Monthly Archives: September 2016

Writing a Good Literature Review

Image result for literature review

There are different types of literature reviews; the most common types include narrative literature review, systematic literature review, meta-analysis, and meta-synthesis. Narrative literature reviews focus on critiquing and summarizing a body of literature and drawing conclusions about the subject of study (Bolderston, 2008). It is often conducted in the preliminary stages of a study with the aim of what has been covered and what is yet to be covered in the subject area, as well as, controversial issues. It also helps to refine the study’s research questions.

A systematic literature review focuses on examining the relevant of a given body of literature to the research topic. In a systematic literature review, you are expected to do more than just take the authors’ claims at face value by critiquing the methods that these authors have used to support their claims (Pautasso, 2013). A systematic literature review is more analytical that the traditional narrative literature review as it requires the reviewer to describe the methods and criteria used to search, select, and appraise material. It is considered an independent research project that should result in new findings rather than recite the outcomes of other studies. The main aim of a systematic review is to summarize the body of evidence so as to answer a research question.

A meta-analysis is similar to a systematic literature review, but the former uses statistical methods to analyze and compare the views presented in different publications (Bolderston, 2008). In this type of literature review, the student relies on statistical analysis rather than his or her subjective judgment when analyzing literature. Meta-synthesis is a type of literature review that focuses on integrating findings from different studies in order to support a given claim or thesis.

Selecting Materials for Your Lit Review

A systematic approach of selecting the literature is required for the review process to generate information that is beneficial to the study. You need to focus on reliable sources of information such as scholarly, peer-reviewed journal, government publication, and publications by respectable organizations. You also need to pay attention to the publication date of the research material. Ensure that most of the publications that form your literature review are less than five years old so as to ensure that your review is based on the most current information. For systematic literature review and meta-analyses, you need to develop criteria for search and selecting material prior to the study.

Method for Analyzing the Literature

The selected material should be analyzed and scrutinized using elaborate criteria. The criteria for analysis should focus on factors such as the quality of the content of the publication, the relevance of the content to your research topic, and the credibility and reliability of the methods used by the author to support his or her finding (Bolderston, 2008). The process of analysis should also focus on identifying the strength and limitation of each publication.  The analysis of literature can take two forms; between-study literature analysis and within-study literature analysis.

Within-study literature analysis entails an examination of the content of individual articles. It is a comprehensive and rigorous form of analysis that focuses on evaluating aspects such as the title of the article, theories, and conceptual frameworks, procedures used, discussions and results (Pautasso, 2013). Between-study literature analysis entails comparing and contrasting information from different articles or publications. This method of analysis focuses on comparing findings of various studies so as to come up with a general summary. The best literature review should combine the two methods of analyzing literature. First, the student should analyze each publication at the individual level and, then, integrate what he or she has found in each study to make a general summary regarding his or her research topic.

Reporting Findings

You also need to pay attention to the method that you apply in reporting the findings of your literature review. Poor presentation of finding can alter the quality of your literature review. It is best to use a thematic approach of reporting findings so as to ensure that there is a seamless flow of information. In case you are still having problem completing your thesis or dissertation literature review, you can get assistance from


Bolderston, A. (2008). Writing an effective literature review. Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences, 39 (2), 86- 92.

Pautasso, M. (2013). Ten simple rules for writing a literature review. PloS Computational Biology, 9 (7), 238- 247.