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Literature Reviews

"Literature review," "systematic literature review," "integrative literature review" -- These are terms used in different disciplines for the same thing, which is a rigorous examination of the scholarly literature about a topic.

How is a literature review different from a research paper?
A literature review is a critical review on the work of others. A research paper may have a literature review as a part of the paper, but it also has original research that develops new ideas, and typically has sections such as methodology and conclusion or discussion of results.

  • Write a Literature Review -- The library's guide to doing this!
  • Health Sciences Literature Review Made Easy
    -- This e-book is several editions old, but has basic information that's helpful
    -- This book is now sold only with an access code that only works for one person, so the library won't be buying it. But it will probably be helpful for several classes for at least the next few years, so you might consider buying the latest edition (the 5th)
  • Writing Center at UNC -- U North Carolina Chapel Hill has a very good guide about lit reviews and how to write them
  • Other books at our library -- These books are from 2012 to the present and are focused on literature in the health fields

How will you organize the articles and information that you find? Do a Matrix.

  • Using Google Sheets, Word, Excel, or whatever you want, create a table
  • The column headings should include the citation information, and the main points that you want to track, like this:

    [Attribution: This document was created by NC State University Writing and Speaking Tutorial Service Tutors during Fall 2006. Contributors were Laura Ingram, James Hussey, Michelle Tigani, and Mary Hemmelgarn. Special thanks to Stephanie Huneycutt for providing the sample matrix and paragraph.]
  • More pointers from Duquesne University
RefWorks Can Help
  • Use the tags and/or folders for keeping track of  topics within your review

What does "peer-reviewed" mean?

  • If an article has been peer-reviewed before being published, it means that the article has been read by other people in the same field of study ("peers").
  • The author's reviewers have commented on the article, not only noting typos and possible errors, but also giving a judgment about whether or not the article should be published by the journal to which it was submitted.

How do I find "peer-reviewed" materials?

  • Most of the the research articles in scholarly journals are peer-reviewed.
  • Some databases will note whether an item is peer-reviewed. For example, many databases allow you to check a box that says "peer-reviewed," or to see which results in your list of results are from peer-reviewed sources. Some of the databases that provide this are Academic Search Premiere, Applied Science and Technology Abstracts, CINAHL, General Science Full Text, PsycINFO, and Sociological Abstracts.

What kinds of materials are *not* peer-reviewed?

  • open web pages
  • most newspapers, newsletters, and news items in journals
  • letters to the editor
  • editorials
  • press releases
  • columns and blogs
  • book reviews
  • preprints and e-prints
  • anything in a popular magazine (e.g., Time, Newsweek, Glamour, Men's Health)

If a piece of information wasn't peer-reviewed, does that mean that I can't trust it at all?

No, not at all. For example, the preprints and e-prints submitted to well-known sites such as arXiv (mainly covering physics) and CiteSeer (mainly covering computer science) are trustworthy, as are the databases and web pages produced by entities such as the National Library of Medicine, the Smithsonian Institution, and the American Cancer Society.

Is this paper peer-reviewed? Ulrichsweb will tell you.

1) On the library home page , choose "Articles and Databases" --> "Databases" --> Ulrichsweb

2) Put in the title of the JOURNAL (not the article), in quotation marks so all the words are next to each other


3) Mouse over the black icon, and you'll see that it means "refereed" (which means peer-reviewed, because it's been looked at by referees or reviewers). This journal is not peer-reviewed, because none of the formats have a black icon:


4) When a journal is peer-reviewed, it looks like this: