Booth,” Information Technology and Libraries 42, no. 4 (December 18, 2023), https://doi.org/10.5860/ital.v42i4.15107 .
  • Amber Sewell, “Game Jams for Academic Libraries: Lessons Learned from a Collaboration with the Makerspace,” College & Research Libraries News 85, no. 1 (2024), https://doi.org/10.5860/crln.85.1.23 .
  • Megan Tomko, Melissa Alemán, Robert Nagel, Wendy Newstetter, Julie Linsey, “A Typology for Learning: Examining How Academic Makerspaces Support Learning for Students,” Journal of Mechanical Design 145, no. 9 (September 1, 2023): 091402, https://doi.org/10.1115/1.4062701 , p. 9.
  • Bala Haruna and K. Kiran, “Intrinsic Motivation as a Determinant of Perceived Usefulness of Library Makerspace: The Influence of Learning Dimensions,” Malaysian Journal of Library and Information Science 28, no. 1 (May 11, 2023): 15–34, https://doi.org/10.22452/mjlis.vol28no1.2 .
  • Sewell, “Game Jams for Academic Libraries.”
  • Sarita S. Rajan, Mohamed Esmail, and Mohamed Musthafa K., “Repositioning Academic Libraries as a Hub of Technology Enhanced Learning Space: Innovations and Challenges,” Library Philosophy and Practice , January 10, 2022, https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/6694 .
  • Jad A. Elharake, Faris Akbar, Amyn A. Malik, Walter Gilliam, and Saad B. Omer, “Mental Health Impact of COVID-19 among Children and College Students: A Systematic Review,” Child Psychiatry & Human Development 54, no. 3 (June 1, 2023): 913–25, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-021-01297-1 .
  • Marta Bladek, “Student Well-Being Matters: Academic Library Support for the Whole Student,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 47, no. 3 (May 1, 2021): 102349, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2021.102349 .
  • Liz Brewster and Andrew M. Cox, “Taking a ‘Whole-University’ Approach to Student Mental Health: The Contribution of Academic Libraries,” Higher Education Research & Development 42, no. 1 (January 2, 2023): 33–47, https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2022.2043249 .
  • Sheila Corrall, “The Social Mission of Academic Libraries in Higher Education,” in The Social Future of Academic Libraries: New Perspectives on Communities, Networks, and Engagement , ed. Paul Bracke, Sheila Corrall, and Tim Schlak (London: Facet, 2022), 109–48, https://doi.org/10.29085/9781783304738.007 .
  • Yujin Kim and Eunhwa Yang, “Academic Library Spaces and Student Activities during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 48, no. 4 (July 1, 2022): 102529, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2022.102529 .
  • Brendan Johnson, “Using the Physical Academic Library to Cope with Academic Stress,” Journal of Library Outreach and Engagement 3 (September 7, 2023): 35–49, https://doi.org/10.21900/j.jloe.v3.956 .
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  • Pauline Dewan, “Leisure Reading as a Mindfulness Activity: The Implications for Academic Reference Librarians,” The Reference Librarian 64, no. 1 (January 2, 2023): 1–16, https://doi.org/10.1080/02763877.2022.2156968 .
  • Selenay Aytac and Diane Mizrachi, “The Mindfulness Framework for Implementing Mindfulness into Information Literacy Instruction,” The Reference Librarian 63, no. 1–2 (April 3, 2022): 43–61, https://doi.org/10.1080/02763877.2022.2030273 .
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what is the importance of a literature review

PERFORMANCE EVALUATION IN THE PORT SECTOR: A SYSTEMATIC LITERATURE REVIEW

  • Jéssica Carvalho da Silva Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina
  • Sandra Ensslin

This study aims to map characteristics of port performance evaluation articles that addressed port efficiency, to verify the types and functions of the metrics presented in the studies and presents evolution of performance evaluation in the port sector. Thus, a Bibliographic Portfolio was selected consisting of 149 scientific articles on the topic investigated. Data collection and analysis were carried out using the intervention instrument ProKnow-C. The results indicate that the majority of the portfolio presents port performance benchmarking (112 articles) and only 37 articles evaluate the performance of ports individually. It can be noted, although the control and communication functions of metrics are widely used in evaluation port performance, the improvement function is minimally explored. Likewise, it is noted that metrics that focus on predicting results are not widely used. However, despite the strong tendency to measure and compare port performance, it is possible to visualize that several studies in the area have presented concerns with management with regard to support for taking decision-making process, the importance of feedback from performance evaluation systems aimed at continuous improvement in the port sector, identifying bottlenecks and proposing improvements, forecasting productivity and costs, strategic management and evaluating performance from the perspective of stakeholders. The contribution of this study is made in a theoretical and practical way through the presentation of a thorough review of the discipline under study and addressing how to position the use of metrics to evaluate the ports performance, demonstrating their functions and types, and pointing out opportunities for future research.

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Title: a structured review of literature on uncertainty in machine learning & deep learning.

Abstract: The adaptation and use of Machine Learning (ML) in our daily lives has led to concerns in lack of transparency, privacy, reliability, among others. As a result, we are seeing research in niche areas such as interpretability, causality, bias and fairness, and reliability. In this survey paper, we focus on a critical concern for adaptation of ML in risk-sensitive applications, namely understanding and quantifying uncertainty. Our paper approaches this topic in a structured way, providing a review of the literature in the various facets that uncertainty is enveloped in the ML process. We begin by defining uncertainty and its categories (e.g., aleatoric and epistemic), understanding sources of uncertainty (e.g., data and model), and how uncertainty can be assessed in terms of uncertainty quantification techniques (Ensembles, Bayesian Neural Networks, etc.). As part of our assessment and understanding of uncertainty in the ML realm, we cover metrics for uncertainty quantification for a single sample, dataset, and metrics for accuracy of the uncertainty estimation itself. This is followed by discussions on calibration (model and uncertainty), and decision making under uncertainty. Thus, we provide a more complete treatment of uncertainty: from the sources of uncertainty to the decision-making process. We have focused the review of uncertainty quantification methods on Deep Learning (DL), while providing the necessary background for uncertainty discussion within ML in general. Key contributions in this review are broadening the scope of uncertainty discussion, as well as an updated review of uncertainty quantification methods in DL.

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  • Published: 03 June 2024

Patients’ expectations surrounding revision total hip arthroplasty: a literature review

  • Omar Mohammad   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-3054-2578 1 ,
  • Shahril Shaarani 2 ,
  • Adnan Mohammad 3 &
  • Sujith Konan 2  

Arthroplasty volume  6 , Article number:  28 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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Revision total hip arthroplasties (RTHA) are associated with a higher complication rate than primary total hip arthroplasties (THA), and therefore it is important for patients to have realistic expectations regarding outcomes. The aim of this literature review was to gather and summarize the available evidence on patients’ expectations following RTHA.

A literature search was conducted in PubMed, PsycINFO, Cochrane, Google Scholar, Web of Science and Embase from inception to November 2023. Articles assessing patient expectations for RTHA were included. Methodological quality was assessed by two independent reviewers using the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH) study quality assessment tool for observational cohort and cross-sectional studies. A qualitative analysis was performed involving the summarization of study characteristics and outcomes.

The search strategy generated 7,450 references, of which 5 articles met the inclusion criteria. Methodological quality scores ranged from 7–10. Patients had high expectations concerning future walking ability, pain and implant longevity relative to actual postoperative outcomes. A significant positive correlation was found between fulfilled expectations of pain and walking ability and patient satisfaction ( r  = 0.46–0.47). Only two studies assessed the fulfillment of patient expectations. Great variability was seen in the measurement of expectations.

Patients undergoing RTHA appeared to have high expectations for pain and functionality compared to postoperative outcomes. However, there was a paucity of high-quality data in this area, limiting the accuracy of the conclusion. Further research is needed, that emphasizes developing a sound theoretical framework for expectations, allowing for the consistent implementation of valid measurement tools for patient expectations.

Introduction

Total hip arthroplasty (THA) is a cost-effective procedure for improving a patient’s quality of life (QOL), pain, and function when conservative therapies have failed [ 1 , 2 , 3 ]. Despite the widely recognized success of THA, there is a certain level of risk that may necessitate a revision procedure. The incidence of revisions is on the rise and is projected to increase by 31% by 2030 in England & Wales, UK [ 4 ].

When compared to primary THA, revision THA (RTHA) is associated with higher rates of short- and long-term complications, elevated mortality rates, lower satisfaction, and smaller improvements in functional outcomes [ 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 ]. Whether patients undergo either primary or RTHA, they largely expect a reduction in pain and an improvement in both function and quality of life [ 12 , 13 , 14 , 15 ]. In the preoperative period, it is important to assess these expectations, to ensure that patients have a realistic perspective of the outcomes of the operation and are not dissatisfied. Aside from technical factors and the quality of existing bone, patient factors may also partially explain the less favourable outcomes of RTHA relative to primary THA [ 8 ].

There is a growing body of literature across a variety of medical specialties linking clinical outcomes with patients’ expectations and satisfaction. Patient satisfaction has been shown to lead to higher compliance and attendance for monitoring and follow-up care [ 16 ], which are integral factors in optimizing prosthesis longevity. Furthermore, patients’ expectations are strongly correlated with satisfaction, with satisfied patients having their expectations fulfilled [ 17 ] and unrealistic expectations being correlated with dissatisfaction [ 18 ]. This has led to increasing emphasis on measures of quality of life and patients’ feelings of satisfaction [ 19 , 20 ]. Therefore, as a reflection of this shift in emphasis, it has become essential to gain a better understanding of patients’ expectations.

Although patient expectations have been widely discussed in current primary THA research [ 17 , 18 , 21 ], there is an apparent sparsity in the RTHA literature. This literature review therefore aimed to comprehensively assess all relevant studies evaluating the expectations of patients undergoing RTHA, and how this in turn relates to post-operative outcomes where possible.

Materials and methods

Search strategy.

A comprehensive electronic literature search was performed in the following databases: PubMed, The Cochrane Library, Google Scholar, PsychINFO, Web of Science and Embase to identify eligible studies published until the 7th November 2023. Search terms were derived from MeSh terms in PubMed and free text terms relating to (1) hip arthroplasty, (2) revision and (3) expectations/expectancies (Table  1 ). Although Haanstra et al. offered distinct definitions for expectations and expectancies as being “cognitions regarding probable future events” and “the act or state of expecting” [ 22 ], the current literature uses the two terms interchangeably to show that an individual is “expecting something to occur in the future”. Therefore, whilst they are different concepts, no distinction was acknowledged between the two.

Inclusion criteria

The individual search results from each database were combined barring duplicates, and the remaining titles and abstracts were then screened against the inclusion criteria found below.

The studies had to meet the following inclusion criteria to be eligible:

The study included revision THA patients;

Patients’ expectations were assessed;

The study had to be written in English;

The patients were adults > 18 years of age.

If an article assessed both primary and RTHA groups but failed to report the data separately for each group, the study was excluded, as we would not be able to extract the relevant data.

Two reviewers (OM and SRS) independently assessed the full text articles, based on the title and abstract, against the inclusion criteria. If there was any uncertainty regarding the eligibility of a study the full text was examined. The results of the search are shown in Table  2 .

Data extraction and methodological quality assessment

The same two reviewers extracted relevant data from the included studies using a standardized data extraction form (Table  3 ). The form included information on study design, study population, follow-up period, measurement of expectations and outcome measurements. Moreover, data on the strength of the relationship between expectations and outcomes was extracted where possible (e.g., P -values and correlation coefficients).

Furthermore, the methodological quality of the selected studies was assessed using the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH) study quality assessment tool for observational cohort and cross-sectional studies [ 26 ]. Each study was judged on key concepts for internal validity, such as sample size, exposure/outcome measurement and compatibility of the groups. There were fourteen questions in total, for which studies could score a maximum of 14 points in sum. If there was any disagreement between the two reviewers, it was agreed that a discussion would be held to reach a point of consensus. This did not occur.

Data analysis

Due to the heterogeneity of the measurement of patients’ expectations in the studies identified, it was not possible to statistically pool the data in a meta-analysis. Instead, a qualitative analysis was performed involving the summarization of study characteristics and outcomes, as well as a methodological assessment using the NIH quality assessment tool. Studies were noted as poor quality if they scored 0–4, fair if they scored 5–10 and good if they scored 11–14 out of 14 questions [ 27 ].

Study selection process

The literature search retrieved a total of 7,450 records. After removal of duplicates ( n  = 162), records not in English ( n  = 382), non-human studies ( n  = 251) and studies not on adults aged > 18 ( n  = 1,876), a total of 4,779 papers remained. After screening of the titles and abstracts, 4,742 studies were excluded, as they either did not assess patient expectations, did not include revision THA or were review articles. This left a total of 37 studies for further investigation. After full-text assessment, a further 32 articles were excluded, leaving 5 articles that met all the inclusion criteria [ 12 , 14 , 23 , 24 , 25 ] and were subsequently included in this review (Fig.  1 ).

figure 1

Flowchart of literature search and selection process

Study characteristics

Five cohort studies were included in this review. The sample size ranged from 60 to 320 participants. Four studies only included RTHA [ 12 , 14 , 23 , 25 ] and one included both primary and RTHA [ 24 ]. In the assessment of expectations, two studies utilized a single item measurement which utilized either a three-point Likert-scale [ 23 ] or a six-point Likert-scale [ 25 ], two studies implemented a two-item instrument utilizing either a 4-point Likert scale [ 12 ] or a close-ended multiple-choice format [ 24 ]. One study modified the pre-existing Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC scale—a validated instrument) to assess patients’ expectations of pain, stiffness and physical function in 6 months after the revision operation [ 14 ]. Overall, no validated instruments were used in the assessment of patients’ expectations in revision THA across all studies.

Methodological quality

The average quality score was 9 out of 14 (range 7–9) (Table  2 ). As expected, the lowest scoring items were:

“Were the outcome assessors blinded to the exposure status of the participants?” —due to all studies having utilized a self-reported questionnaire;

“For exposures that can vary in amount or level, did the study examine different levels of the exposure as related to the outcome”;

“Was the exposure(s) assessed more than once over time?”—as the exposure was a single revision THA.

Other notable methodological shortcomings were the common lack of sample size justification and often absent statistical analyses of confounding variables.

Expectations

The measurement of patient expectations varied across the studies included in this review. Two studies focused on revision longevity expectations [ 23 , 24 ]. Barrack et al. implemented a single postoperative question concerning implant longevity and scaled responses using a 3-point Likert scale. Hellman et al. also measured implant longevity expectations using a single retrospective question and graded responses with close-ended multiple-choice questions.

One study prospectively measured the expectations of future pain and walking ability utilizing two questions scaled via a 4-point Likert scale [ 12 ]. One study assessed patients’ expectations of pain, stiffness and physical function utilizing the modified WOMAC scale [ 14 ]. These were measured prospectively and used a 5-point Likert scale. Two studies examined fulfillment of patients’ expectations after surgery [ 12 , 25 ]. Eisler et al. postoperatively assessed fulfillment of expectations with two questions and utilized a 4-point Likert scale. Zhang et al. used one postoperative question with a 6-point Likert scale. Only one study measured how this in turn correlated with patient satisfaction [ 12 ].

Patients’ expectations of pain were measured in two studies. Eisler et al. found that 92% of patients expected to have no pain or to have much less pain, and only 8% expected a slight reduction in pain. Haddad et al. reported an average score of 7.4/25 (CI 6.2–8.6) for pain, with a lower score conferring a low expectation of pain.

Function was assessed in two studies [ 12 , 14 ]. Eisler et al. noted that 82% of patients expected the same walking ability as after the first THA or markedly improved walking ability, 15%, slightly improved and 3%, no difference in walking ability. Haddad et al. reported an average expectation of 28.1/85 (CI 24.0–32.2) for physical activity, with a lower score indicating a higher expectation of function. Additionally, only Haddad et al. assessed expectations on stiffness, with an average expectation of 3.5/10 (CI 3.0–4.0) for stiffness, with a lower score indicating a lower expectation for stiffness.

Fulfilled expectations

Eisler et al. found that 55 and 69% of patients had fulfilled expectations regarding walking ability and pain. Furthermore, fulfilled expectations about pain and walking ability demonstrated a modest positive correlation with satisfaction ( r  = 0.46–0.47). The absence of complications was the only predictor of fulfilled pain expectations during the postoperative hospital period (odds ratio (OR) 4.8; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1–20.8). Zhang et al. found that at 6 months postoperatively, distressed patients had significantly lower rates of fulfilled expectations compared to non-distressed patients (64.5% vs. 94.1%, P  = 0.027). At 2 years postoperatively, this was no longer significantly different (63.6% vs. 79.3%, P  = 0.342).

Implant longevity

Two studies assessed patients’ expectations concerning the longevity of their revision THA [ 23 , 24 ]. Barrack et al. found that most patients, regardless of original implant longevity, expected their revision to last longer. In patients in whom the primary THA lasted < 5 years: 77% expected revision to last longer and in those where the primary lasted 5–10 years: 76% expected revision to last longer. If the primary lasted 10–15 years: 69% expected the revision to last longer and in those where the primary THA lasted > 15 years: 62% expected the revision to last longer. Hellman et al. found that 35% of patients expected the revision to last for the rest of their lives.

This review found that RTHA patients tend to have unrealistically high expectations regarding pain relief, improvement in movement, and implant longevity. Furthermore, distressed patients are less likely to have their expectations fulfilled postoperatively in the short term [ 25 ]. Given poorer outcomes with revision surgery versus primary THA, these expectations are unlikely to be fulfilled and may result in patient dissatisfaction [ 8 , 12 , 14 ]. Only one study [ 12 ] assessed how fulfillment of these expectations correlated with postoperative satisfaction, revealing a moderate positive correlation with expectations of pain and walking ability. However, overall, there is a paucity of research concerning expectations following RTHA procedures, despite the higher risk of complications [ 28 ]. Additionally, there is significant variability in the way expectations are measured.

Important areas that need to be addressed in future research include (1) The theoretical framework of expectations; (2) the measurement of expectations; (3) the correlation of psychological and other demographic factors and (4) the relationship between fulfilled expectations and satisfaction.

Firstly, none of the papers in this review provided a definition of patient expectations. The absence of a consistent theoretical framework for expectations lends itself to an increased propensity for the heterogeneous use of terminology and measurements. If left unaddressed, this can lead to research plagued by discontinuity and poor methodological quality. In the past, several reviews [ 29 , 30 , 31 ] have acknowledged patient expectations as being a complex multifaceted construct. Kravitz [ 31 ] made a distinct delineation between value (reflecting the patient’s wishes/hopes) and probability expectations (the likelihood that an event will occur). Furthermore, Bandura [ 32 ] separated efficacy from outcome expectations. Given the different perspectives on expectations, it is necessary to utilize a consistent framework to allow for accurate classification and subsequent assessment. For example, Hobbs et al. [ 33 ] successfully utilized the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) framework to classify patients’ expectations in primary THA. This involved assigning patients’ expectations to one of three domains: activity limitations, impairments to bodily function and structure, and participation restrictions. It was found that patients generally focused more on the recovery of valued activities rather than the reversal of their functional impairment. In future RTHA research investigating patient expectations, researchers should aim to map their findings to each of the core ICF constructs. If performed consistently, this has the potential to lead to more uniformity of definitions, better integration of data amongst different studies and improved validation of measurement instruments. Additionally, this method could be used to ascertain whether certain expectation domains, e.g., impairment, activity limitations or participation restriction expectations are predictors of patient reported outcome measures (PROMs).

As mentioned previously, the lack of a consistent theoretical framework for patient expectations has likely contributed to the absence of a valid and standardized measurement tool. This prevents the effective integration and comparison of data across studies [ 22 ]. Each study in this review implemented a unique instrument that was only used for one investigation. They often lacked a rationale behind their development, or data on reliability and validity, which limits the credibility of evidence collected. This issue has affected both primary THA research and research in other fields such as psychotherapy, where, for example, Constantino et al. [ 34 ] reported that the majority (67%) of measurements were of poor quality. A possible strategy may be to either adapt an already well-established patient-reported outcome tool (such as the WOMAC) or use a theory-guided approach, with testing in independent samples to gather data on reliability, construct validity and predictive validity. Alternatively, the Hospital for Special Surgery Total Hip Replacement Expectations Survey (HSS-HRES) could be used for RTHA patients. This survey is a well-validated 18-question expectations survey that is graded on a 5-point Likert scale and has been used effectively in past THA research [ 35 ]. Regardless, future researchers should aim to use a validated instrument.

Additionally, half of the studies included in this review measured patients’ expectations in the postoperative period. This is not optimal and increases the risk of bias, as the patients may not be able to accurately recall their preoperative expectations due to the time elapsed [ 36 ]. Furthermore, since patient dissatisfaction is secondary to a disequilibrium between expectations and fulfilled expectations [ 37 ], patients may therefore alter their expectations to match their current status, to prevent dissatisfaction [ 38 ]. A Canadian study in 2006, reported this phenomenon regarding total knee arthroplasty, where 35% of patients over- or underestimated their preoperative level of functioning [ 39 ]. However, there is another issue purported by Haanstra et al. which pertains to the timing of expectation measurement [ 22 ]. Given that patients’ expectations are likely to be widely influenced by their doctor, it is possible that the longer the patient is in contact with them and the later their expectations are measured, the more realistic and reliable they may be. Currently no investigation has measured the influence of time of measurement, but it is a variable to keep in mind, which could be offset by collecting data at different time points.

Moreover, only one study in this review collected data in the pre- and postoperative period to assess the percentage of fulfilled expectations, and only this study analyzed the correlation between fulfilled expectations and satisfaction [ 12 ]. Whilst expectations are an important preoperative factor, it is the fulfillment of these expectations that has been shown to be the more significant determinant of patient-reported outcomes and satisfaction [ 40 ]. High expectations are not inherently detrimental, but unrealistic expectations are [ 40 ]. Therefore, it is important to assess the percentage of patients with fulfilled expectations, as this information can be used to foster realistic, high expectations through effective preoperative education.

If patients are to be measured in the postoperative period, the length of the follow-up period needs to be addressed, as it may influence findings. Barlow et al. found that expectations may take up to two years post-surgery before they are fulfilled, due to function having the potential to improve for up to two years, alluding to the existence of a timing bias [ 41 ].

Finally, half of the available literature did not include a multivariate analysis of confounding variables such as age, gender, ethnicity and preoperative education level despite their influence on patient expectations [ 35 , 42 ]. Furthermore, psychological factors (depression, optimism and catastrophizing), which may interact with expectations or treatment outcomes, were rarely analyzed [ 22 ]. Future research should try to delineate these factors for further consideration.

A promising area of focus for future research is the consenting process. Patient recall of the consenting process, and the relevant risks and outcomes, is frequently poor [ 43 ]. A recent study demonstrated that patients undergoing THA, who were consented with the generic consent form, only recalled 0.67 risks four weeks after surgery. In contrast, those who were given a surgery-specific consent form, recalled 1.43 risks on average [ 44 ]. This surgery-specific consent form listed potential adverse events alongside appropriate explanations. With regards to RTHA, this could be implemented with the addition of a section on postoperative outcomes. This would help to ensure that patients have a better comprehension of the procedure and retain more information. This may, therefore, lead to more realistic expectations that can be fulfilled.

This study has limitations that need to be considered. Firstly, a meta-analysis was not possible due to the heterogeneity in the papers included and the poor standard of reporting. And so, we performed a qualitative analysis. However, a thorough, definitive analysis of the data is not possible using this method. Secondly, only a limited number of studies were available for review, due to the lack of research in this area. As a result, there are limited data available to analyse, which may not fully represent patient expectations. The data were also relatively old, with only 2 references being < 10 years ago. Patient expectations may have improved since then with changes in perioperative information. Therefore, the strength of conclusions made in the paper may not be accurate and should be taken with caution. Although a limitation, this highlights a clear deficit in current research that needs to be addressed.

As conclusions from RTHA literature are limited, we can look at adjacent literature concerning total knee arthroplasty (TKA), to better understand what patients tend to expect with a joint replacement procedure. Similarly, TKA patients have been shown to have unrealistically high expectations regarding postoperative pain, function and recovery [ 45 ]. Moreover, patient satisfaction has been shown to be highly correlated with expectation fulfillment [ 45 ]. Recent research has demonstrated improvements in patients’ WOMAC pain and satisfaction scores at over 1 year post operation in TKA patients, by setting realistic expectations [ 46 ]. Although a different procedure/patient demographic, these findings are similar to the current evidence base for RTHA and reinforce the importance of setting appropriate baseline patient expectations through perioperative counselling, to foster better PROMs.

A definitive conclusion is limited by the sparse data available. However, the current literature demonstrates that revision THA patients tend to have unrealistic expectations with regards to pain relief, function and implant longevity. Realistic patient education prior to surgery is necessary to avoid expectation/outcome mismatch and hence dissatisfaction. Nevertheless, this review demonstrates the lack of adequate research on patients’ expectations in revision THA, both in terms of absolute numbers, and methodological quality. More research is needed, which utilizes a standardized approach in assessment, in order to foster a better understanding of the relationship between patient expectations and postoperative outcome measures. Only then, can this information be effectively applied clinically to improve the outcome of revision THAs. We suggest counselling of patients before surgery and using a procedure-specific consent. As to collection of pre- and postoperative data—postoperative data should be collected at different points of time as the patients’ outcomes improve with time and so will the outcome and expectations. Patients-reported outcomes are a better tool to assess the patient outcomes.

Availability of data and materials

Not applicable.

Abbreviations

Total Hip Arthroplasty

Revision Total Hip Arthroplasty

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index

Patient reported outcome measure

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Mohammad, O., Shaarani, S., Mohammad, A. et al. Patients’ expectations surrounding revision total hip arthroplasty: a literature review. Arthroplasty 6 , 28 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42836-024-00250-6

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what is the importance of a literature review

Role of Magnesium in the Intensive Care Unit and Immunomodulation: A Literature Review

Affiliations.

  • 1 Santa Croce and Carle Hospital, Department of Emergency and Critical Care, 12100 Cuneo, Italy.
  • 2 Division of Anesthesiology, Department of Anesthesiology, Intensive care and Emergency Medicine, Ospedale Regionale di Lugano, 69000 Lugano, Switzerland.
  • 3 Department of Medicine and Surgery, University of Milan-Bicocca, 20900 Monza, Italy.
  • 4 Department of Prehospital Emergency Medicine, ASL TA, Italian Society of Prehospital Emergency Medicine (SIS 118), 74121 Taranto, Italy.
  • 5 Department of Neurology, Fondazione IRCCS San Gerardo dei Tintori, School of Medicine and Surgery, Milan Center for Neuroscience, University of Milano-Bicocca, 20900 Monza, Italy.
  • PMID: 37376511
  • PMCID: PMC10304084
  • DOI: 10.3390/vaccines11061122

Both the role and the importance of magnesium in clinical practice have grown considerably in recent years. Emerging evidence suggests an association between loss of magnesium homeostasis and increased mortality in the critical care setting. The underlying mechanism is still unclear, but an increasing number of in vivo and in vitro studies on magnesium's immunomodulating capabilities may shed some light on the matter. This review aims to discuss the evidence behind magnesium homeostasis in critically ill patients, and its link with intensive care unit mortality via a likely magnesium-induced dysregulation of the immune response. The underlying pathogenetic mechanisms, and their implications for clinical outcomes, are discussed. The available evidence strongly supports the crucial role of magnesium in immune system regulation and inflammatory response. The loss of magnesium homeostasis has been associated with an elevated risk of bacterial infections, exacerbated sepsis progression, and detrimental effects on the cardiac, respiratory, neurological, and renal systems, ultimately leading to increased mortality. However, magnesium supplementation has been shown to be beneficial in these conditions, highlighting the importance of maintaining adequate magnesium levels in the intensive care setting.

Keywords: critical care; immunomodulation; infections; magnesium.

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  29. Patients' expectations surrounding revision total hip arthroplasty: a

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