Review of the literature

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Last updated: April 26, 2019

Literature Review
Summary of current empirical and theoretical knowledge about particular practice problem that provides a basis for the study conductedNotes:In quantitative studies, review of literature..

Helps us interpret our findings for study. Helps us with conceptual definitions. Measurements we use to define variable.

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Qualitative studies may do this as collecting data.

Sources included in literature review
Theoretical literatureEmpirical literatureCitationPeriodicalMonographThesis and dissertation: research by master’s and doctoral degree students

Primary Sources
written by the person who generated the ideas published.. who actually did the research

Secondary Sources
paraphrase the works of researchers and theorists. Works of another researcher are quoted by an author.

Purposes of Literature Review in Quantitative Studies
Direct the development and implementation of a studyCite relevant and current sourcesDocument background and significance of studyIdentify theoretical ideas guiding the building of a body of knowledge for the selected area of studyProvides a basic understanding of the study problem and evidence that the study conducted was appropriate, based on current knowledge of the problemNotes: Tell us how to approach our study.

Sources must be within 5 years

Guidelines for Lit. Review
Includes what is known and not known about the topicIncludes the focus of the studySources must be within 5 yearsLandmark studies may be included if essential to the background of the problem

Conducting a lit. review
Process of examining an extensive number of research and theoretical sources to generate a picture of what is known and not known about a clinical problem

Identifying Relevant Research Sources
Before you begin, consider what information you are seekingDevelop a written plan of your search strategy

Start with a Search Strategy to Find Relevant Evidence
Search bibliographic databases via a computer.Use the ancestry approach ( Look at bibliography as a way of searching a topic)Use the descendancy (Look back at article to compare older studies to newer studies)

Library Sources
Academic libraries—colleges and universitiesSpecial libraries—hospitals, Sigma Theta Tau Center for Nursing Scholarship

Selecting databases
Bibliographic database: compilation of citations – Citation: provides information necessary to locate a referenceFull-text database: provides the entire text of articles for your useCommonly used databases in nursingCINAHL, Medline, OVID, EBSCOhost

most comprehensive nursing database. Has books, dissertations, theses, and allied health journalsAvailable Search fields: Accession number Special fields contained Authors Institution Title Source

much more comprehensive.

Covers medical journals as well as other health professions.

Major concepts or variables of a research problem or topic used to search a databaseMay be single terms or phraseMost databases have a thesaurus that can be used to identify keywordsEach keyword used should be listed in a written search plan

Reference Management software
Conduct searchesStore information on all search fieldsStore citation informationReference information can be inserted directly into text of paper with a keystroke or two using preferred style (e.g., APA)Two most commonly used software packages – ProCite – EndNote

Performing Complex Searches
Complex searches combine two or more concepts, synonyms, or keywords in one search using “and”Select keywords you have used to perform simple searchesUsing CINAHL with OVID software, click on Combine option at top of screen. A new screen lists your previous searches. Select two or more of the previous searches to combine.Other search engines may use the word “and” between two keywords

Limiting a search
Some searches will result in thousands of hitsTo reduce number of hits while increasing the relevance of citations, try the following strategies:Limit to English languageLimit the publication dates to recent yearsLimit to papers that are researchLimit to full-text articles (this can be risky)Abstract, study purpose, methods, review of lit, results, and conclusions. Research articles ONLY

Search Fields
Search fields are the various pieces of information provided about an article by the bibliographical databaseTo select search fields in CINAHL, select the Search Fields option at top of search pageOf particular importance, selecting “cited reference” will give you full references of all citations included in each article.

You may find “treasures” not included in the computer search.

Assessing web-based info
Advantage: information is more current than that found in booksDisadvantage: information is uneven in terms of accuracyExample: Wikipedia –There is no screening process for information put on the web–A considerable amount of misinformation can be found as well as some “gems” that might not be found elsewhere–It is important to check the source of any information obtained on the web to judge its validity–Web based info is not reviewed for truthfulness and accuracy.

Surfing the Web
Websites frequently provide links to other websitesThese appear as underlined or highlighted names Clicking on the link will take you to other websites with helpful informationFollowing these links is an important part of a web search–However, you may experience information overloadBe selective about what you retrieve while surfing–Professional organization websites are the only websites we can use.

Searching the Literature for Evidence of Best Practices
Literature reviews can be used to define the state of the science in a given area of practiceWhen results are published, these reviews are referred to as integrative reviews (Compiles several studies into one article) of literatureThe purpose is to identify, analyze, and synthesize results from independent studies to determine current knowledge in particular areaCan use paraphrasing

Development of Protocol or Critical Pathway
Integrative reviews are used to develop protocols and critical pathways (step by step process for a certain person until discharge. What you need to do for pt. like certain bloodwork, how/how often to turn pt. etc)This process is often used by nursing committees in health care facilities Studies are selected for inclusion based on their quality and relationship to selected practice problem

Selecting studies for integrative review
Read and critique studiesSelect those of highest qualityCompare purposes, methods, results, and findings of selected studiesDevelop table that includes essential information from each study so comparisons can be made (see Lit Review Table in your syllabus)

Synthesis of sources
Compile findings from all selected studiesAnalyze and interpret clustered findingsSpecify current state of research-based knowledge

Sources of integrated reviews
Annual Review of Nursing ResearchJournal: Evidence-Based NursingSigma Theta Tau Online Journal of Nursing SynthesisThe Cochrane Collaboration (www.cochrane.

org)The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality ( — Most important in terms of determining how to manage pts. Joanna Briggs Institute (


Writing a review of the literature
Purposes Document current knowledge of selected topic Indicate findings ready for use in practiceOutline Introduction Empirical literature Summary

Ethical issues in empirical lit
Content from studies must be presented honestly and not distorted to support selected use projectWeaknesses of study need to be addressed, but it is not necessary to be highly critical of a researcher’s work–Eliminate any study in which author gives opinions about a certain phenomenon. Should be very objective.–Criticism should focus on content, be related to your project, and be neutral and scholarly rather than negative and blaming–Sources should be accurately documented–Should never see that something proved a phenomenon. The word proved should never be used

3. Summary
Concise presentation of research knowledge about selected topic—what is known and not knownJudgment stating whether there is adequate knowledge to direct change in clinical practiceBrief statement of proposed change in practice

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