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How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

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 that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

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 summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

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Table of contents

What is the purpose of 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, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely 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 its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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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 problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. 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 as 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 useful 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 also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to 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.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

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?
  • 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 use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

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 is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation 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.

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To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you 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 organizing the body of a literature review. 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 summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze 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 organize 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.

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, you can follow these tips:

  • 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 sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

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

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

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 thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

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

  • To familiarize 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 thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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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.

Learn how to write a review of literature

What is a review of literature.

The format of a review of literature may vary from discipline to discipline and from assignment to assignment.

A review may be a self-contained unit — an end in itself — or a preface to and rationale for engaging in primary research. A review is a required part of grant and research proposals and often a chapter in theses and dissertations.

Generally, the purpose of a review is to analyze critically a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles.

Writing the introduction

In the introduction, you should:

Define or identify the general topic, issue, or area of concern, thus providing an appropriate context for reviewing the literature.

Point out overall trends in what has been published about the topic; or conflicts in theory, methodology, evidence, and conclusions; or gaps in research and scholarship; or a single problem or new perspective of immediate interest.

Establish the writer’s reason (point of view) for reviewing the literature; explain the criteria to be used in analyzing and comparing literature and the organization of the review (sequence); and, when necessary, state why certain literature is or is not included (scope).

Writing the body

In the body, you should:

Group research studies and other types of literature (reviews, theoretical articles, case studies, etc.) according to common denominators such as qualitative versus quantitative approaches, conclusions of authors, specific purpose or objective, chronology, etc.

Summarize individual studies or articles with as much or as little detail as each merits according to its comparative importance in the literature, remembering that space (length) denotes significance.

Provide the reader with strong “umbrella” sentences at beginnings of paragraphs, “signposts” throughout, and brief “so what” summary sentences at intermediate points in the review to aid in understanding comparisons and analyses.

Writing the conclusion

In the conclusion, you should:

Summarize major contributions of significant studies and articles to the body of knowledge under review, maintaining the focus established in the introduction.

Evaluate the current “state of the art” for the body of knowledge reviewed, pointing out major methodological flaws or gaps in research, inconsistencies in theory and findings, and areas or issues pertinent to future study.

Conclude by providing some insight into the relationship between the central topic of the literature review and a larger area of study such as a discipline, a scientific endeavor, or a profession.

For further information see our handouts on Writing a Critical Review of a Nonfiction Book or Article or Reading a Book to Review It .

To learn more about literature reviews, take a look at our workshop on Writing Literature Reviews of Published Research.

Sample Literature Reviews

An important strategy for learning how to compose literature reviews in your field or within a specific genre is to locate and analyze representative examples. The following collection of annotated sample literature reviews written and co-written by colleagues associated with UW-Madison showcases how these reviews can do different kind of work for different purposes. Use these successful examples as a starting point for understanding how other writers have approached the challenging and important task of situating their idea in the context of established research.

  • Sample 1 (PDF) A brief literature review within a political scientists’  National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship  grant
  • Sample 2 (PDF) A several-page literature review at the beginning of a published, academic article about philosophy
  • Sample 3 (PDF) A brief literature review at the beginning of a published, academic article about photochemistry

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Literature review

A general guide on how to conduct and write a literature review.

Please check course or programme information and materials provided by teaching staff , including your project supervisor, for subject-specific guidance.

What is a literature review?

A literature review is a piece of academic writing demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the academic literature on a specific topic placed in context.  A literature review also includes a critical evaluation of the material; this is why it is called a literature review rather than a literature report. It is a process of reviewing the literature, as well as a form of writing.

To illustrate the difference between reporting and reviewing, think about television or film review articles.  These articles include content such as a brief synopsis or the key points of the film or programme plus the critic’s own evaluation.  Similarly the two main objectives of a literature review are firstly the content covering existing research, theories and evidence, and secondly your own critical evaluation and discussion of this content. 

Usually a literature review forms a section or part of a dissertation, research project or long essay.  However, it can also be set and assessed as a standalone piece of work.

What is the purpose of a literature review?

…your task is to build an argument, not a library. Rudestam, K.E. and Newton, R.R. (1992) Surviving your dissertation: A comprehensive guide to content and process. California: Sage, p49.

In a larger piece of written work, such as a dissertation or project, a literature review is usually one of the first tasks carried out after deciding on a topic.  Reading combined with critical analysis can help to refine a topic and frame research questions.  Conducting a literature review establishes your familiarity with and understanding of current research in a particular field before carrying out a new investigation.  After doing a literature review, you should know what research has already been done and be able to identify what is unknown within your topic.

When doing and writing a literature review, it is good practice to:

  • summarise and analyse previous research and theories;
  • identify areas of controversy and contested claims;
  • highlight any gaps that may exist in research to date.

Conducting a literature review

Focusing on different aspects of your literature review can be useful to help plan, develop, refine and write it.  You can use and adapt the prompt questions in our worksheet below at different points in the process of researching and writing your review.  These are suggestions to get you thinking and writing.

Developing and refining your literature review (pdf)

Developing and refining your literature review (Word)

Developing and refining your literature review (Word rtf)

Writing a literature review has a lot in common with other assignment tasks.  There is advice on our other pages about thinking critically, reading strategies and academic writing.  Our literature review top tips suggest some specific things you can do to help you submit a successful review.

Literature review top tips (pdf)

Literature review top tips (Word rtf)

Our reading page includes strategies and advice on using books and articles and a notes record sheet grid you can use.

Reading at university

The Academic writing page suggests ways to organise and structure information from a range of sources and how you can develop your argument as you read and write.

Academic writing

The Critical thinking page has advice on how to be a more critical researcher and a form you can use to help you think and break down the stages of developing your argument.

Critical thinking

As with other forms of academic writing, your literature review needs to demonstrate good academic practice by following the Code of Student Conduct and acknowledging the work of others through citing and referencing your sources.  

Good academic practice

As with any writing task, you will need to review, edit and rewrite sections of your literature review.  The Editing and proofreading page includes tips on how to do this and strategies for standing back and thinking about your structure and checking the flow of your argument.

Editing and proofreading

Guidance on literature searching from the University Library

The Academic Support Librarians have developed LibSmart I and II, Learn courses to help you develop and enhance your digital research skills and capabilities; from getting started with the Library to managing data for your dissertation.

Searching using the library’s DiscoverEd tool: DiscoverEd

Finding resources in your subject: Subject guides

The Academic Support Librarians also provide one-to-one appointments to help you develop your research strategies.

1 to 1 support for literature searching and systematic reviews

Advice to help you optimise use of Google Scholar, Google Books and Google for your research and study: Using Google

Managing and curating your references

A referencing management tool can help you to collect and organise and your source material to produce a bibliography or reference list. 

Referencing and reference management

Information Services provide access to Cite them right online which is a guide to the main referencing systems and tells you how to reference just about any source (EASE log-in may be required).

Cite them right

Published study guides

There are a number of scholarship skills books and guides available which can help with writing a literature review.  Our Resource List of study skills guides includes sections on Referencing, Dissertation and project writing and Literature reviews.

Study skills guides

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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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  • 1. Define your research question
  • 2. Plan your search
  • 3. Search the literature
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review of literature in scholarly writing

Definition: A literature review is a systematic examination and synthesis of existing scholarly research on a specific topic or subject.

Purpose: It serves to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge within a particular field.

Analysis: Involves critically evaluating and summarizing key findings, methodologies, and debates found in academic literature.

Identifying Gaps: Aims to pinpoint areas where there is a lack of research or unresolved questions, highlighting opportunities for further investigation.

Contextualization: Enables researchers to understand how their work fits into the broader academic conversation and contributes to the existing body of knowledge.

review of literature in scholarly writing

tl;dr  A literature review critically examines and synthesizes existing scholarly research and publications on a specific topic to provide a comprehensive understanding of the current state of knowledge in the field.

What is a literature review NOT?

❌ An annotated bibliography

❌ Original research

❌ A summary

❌ Something to be conducted at the end of your research

❌ An opinion piece

❌ A chronological compilation of studies

The reason for conducting a literature review is to:

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Scholarly Writing pp 41–70 Cite as

Writing the Literature Review: Common Mistakes and Best Practices

  • Kelly Heider 3  
  • First Online: 21 November 2023

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Part of the Springer Texts in Education book series (SPTE)

The literature review is an essential component of academic research writing, providing a comprehensive overview of existing research and informing the development of new studies. However, writing an effective literature review can be a challenging task for many authors, particularly those new to academic writing. This chapter aims to guide authors through the process of writing a literature review by highlighting common mistakes and best practices. The chapter begins with three short narratives that describe difficulties both novice and prolific authors encounter when writing the literature review. A chapter activity follows with steps that guide authors through the process of developing a research question to frame the literature review. Authors are then prompted to complete a self-assessment activity which includes a series of questions designed to build their skills as academic research writers. The body of the chapter recommends strategies and techniques to help authors locate and evaluate sources that will serve as the building blocks for a literature review that is thorough, current, and well-written. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the threats and benefits of artificial intelligence-based text production in relationship to academic research writing. Overall, this chapter provides practical guidance for authors looking to improve their literature review writing skills and enhance the quality of their research output.

  • Locating sources
  • Developing research questions
  • Constructing search strings
  • Evaluating sources
  • Writing the literature review
  • Analyzing the literature review
  • AI-based text production

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Issue: AI-Based Text Production in Academic Research Writing

 Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a relatively new technological development that can be used to support academic research writing, particularly reviews of research. Although it holds promise as a research tool, there are also concerns that AI-based scholarly writing could threaten not only the integrity but also the creativity of academic research writing. ChatGPT, an advanced chatbot developed by OpenAI (a nonprofit research company founded by Elon Musk and Sam Altman in 2015) has been at the center of much controversy as of late because of its ability to produce academic papers using artificial intelligence-based text production that have fooled academics and academic journal publishers (Hern, 2022 ; Lucey & Dowling, 2023 ; TechTarget, 2023 ). To demonstrate ChatGPT’s capabilities, consider its response to the question, “What is artificial intelligence-based text production?”.

Artificial Intelligence-Based Text Production is a process where machine learning algorithms are used to generate written content such as articles, product descriptions, social media posts, and more. It involves training machine learning models with vast amounts of data to learn how to generate human-like text automatically. The process can involve different techniques such as Natural Language Processing (NLP), deep learning, and neural networks to analyze and understand language patterns, grammar, context, and semantics. The resulting AI-generated text can be used for a wide range of applications, including content marketing, chatbots, language translation, and more. One of the main benefits of AI-based text production is that it can help businesses and organizations automate their content creation process, saving time and resources while producing high-quality content. However, it is important to note that AI-generated text may not always be perfect and may require human editing and review to ensure accuracy and coherence.

This response was produced by ChatGPT in about ten seconds. According to Anson ( 2022 ), “cutting and pasting all or part of this auto-generated text into a new text box can continue to prompt further content. The material is not plagiarized from existing sources but freshly composed. For this reason, it usually evades plagiarism-detection programs like Turnitin” (p. 40).

How Might AI-Based Text Production Threaten Academic Research Writing?

Obviously, computer-generated text that evades plagiarism-detection programs threatens the integrity of academic research writing. Some academic publishers have already banned or limited the use of AI-generated text in papers submitted to their journals (Lucey & Dowling, 2023 ). However, that is easier said than done. OpenAI recently developed a tool that attempts to distinguish between human-written and AI-generated text to prevent chatbots like ChatGPT from being abused, but it is only 26% effective (Wiggers, 2023 ).

Lucey and Dowling ( 2023 ) tested the credibility of ChatGPT by having expert reviewers examine papers produced by the chatbot. First, they asked ChatGPT to generate four parts of a research study: (1) research idea, (2) literature review, (3) dataset, and (4) suggestions for testing and examination. They chose a broad subject and instructed the chatbot to create a paper that could be published in “a good finance journal” (para. 6). Second, they pasted 200 relevant abstracts into the ChatGPT search box and asked the chatbot to consider the abstracts when generating the four-part research study. Finally, they asked academic researchers to read both versions of the AI-generated text and make suggestions for improvement. A panel of thirty-two reviewers read all versions of the four-part research study and rated them. In all cases, the papers were considered acceptable by the reviewers, although the chatbot-created papers that also included input from academic researchers were rated higher. However, “a chatbot was deemed capable of generating quality academic research ideas. This raises fundamental questions around the meaning of creativity and ownership of creative ideas—questions to which nobody yet has solid answers” (Lucey & Dowling, 2023 , para. 10).

How Might AI-Based Text Production Benefit Academic Research Writing?

Despite several publishers deciding to ban the inclusion of AI-based text production in submissions, some researchers have already listed ChatGPT as a co-author on their papers (Lucey & Dowling, 2023 ). There are many who believe there is no difference between the way ChatGPT produces text and the way authors synthesize studies in their literature reviews. In fact, the chatbot’s review is much more exhaustive because it can analyze “billions of existing, human-produced texts and, through a process akin to the creation of neural networks, generate new text based on highly complex predictive machine analysis” (Anson, 2022 , p. 39).

There are other advantages to using AI-based text production. It has the potential to aid groups of researchers who lack funding to hire human research assistants such as emerging economy researchers, graduate students, and early career researchers. According to Lucey and Dowling ( 2023 ), AI-based text production “could help democratize the research process” (para. 18). Anson ( 2022 ) also sees the potential in AI-based text production to “spark some new human-generated ideas” (p. 42), extract keywords, and create abstracts. The development of AI-based text production might also force instructors to change the way they teach academic writing. Instead of trying to detect or prevent the use of chatbots like ChatGPT, “a more sensible approach could involve embracing the technology, showing students what it can and can’t do, and asking them to experiment with it” (Anson, 2022 , p. 44). In other words, students could be asked to write about writing which leads to a deeper understanding of the writing process and the ability to transfer that understanding to any writing project (Wardle & Downs, 2019 ).

The Responsible Use of AI-Based Text Production in Academic Research Writing

The responsible use of AI-based text production in academic research writing involves understanding the technology's capabilities and limitations, as well as considering its potential impact on the research process. Researchers must carefully evaluate the intended purpose and context of using AI-generated text and make certain they are not compromising the authenticity and integrity of their research work. To ensure responsible use, it is essential to balance the benefits of increased efficiency and new insights with the need for originality and critical thinking in academic research writing. Researchers must also be transparent in disclosing the use of AI-generated text when submitting their work for publication. By adopting a responsible and thoughtful approach to the use of AI-based text production, researchers can maximize the benefits of the technology while maintaining the quality and authenticity of their research.

Applications of Technology

How to Write a Paper in a Weekend : https://youtu.be/UY7sVKJPTMA

Note : University of Minnesota Chemistry Professor, Peter Carr is not advocating for procrastination. This video outlines a strategy for generating a first draft after you have all your reading and notes assembled.

Research Gap 101: What Is a Research Gap & How to Find One : https://youtu.be/Kabj0u8YQ4Y

Using Google Scholar for Academic Research : https://youtu.be/t8_CW6FV8Ac .

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Heider, K. (2023). Writing the Literature Review: Common Mistakes and Best Practices. In: Renck Jalongo, M., Saracho, O.N. (eds) Scholarly Writing. Springer Texts in Education. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-39516-1_3

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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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Structure of a Literature Review

Preliminary steps for literature review.

  • Basic Example
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What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is a comprehensive summary and analysis of previously published research on a particular topic. Literature reviews should give the reader an overview of the important theories and themes that have previously been discussed on the topic, as well as any important researchers who have contributed to the discourse. This review should connect the established conclusions to the hypothesis being presented in the rest of the paper.

What a Literature Review Is Not:

  • Annotated Bibliography: An annotated bibliography summarizes and assesses each resource individually and separately. A literature review explores the connections between different articles to illustrate important themes/theories/research trends within a larger research area. 
  • Timeline: While a literature review can be organized chronologically, they are not simple timelines of previous events. They should not be a list of any kind. Individual examples or events should be combined to illustrate larger ideas or concepts.
  • Argumentative Paper: Literature reviews are not meant to be making an argument. They are explorations of a concept to give the audience an understanding of what has already been written and researched about an idea. As many perspectives as possible should be included in a literature review in order to give the reader as comprehensive understanding of a topic as possible.

Why Write a Literature Review?

After reading the literature review, the reader should have a basic understanding of the topic. A reader should be able to come into your paper without really knowing anything about an idea, and after reading the literature, feel more confident about the important points.

A literature review should also help the reader understand the focus the rest of the paper will take within the larger topic. If the reader knows what has already been studied, they will be better prepared for the novel argument that is about to be made.

A literature review should help the reader understand the important history, themes, events, and ideas about a particular topic. Connections between ideas/themes should also explored. Part of the importance of a literature review is to prove to experts who do read your paper that you are knowledgeable enough to contribute to the academic discussion. You have to have done your homework.

A literature review should also identify the gaps in research to show the reader what hasn't yet been explored. Your thesis should ideally address one of the gaps identified in the research. Scholarly articles are meant to push academic conversations forward with new ideas and arguments. Before knowing where the gaps are in a topic, you need to have read what others have written.

As mentioned in other tabs, literature reviews should discuss the big ideas that make up a topic. Each literature review should be broken up into different subtopics. Each subtopic should use groups of articles as evidence to support the ideas. There are several different ways of organizing a literature review. It will depend on the patterns one sees in the groups of articles as to which strategy should be used. Here are a few examples of how to organize your review:

Chronological

If there are clear trends that change over time, a chronological approach could be used to organize a literature review. For example, one might argue that in the 1970s, the predominant theories and themes argued something. However, in the 1980s, the theories evolved to something else. Then, in the 1990s, theories evolved further. Each decade is a subtopic, and articles should be used as examples. 

Themes/Theories

There may also be clear distinctions between schools of thought within a topic, a theoretical breakdown may be most appropriate. Each theory could be a subtopic, and articles supporting the theme should be included as evidence for each one. 

If researchers mainly differ in the way they went about conducting research, literature reviews can be organized by methodology. Each type of method could be a subtopic,  and articles using the method should be included as evidence for each one.

  • Define your research question
  • Compile a list of initial keywords to use for searching based on question
  • Search for literature that discusses the topics surrounding your research question
  • Assess and organize your literature into logical groups
  • Identify gaps in research and conduct secondary searches (if necessary)
  • Reassess and reorganize literature again (if necessary)
  • Write review

Here is an example of a literature review, taken from the beginning of a research article. You can find other examples within most scholarly research articles. The majority of published scholarship includes a literature review section, and you can use those to become more familiar with these reviews.

Source:  Perceptions of the Police by LGBT Communities

section of a literature review, highlighting broad themes

There are many books and internet resources about literature reviews though most are long on how to search and gather the literature. How to literally organize the information is another matter.

Some pro tips:

  • Be thoughtful in naming the folders, sub-folders, and sub, sub-folders.  Doing so really helps your thinking and concepts within your research topic.
  • Be disciplined to add keywords under the tabs as this will help you search for ALL the items on your concepts/topics.
  • Use the notes tab to add reminders, write bibliography/annotated bibliography
  • Your literature review easily flows from your statement of purpose (SoP).  Therefore, does your SoP say clearly and exactly the intent of your research?  Your research assumption and argument is obvious?
  • Begin with a topic outline that traces your argument. pg99: "First establish the line of argumentation you will follow (the thesis), whether it is an assertion, a contention, or a proposition.
  • This means that you should have formed judgments about the topic based on the analysis and synthesis of the literature you are reviewing."
  • Keep filling it in; flushing it out more deeply with your references

Other Resources/Examples

  • ISU Writing Assistance The Julia N. Visor Academic Center provides one-on-one writing assistance for any course or need. By focusing on the writing process instead of merely on grammar and editing, we are committed to making you a better writer.
  • University of Toronto: The Literature Review Written by Dena Taylor, Health Sciences Writing Centre
  • Purdue OWL - Writing a Lit Review Goes over the basic steps
  • UW Madison Writing Center - Review of Literature A description of what each piece of a literature review should entail.
  • USC Libraries - Literature Reviews Offers detailed guidance on how to develop, organize, and write a college-level research paper in the social and behavioral sciences.
  • Creating the literature review: integrating research questions and arguments Blog post with very helpful overview for how to organize and build/integrate arguments in a literature review
  • Understanding, Selecting, and Integrating a Theoretical Framework in Dissertation Research: Creating the Blueprint for Your “House” Article focusing on constructing a literature review for a dissertation. Still very relevant for literature reviews in other types of content.

A note that many of these examples will be far longer and in-depth than what's required for your assignment. However, they will give you an idea of the general structure and components of a literature review. Additionally, most scholarly articles will include a literature review section. Looking over the articles you have been assigned in classes will also help you.

  • Understanding, Selecting, and Integrating a Theoretical Framework in Dissertation Research: Creating the Blueprint for Your “House” Excellent article detailing how to construct your literature review.
  • Sample Literature Review (Univ. of Florida) This guide will provide research and writing tips to help students complete a literature review assignment.
  • Sociology Literature Review (Univ. of Hawaii) Written in ASA citation style - don't follow this format.
  • Sample Lit Review - Univ. of Vermont Includes an example with tips in the footnotes.

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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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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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Literature Reviews

What this handout is about.

This handout will explain what literature reviews are and offer insights into the form and construction of literature reviews in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

Introduction

OK. You’ve got to write a literature review. You dust off a novel and a book of poetry, settle down in your chair, and get ready to issue a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” as you leaf through the pages. “Literature review” done. Right?

Wrong! The “literature” of a literature review refers to any collection of materials on a topic, not necessarily the great literary texts of the world. “Literature” could be anything from a set of government pamphlets on British colonial methods in Africa to scholarly articles on the treatment of a torn ACL. And a review does not necessarily mean that your reader wants you to give your personal opinion on whether or not you liked these sources.

What is a literature review, then?

A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period.

A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis. 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. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant.

But how is a literature review different from an academic research paper?

The main focus of an academic research paper is to develop a new argument, and a research paper is likely to contain a literature review as one of its parts. In a research paper, you use the literature as a foundation and as support for a new insight that you contribute. The focus of a literature review, however, is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others without adding new contributions.

Why do we write literature reviews?

Literature reviews provide you with a handy guide to a particular topic. If you have limited time to conduct research, literature reviews can give you an overview or act as a stepping stone. For professionals, they are useful reports that keep them up to date with what is current in the field. For scholars, the depth and breadth of the literature review emphasizes the credibility of the writer in his or her field. Literature reviews also provide a solid background for a research paper’s investigation. Comprehensive knowledge of the literature of the field is essential to most research papers.

Who writes these things, anyway?

Literature reviews are written occasionally in the humanities, but mostly in the sciences and social sciences; in experiment and lab reports, they constitute a section of the paper. Sometimes a literature review is written as a paper in itself.

Let’s get to it! What should I do before writing the literature review?

If your assignment is not very specific, seek clarification from your instructor:

  • Roughly how many sources should you include?
  • What types of sources (books, journal articles, websites)?
  • Should you summarize, synthesize, or critique your sources by discussing a common theme or issue?
  • Should you evaluate your sources?
  • Should you provide subheadings and other background information, such as definitions and/or a history?

Find models

Look for other literature reviews in your area of interest or in the discipline and read them to get a sense of the types of themes you might want to look for in your own research or ways to organize your final review. You can simply put the word “review” in your search engine along with your other topic terms to find articles of this type on the Internet or in an electronic database. The bibliography or reference section of sources you’ve already read are also excellent entry points into your own research.

Narrow your topic

There are hundreds or even thousands of articles and books on most areas of study. The narrower your topic, the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you need to read in order to get a good survey of the material. Your instructor will probably not expect you to read everything that’s out there on the topic, but you’ll make your job easier if you first limit your scope.

Keep in mind that UNC Libraries have research guides and to databases relevant to many fields of study. You can reach out to the subject librarian for a consultation: https://library.unc.edu/support/consultations/ .

And don’t forget to tap into your professor’s (or other professors’) knowledge in the field. Ask your professor questions such as: “If you had to read only one book from the 90’s on topic X, what would it be?” Questions such as this help you to find and determine quickly the most seminal pieces in the field.

Consider whether your sources are current

Some disciplines require that you use information that is as current as possible. In the sciences, for instance, treatments for medical problems are constantly changing according to the latest studies. Information even two years old could be obsolete. However, if you are writing a review in the humanities, history, or social sciences, a survey of the history of the literature may be what is needed, because what is important is how perspectives have changed through the years or within a certain time period. Try sorting through some 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 consider what is currently of interest to scholars in this field and what is not.

Strategies for writing the literature review

Find a focus.

A literature review, like a term paper, is usually organized around ideas, not the sources themselves as an annotated bibliography would be organized. This means that you will not just simply list your sources and go into detail about each one of them, one at a time. No. As you read widely but selectively in your topic area, consider instead what themes or issues connect your sources together. Do they present one or different solutions? Is there an aspect of the field that is missing? How well do they present the material and do they portray it according to an appropriate theory? Do they reveal a trend in the field? A raging debate? Pick one of these themes to focus the organization of your review.

Convey it to your reader

A literature review may not have a traditional thesis statement (one that makes an argument), but you do need to tell readers what to expect. Try writing a simple statement that lets the reader know what is your main organizing principle. Here are a couple of examples:

The current trend in treatment for congestive heart failure combines surgery and medicine. More and more cultural studies scholars are accepting popular media as a subject worthy of academic consideration.

Consider organization

You’ve got a focus, and you’ve stated it clearly and directly. Now what is the most effective way of presenting the information? What are the most important topics, subtopics, etc., that your review needs to include? And in what order should you present them? Develop an organization for your review at both a global and local level:

First, cover the basic categories

Just like most academic papers, literature reviews also must contain at least three basic elements: an introduction or background information section; the body of the review containing the discussion of sources; and, finally, a conclusion and/or recommendations section to end the paper. The following provides a brief description of the content of each:

  • Introduction: Gives a quick idea of the topic of the literature review, such as the central theme or organizational pattern.
  • Body: Contains your discussion of sources and is organized either chronologically, thematically, or methodologically (see below for more information on each).
  • Conclusions/Recommendations: Discuss what you have drawn from reviewing literature so far. Where might the discussion proceed?

Organizing the body

Once you have the basic categories in place, then you must consider how you will present the sources themselves within the body of your paper. Create an organizational method to focus this section even further.

To help you come up with an overall organizational framework for your review, consider the following scenario:

You’ve decided to focus your literature review on materials dealing with sperm whales. This is because you’ve just finished reading Moby Dick, and you wonder if that whale’s portrayal is really real. You start with some articles about the physiology of sperm whales in biology journals written in the 1980’s. But these articles refer to some British biological studies performed on whales in the early 18th century. So you check those out. Then you look up a book written in 1968 with information on how sperm whales have been portrayed in other forms of art, such as in Alaskan poetry, in French painting, or on whale bone, as the whale hunters in the late 19th century used to do. This makes you wonder about American whaling methods during the time portrayed in Moby Dick, so you find some academic articles published in the last five years on how accurately Herman Melville portrayed the whaling scene in his novel.

Now consider some typical ways of organizing the sources into a review:

  • Chronological: If your review follows the chronological method, you could write about the materials above according to when they were published. For instance, first you would talk about the British biological studies of the 18th century, then about Moby Dick, published in 1851, then the book on sperm whales in other art (1968), and finally the biology articles (1980s) and the recent articles on American whaling of the 19th century. But there is relatively no continuity among subjects here. And notice that even though the sources on sperm whales in other art and on American whaling are written recently, they are about other subjects/objects that were created much earlier. Thus, the review loses its chronological focus.
  • 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 biological studies of sperm whales if the progression revealed a change in dissection practices of the researchers who wrote and/or conducted the studies.
  • By trend: A better way to organize the above sources chronologically is to examine the sources under another trend, such as the history of whaling. Then your review would have subsections according to eras within this period. For instance, the review might examine whaling from pre-1600-1699, 1700-1799, and 1800-1899. Under this method, you would combine the recent studies on American whaling in the 19th century with Moby Dick itself in the 1800-1899 category, even though the authors wrote a century apart.
  • Thematic: Thematic reviews of literature are organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time. However, progression of time may still be an important factor in a thematic review. For instance, the sperm whale review could focus on the development of the harpoon for whale hunting. While the study focuses on one topic, harpoon technology, it will still be organized chronologically. The only difference here between a “chronological” and a “thematic” approach is what is emphasized the most: the development of the harpoon or the harpoon technology.But more authentic thematic reviews tend to break away from chronological order. For instance, a thematic review of material on sperm whales might examine how they are portrayed as “evil” in cultural documents. The subsections might include how they are personified, how their proportions are exaggerated, and their behaviors misunderstood. A review organized in this manner would shift between time periods within each section according to the point made.
  • Methodological: A methodological approach differs from the two above in that the focusing factor usually does not have to do with the content of the material. Instead, it focuses on the “methods” of the researcher or writer. For the sperm whale project, one methodological approach would be to look at cultural differences between the portrayal of whales in American, British, and French art work. Or the review might focus on the economic impact of whaling on a community. A methodological scope will influence either the types of documents in the review or the way in which these documents are discussed. Once you’ve decided on the organizational method for the body of the review, the sections you need to include in the paper should be easy to figure out. They should arise out of 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.

Sometimes, though, you might 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. Put in only what is necessary. Here are a few other sections you might want to consider:

  • Current Situation: Information necessary to understand the topic or focus of the literature review.
  • History: The chronological progression of the field, the literature, or an idea that is necessary to understand the literature review, if the body of the literature review is not already a chronology.
  • Methods and/or Standards: The criteria you used to select the sources in your literature review or the way in which you present your information. For instance, you might explain that your review includes only peer-reviewed articles and journals.

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?

Begin composing

Once you’ve settled on a general pattern of organization, you’re ready to write each section. There are a few guidelines you should follow during the writing stage as well. Here is a sample paragraph from a literature review about sexism and language to illuminate the following discussion:

However, other studies have shown that even gender-neutral antecedents are more likely to produce masculine images than feminine ones (Gastil, 1990). Hamilton (1988) asked students to complete sentences that required them to fill in pronouns that agreed with gender-neutral antecedents such as “writer,” “pedestrian,” and “persons.” The students were asked to describe any image they had when writing the sentence. Hamilton found that people imagined 3.3 men to each woman in the masculine “generic” condition and 1.5 men per woman in the unbiased condition. Thus, while ambient sexism accounted for some of the masculine bias, sexist language amplified the effect. (Source: Erika Falk and Jordan Mills, “Why Sexist Language Affects Persuasion: The Role of Homophily, Intended Audience, and Offense,” Women and Language19:2).

Use evidence

In the example above, the writers refer to several other sources when making their point. A literature review in this sense is just like any other academic research paper. Your interpretation of the available sources must be backed up with evidence to show 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 review’s focus, whether it is thematic, methodological, or chronological.

Use quotes sparingly

Falk and Mills do not use any direct quotes. That is because the survey nature of the literature review does not allow for in-depth discussion or detailed quotes from the text. Some short quotes here and there are okay, though, if you want to emphasize a point, or if what the author said just cannot be rewritten in your own words. Notice that Falk and Mills do quote certain terms that were coined by the author, not common knowledge, or taken directly from the study. But if you find yourself wanting to put in more quotes, check with your instructor.

Summarize and synthesize

Remember to summarize and synthesize your sources within each paragraph as well as throughout the review. The authors here recapitulate important features of Hamilton’s study, but then synthesize it by rephrasing the study’s significance and relating it to their own work.

Keep your own voice

While the literature review presents others’ ideas, your voice (the writer’s) should remain front and center. Notice that Falk and Mills weave references to other sources into their own text, but they still maintain their own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with their own ideas and their own words. The sources support what Falk and Mills are saying.

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. In the preceding example, Falk and Mills either directly refer in the text to the author of their source, such as Hamilton, or they provide ample notation in the text when the ideas they are mentioning are not their own, for example, Gastil’s. For more information, please see our handout on plagiarism .

Revise, revise, revise

Draft in hand? Now you’re ready to revise. Spending a lot of time revising is a wise idea, because your main objective is to present the material, not the argument. So check over your review again to make sure it follows the assignment and/or your outline. Then, just as you would for most other academic forms of writing, rewrite or rework the language of your review so that you’ve presented your information in the most concise manner possible. Be sure to use terminology familiar to your audience; get rid of unnecessary jargon or slang. Finally, double check that you’ve documented your sources and formatted the review appropriately for your discipline. For tips on the revising and editing process, see our handout on revising drafts .

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Jones, Robert, Patrick Bizzaro, and Cynthia Selfe. 1997. The Harcourt Brace Guide to Writing in the Disciplines . New York: Harcourt Brace.

Lamb, Sandra E. 1998. How to Write It: A Complete Guide to Everything You’ll Ever Write . Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.

Troyka, Lynn Quittman, and Doug Hesse. 2016. Simon and Schuster Handbook for Writers , 11th ed. London: Pearson.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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  • 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
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  • Citation and Attribution

What Is a Literature Review?

Review the literature, write the literature review, further reading, learning objectives, attribution.

This guide is designed to:

  • Identify the sections and purpose of a literature review in academic writing
  • Review practical strategies and organizational methods for preparing a literature review

A literature review is a summary and synthesis of scholarly research on a specific topic. It should answer questions such as:

  • What research has been done on the topic?
  • Who are the key researchers and experts in the field?
  • What are the common theories and methodologies?
  • Are there challenges, controversies, and contradictions?
  • Are there gaps in the research that your approach addresses?

The process of reviewing existing research allows you to fine-tune your research question and contextualize your own work. Preparing a literature review is a cyclical process. You may find that the research question you begin with evolves as you learn more about the topic.

Once you have defined your research question , focus on learning what other scholars have written on the topic.

In order to  do a thorough search of the literature  on the topic, define the basic criteria:

  • Databases and journals: Look at the  subject guide  related to your topic for recommended databases. Review the  tutorial on finding articles  for tips. 
  • Books: Search BruKnow, the Library's catalog. Steps to searching ebooks are covered in the  Finding Ebooks tutorial .
  • What time period should it cover? Is currency important?
  • Do I know of primary and secondary sources that I can use as a way to find other information?
  • What should I be aware of when looking at popular, trade, and scholarly resources ? 

One strategy is to review bibliographies for sources that relate to your interest. For more on this technique, look at the tutorial on finding articles when you have a citation .

Tip: Use a Synthesis Matrix

As you read sources, themes will emerge that will help you to organize the review. You can use a simple Synthesis Matrix to track your notes as you read. From this work, a concept map emerges that provides an overview of the literature and ways in which it connects. Working with Zotero to capture the citations, you build the structure for writing your literature review.

How do I know when I am done?

A key indicator for knowing when you are done is running into the same articles and materials. With no new information being uncovered, you are likely exhausting your current search and should modify search terms or search different catalogs or databases. It is also possible that you have reached a point when you can start writing the literature review.

Tip: Manage Your Citations

These citation management tools also create citations, footnotes, and bibliographies with just a few clicks:

Zotero Tutorial

Endnote Tutorial

Your literature review should be focused on the topic defined in your research question. It should be written in a logical, structured way and maintain an objective perspective and use a formal voice.

Review the Summary Table you created for themes and connecting ideas. Use the following guidelines to prepare an outline of the main points you want to make. 

  • Synthesize previous research on the topic.
  • Aim to include both summary and synthesis.
  • Include literature that supports your research question as well as that which offers a different perspective.
  • Avoid relying on one author or publication too heavily.
  • Select an organizational structure, such as chronological, methodological, and thematic.

The three elements of a literature review are introduction, body, and conclusion.

Introduction

  • Define the topic of the literature review, including any terminology.
  • Introduce the central theme and organization of the literature review.
  • Summarize the state of research on the topic.
  • Frame the literature review with your research question.
  • Focus on ways to have the body of literature tell its own story. Do not add your own interpretations at this point.
  • Look for patterns and find ways to tie the pieces together.
  • Summarize instead of quote.
  • Weave the points together rather than list summaries of each source.
  • Include the most important sources, not everything you have read.
  • Summarize the review of the literature.
  • Identify areas of further research on the topic.
  • Connect the review with your research.
  • DeCarlo, M. (2018). 4.1 What is a literature review? In Scientific Inquiry in Social Work. Open Social Work Education. https://scientificinquiryinsocialwork.pressbooks.com/chapter/4-1-what-is-a-literature-review/
  • Literature Reviews (n.d.) https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/literature-reviews/ Accessed Nov. 10, 2021

This guide was designed to: 

  • Identify the sections and purpose of a literature review in academic writing 
  • Review practical strategies and organizational methods for preparing a literature review​

Content on this page adapted from: 

Frederiksen, L. and Phelps, S. (2017).   Literature Reviews for Education and Nursing Graduate Students.  Licensed CC BY 4.0

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Literature Review – Types Writing Guide and Examples

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Literature Review

Literature Review

Definition:

A literature review is a comprehensive and critical analysis of the existing literature on a particular topic or research question. It involves identifying, evaluating, and synthesizing relevant literature, including scholarly articles, books, and other sources, to provide a summary and critical assessment of what is known about the topic.

Types of Literature Review

Types of Literature Review are as follows:

  • Narrative literature review : This type of review involves a comprehensive summary and critical analysis of the available literature on a particular topic or research question. It is often used as an introductory section of a research paper.
  • Systematic literature review: This is a rigorous and structured review that follows a pre-defined protocol to identify, evaluate, and synthesize all relevant studies on a specific research question. It is often used in evidence-based practice and systematic reviews.
  • Meta-analysis: This is a quantitative review that uses statistical methods to combine data from multiple studies to derive a summary effect size. It provides a more precise estimate of the overall effect than any individual study.
  • Scoping review: This is a preliminary review that aims to map the existing literature on a broad topic area to identify research gaps and areas for further investigation.
  • Critical literature review : This type of review evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the existing literature on a particular topic or research question. It aims to provide a critical analysis of the literature and identify areas where further research is needed.
  • Conceptual literature review: This review synthesizes and integrates theories and concepts from multiple sources to provide a new perspective on a particular topic. It aims to provide a theoretical framework for understanding a particular research question.
  • Rapid literature review: This is a quick review that provides a snapshot of the current state of knowledge on a specific research question or topic. It is often used when time and resources are limited.
  • Thematic literature review : This review identifies and analyzes common themes and patterns across a body of literature on a particular topic. It aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the literature and identify key themes and concepts.
  • Realist literature review: This review is often used in social science research and aims to identify how and why certain interventions work in certain contexts. It takes into account the context and complexities of real-world situations.
  • State-of-the-art literature review : This type of review provides an overview of the current state of knowledge in a particular field, highlighting the most recent and relevant research. It is often used in fields where knowledge is rapidly evolving, such as technology or medicine.
  • Integrative literature review: This type of review synthesizes and integrates findings from multiple studies on a particular topic to identify patterns, themes, and gaps in the literature. It aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the current state of knowledge on a particular topic.
  • Umbrella literature review : This review is used to provide a broad overview of a large and diverse body of literature on a particular topic. It aims to identify common themes and patterns across different areas of research.
  • Historical literature review: This type of review examines the historical development of research on a particular topic or research question. It aims to provide a historical context for understanding the current state of knowledge on a particular topic.
  • Problem-oriented literature review : This review focuses on a specific problem or issue and examines the literature to identify potential solutions or interventions. It aims to provide practical recommendations for addressing a particular problem or issue.
  • Mixed-methods literature review : This type of review combines quantitative and qualitative methods to synthesize and analyze the available literature on a particular topic. It aims to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the research question by combining different types of evidence.

Parts of Literature Review

Parts of a literature review are as follows:

Introduction

The introduction of a literature review typically provides background information on the research topic and why it is important. It outlines the objectives of the review, the research question or hypothesis, and the scope of the review.

Literature Search

This section outlines the search strategy and databases used to identify relevant literature. The search terms used, inclusion and exclusion criteria, and any limitations of the search are described.

Literature Analysis

The literature analysis is the main body of the literature review. This section summarizes and synthesizes the literature that is relevant to the research question or hypothesis. The review should be organized thematically, chronologically, or by methodology, depending on the research objectives.

Critical Evaluation

Critical evaluation involves assessing the quality and validity of the literature. This includes evaluating the reliability and validity of the studies reviewed, the methodology used, and the strength of the evidence.

The conclusion of the literature review should summarize the main findings, identify any gaps in the literature, and suggest areas for future research. It should also reiterate the importance of the research question or hypothesis and the contribution of the literature review to the overall research project.

The references list includes all the sources cited in the literature review, and follows a specific referencing style (e.g., APA, MLA, Harvard).

How to write Literature Review

Here are some steps to follow when writing a literature review:

  • Define your research question or topic : Before starting your literature review, it is essential to define your research question or topic. This will help you identify relevant literature and determine the scope of your review.
  • Conduct a comprehensive search: Use databases and search engines to find relevant literature. Look for peer-reviewed articles, books, and other academic sources that are relevant to your research question or topic.
  • Evaluate the sources: Once you have found potential sources, evaluate them critically to determine their relevance, credibility, and quality. Look for recent publications, reputable authors, and reliable sources of data and evidence.
  • Organize your sources: Group the sources by theme, method, or research question. This will help you identify similarities and differences among the literature, and provide a structure for your literature review.
  • Analyze and synthesize the literature : Analyze each source in depth, identifying the key findings, methodologies, and conclusions. Then, synthesize the information from the sources, identifying patterns and themes in the literature.
  • Write the literature review : Start with an introduction that provides an overview of the topic and the purpose of the literature review. Then, organize the literature according to your chosen structure, and analyze and synthesize the sources. Finally, provide a conclusion that summarizes the key findings of the literature review, identifies gaps in knowledge, and suggests areas for future research.
  • Edit and proofread: Once you have written your literature review, edit and proofread it carefully to ensure that it is well-organized, clear, and concise.

Examples of Literature Review

Here’s an example of how a literature review can be conducted for a thesis on the topic of “ The Impact of Social Media on Teenagers’ Mental Health”:

  • Start by identifying the key terms related to your research topic. In this case, the key terms are “social media,” “teenagers,” and “mental health.”
  • Use academic databases like Google Scholar, JSTOR, or PubMed to search for relevant articles, books, and other publications. Use these keywords in your search to narrow down your results.
  • Evaluate the sources you find to determine if they are relevant to your research question. You may want to consider the publication date, author’s credentials, and the journal or book publisher.
  • Begin reading and taking notes on each source, paying attention to key findings, methodologies used, and any gaps in the research.
  • Organize your findings into themes or categories. For example, you might categorize your sources into those that examine the impact of social media on self-esteem, those that explore the effects of cyberbullying, and those that investigate the relationship between social media use and depression.
  • Synthesize your findings by summarizing the key themes and highlighting any gaps or inconsistencies in the research. Identify areas where further research is needed.
  • Use your literature review to inform your research questions and hypotheses for your thesis.

For example, after conducting a literature review on the impact of social media on teenagers’ mental health, a thesis might look like this:

“Using a mixed-methods approach, this study aims to investigate the relationship between social media use and mental health outcomes in teenagers. Specifically, the study will examine the effects of cyberbullying, social comparison, and excessive social media use on self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Through an analysis of survey data and qualitative interviews with teenagers, the study will provide insight into the complex relationship between social media use and mental health outcomes, and identify strategies for promoting positive mental health outcomes in young people.”

Reference: Smith, J., Jones, M., & Lee, S. (2019). The effects of social media use on adolescent mental health: A systematic review. Journal of Adolescent Health, 65(2), 154-165. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2019.03.024

Reference Example: Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number(issue number), page range. doi:0000000/000000000000 or URL

Applications of Literature Review

some applications of literature review in different fields:

  • Social Sciences: In social sciences, literature reviews are used to identify gaps in existing research, to develop research questions, and to provide a theoretical framework for research. Literature reviews are commonly used in fields such as sociology, psychology, anthropology, and political science.
  • Natural Sciences: In natural sciences, literature reviews are used to summarize and evaluate the current state of knowledge in a particular field or subfield. Literature reviews can help researchers identify areas where more research is needed and provide insights into the latest developments in a particular field. Fields such as biology, chemistry, and physics commonly use literature reviews.
  • Health Sciences: In health sciences, literature reviews are used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments, identify best practices, and determine areas where more research is needed. Literature reviews are commonly used in fields such as medicine, nursing, and public health.
  • Humanities: In humanities, literature reviews are used to identify gaps in existing knowledge, develop new interpretations of texts or cultural artifacts, and provide a theoretical framework for research. Literature reviews are commonly used in fields such as history, literary studies, and philosophy.

Role of Literature Review in Research

Here are some applications of literature review in research:

  • Identifying Research Gaps : Literature review helps researchers identify gaps in existing research and literature related to their research question. This allows them to develop new research questions and hypotheses to fill those gaps.
  • Developing Theoretical Framework: Literature review helps researchers develop a theoretical framework for their research. By analyzing and synthesizing existing literature, researchers can identify the key concepts, theories, and models that are relevant to their research.
  • Selecting Research Methods : Literature review helps researchers select appropriate research methods and techniques based on previous research. It also helps researchers to identify potential biases or limitations of certain methods and techniques.
  • Data Collection and Analysis: Literature review helps researchers in data collection and analysis by providing a foundation for the development of data collection instruments and methods. It also helps researchers to identify relevant data sources and identify potential data analysis techniques.
  • Communicating Results: Literature review helps researchers to communicate their results effectively by providing a context for their research. It also helps to justify the significance of their findings in relation to existing research and literature.

Purpose of Literature Review

Some of the specific purposes of a literature review are as follows:

  • To provide context: A literature review helps to provide context for your research by situating it within the broader body of literature on the topic.
  • To identify gaps and inconsistencies: A literature review helps to identify areas where further research is needed or where there are inconsistencies in the existing literature.
  • To synthesize information: A literature review helps to synthesize the information from multiple sources and present a coherent and comprehensive picture of the current state of knowledge on the topic.
  • To identify key concepts and theories : A literature review helps to identify key concepts and theories that are relevant to your research question and provide a theoretical framework for your study.
  • To inform research design: A literature review can inform the design of your research study by identifying appropriate research methods, data sources, and research questions.

Characteristics of Literature Review

Some Characteristics of Literature Review are as follows:

  • Identifying gaps in knowledge: A literature review helps to identify gaps in the existing knowledge and research on a specific topic or research question. By analyzing and synthesizing the literature, you can identify areas where further research is needed and where new insights can be gained.
  • Establishing the significance of your research: A literature review helps to establish the significance of your own research by placing it in the context of existing research. By demonstrating the relevance of your research to the existing literature, you can establish its importance and value.
  • Informing research design and methodology : A literature review helps to inform research design and methodology by identifying the most appropriate research methods, techniques, and instruments. By reviewing the literature, you can identify the strengths and limitations of different research methods and techniques, and select the most appropriate ones for your own research.
  • Supporting arguments and claims: A literature review provides evidence to support arguments and claims made in academic writing. By citing and analyzing the literature, you can provide a solid foundation for your own arguments and claims.
  • I dentifying potential collaborators and mentors: A literature review can help identify potential collaborators and mentors by identifying researchers and practitioners who are working on related topics or using similar methods. By building relationships with these individuals, you can gain valuable insights and support for your own research and practice.
  • Keeping up-to-date with the latest research : A literature review helps to keep you up-to-date with the latest research on a specific topic or research question. By regularly reviewing the literature, you can stay informed about the latest findings and developments in your field.

Advantages of Literature Review

There are several advantages to conducting a literature review as part of a research project, including:

  • Establishing the significance of the research : A literature review helps to establish the significance of the research by demonstrating the gap or problem in the existing literature that the study aims to address.
  • Identifying key concepts and theories: A literature review can help to identify key concepts and theories that are relevant to the research question, and provide a theoretical framework for the study.
  • Supporting the research methodology : A literature review can inform the research methodology by identifying appropriate research methods, data sources, and research questions.
  • Providing a comprehensive overview of the literature : A literature review provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge on a topic, allowing the researcher to identify key themes, debates, and areas of agreement or disagreement.
  • Identifying potential research questions: A literature review can help to identify potential research questions and areas for further investigation.
  • Avoiding duplication of research: A literature review can help to avoid duplication of research by identifying what has already been done on a topic, and what remains to be done.
  • Enhancing the credibility of the research : A literature review helps to enhance the credibility of the research by demonstrating the researcher’s knowledge of the existing literature and their ability to situate their research within a broader context.

Limitations of Literature Review

Limitations of Literature Review are as follows:

  • Limited scope : Literature reviews can only cover the existing literature on a particular topic, which may be limited in scope or depth.
  • Publication bias : Literature reviews may be influenced by publication bias, which occurs when researchers are more likely to publish positive results than negative ones. This can lead to an incomplete or biased picture of the literature.
  • Quality of sources : The quality of the literature reviewed can vary widely, and not all sources may be reliable or valid.
  • Time-limited: Literature reviews can become quickly outdated as new research is published, making it difficult to keep up with the latest developments in a field.
  • Subjective interpretation : Literature reviews can be subjective, and the interpretation of the findings can vary depending on the researcher’s perspective or bias.
  • Lack of original data : Literature reviews do not generate new data, but rather rely on the analysis of existing studies.
  • Risk of plagiarism: It is important to ensure that literature reviews do not inadvertently contain plagiarism, which can occur when researchers use the work of others without proper attribution.

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Literature Reviews

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review of literature in scholarly writing

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One of the first steps in research is to find out where the scholarly conversation is going on. These databases are entry points to these discussions. They overlap to some extent, but each has unique content as well. Specialized subject databases are designed to facilitate searching in that discipline, using special search features and subject-specific terminology.

As you search, besides gathering interesting materials, keep an eye on authors' names, where they're publishing, any special terminology in the descriptor or subject heading fields. Look at the citations in articles to see what sorts of sources experienced scholars use and how they build on earlier research. As you do your research, a sort of map of the discussion around your topic will begin to emerge.

NOTE: Online databases became more common in the 1990s. They don't always cover the 19th century or earlier 20th century well. NOTE: Minority voices have often been excluded from common discourse. We've been acquiring specialized databases that try to fill this gap. Be aware of the missing voices in your research. NOTE: Subject tagging and titles often reflect broad topics--authors, novels, themes. They may not mention specific poems, songs, or short stories. Full-text searching will help locate discussion on more specific items, but not everything is available for full-text searching.

Discover@MU is our main search tool on our home page. It searches the inventory of all the UM System libraries--print materials, video, sound recordings, ebooks, online journals--as well as MOST (but NOT all) of our databases. It uses the most basic search options common to all these resources. Starting with a more specific database will offer more specialized search options.

NOTE: The MLA International Bibliography is included in Discover@MU, but the other major literary database, Literature Online, is NOT.

  • Google Books Google Books searches the full text of books digitized by Google or provided by publishers. You can view and download entire books in the public domain, but view only parts of books still covered by copyright (generally the last 95 years). Still a good way to identify books that have sections on a specific work or topic.
  • Hathi Trust Digital Library Similar to Google Books, but created by libraries worldwide, the Hathi Trust Digital Library preserves print materials in digital form. Unlike Google Books, it uses library subject headings as well as searching within the full text. You cannot view materials still under copyright. Login with your MU credentials to download entire books and build collections.
  • Internet Archive A large digital collection of media of all sorts. Create a free account and login at the top of the screen to use "controlled digital lending", gaining access to copyright protected materials for a limited time.

Our local public library has additional online resources available to anyone with a local library card . These include reference databases such as the Literature Resource Center as well as e-books and streaming music and video (see Download & Stream). It's also a fun place to hang out and an easy walk from campus. If you have a library card from your home public library, check out their online resources too.

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Management of vesicoenteric fistulas arising from perforated Meckel’s diverticulum: a report of a case and review of the literature

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Dimitrios Diamantidis, Nikolaos Papatheodorou, Panagiotis Kostoglou, Georgios Tsakaldimis, Sotirios Botaitis, Management of vesicoenteric fistulas arising from perforated Meckel’s diverticulum: a report of a case and review of the literature, Oxford Medical Case Reports , Volume 2024, Issue 2, February 2024, omad155, https://doi.org/10.1093/omcr/omad155

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Vesicoenteric fistulas are rare, with an incidence of 0.1%–0.2% in the general population, and Meckel’s diverticulum is a rare cause, accounting for less than 5% of cases with challenging diagnosis due to atypical symptoms at the admission. This article presents a case of a vesicoenteric fistula formation between Meckel’s diverticulum perforated by a foreign body and urinary bladder in a 38-years-old Caucasian male admitted to emergency department due to colicky abdominal pain located in the lower abdomen. An extensive review of the literature was conducted referring all the cases of vesicoenteric fistula incorporating Meckel’s diverticulum to elucidate the clinical characteristics, explore the diagnostic yield, and to summarize the therapeutic approach.

Meckel’s diverticulum is a rare entity that affects the gastrointestinal tract and characterized by a blind pouch protruding from the wall of the small intestine approximately two inches long. It is usually caused by failure of the omphalomesenteric duct to obliterate, and usually being found within two feet from ileocecal valve. Although it is usually asymptomatic, it can lead to complications such as ulceration, bleeding, and even vesicoenteric fistula formation. Vesicoenteric fistulas are abnormal connections between the urinary bladder and an intestinal (small bowel) segment that could cause the leakage of urine into the intestine [ 1–4 ]. They pose a scarce pathology throughout the literature, with an incidence rate of 0.1%–0.2% in general population. They develop between Meckel’s diverticulum and urinary bladder, in less than 5% of cases [ 2 ]. Symptoms of vesicoenteric fistulas can include abdominal pain, fever, urinary retention, and vomiting [ 5 ]. These conditions can be diagnosed further through a combination of clinical examination, laboratory, and imaging tests. Treatment of vesicoenteric fistulas due to Meckel’s diverticulum typically involves the resection of the affected intestinal portion and repair of the fistula [ 6 ]. In some cases, laparoscopic surgery can be used successfully to treat these fistulas [ 5 , 7 ]. This article reports a rare case of a male patient suffering from an unknown until the point of the admission vesicoenteric fistula developed between the perforated by foreign body Meckel’s diverticulum and urinary bladder. Additionally, an extensive review of the literature using PubMed library was conducted using the keywords ‘enterovesical AND fistula AND meckel AND diverticulum’, ‘foreign AND body AND fistula AND meckel AND diverticulum AND vesicoenteric OR enterovesical’, ‘foreign AND body AND fistula AND meckel AND diverticulum’ and ‘vesicoenteric AND fistula AND meckel AND diverticulum’ in the title and abstract on June 2023. Moreover, the reference lists of the eligible studies and relevant review articles were cross-checked to identify all prior reported case reports of vesicoenteric fistula from Meckel diverticulum, and to determine the set of symptoms, the different diagnostic tools, and the surgical approach.

A 38-year-old Caucasian male patient was admitted to the emergency department of the University Hospital of Alexandroupolis with colicky abdominal pain, ongoing for three weeks. The patient reported slight remission of the symptoms the last two weeks and exacerbation of them two days before his admission. No active bleeding, history of hematochezia, faecaluria or pneumaturia was reported by the patient. The patient was afebrile, without accompanying nausea or vomiting. Vital parameters were recorded: blood pressure measurement 125/80 mm Hg, oxygen saturation rate 97% and pulse rate of 87 beats per minute. During the clinical examination, the abdomen was distended and tympanic, with intense tenderness in the hypogastrium and right and left iliac fossa. Positive McBurney and Rovsing signs were found, as well as decreased bowel sounds during auscultation. The laboratory tests results revealed leukocytosis, with a polymorphonuclear type, and increased inflammation indices. Table 1 summarizes the results of the laboratory tests. The emergent abdominal computed tomography (CT) revealed a thin elongated radiopaque formation about 2 cm long, that could be a foreign body, protruding from a blind small bowel loop (attributed to Meckel’s diverticulum, Fig. 1 ) into the pelvic cavity ( Fig. 2 ). Focal thickening as well as edema of the intestinal wall and the surrounding mesenterial fat was revealed, without any extraluminal air bubbles or intra-abdominal fluid collections ( Fig. 1 ).

Laboratory test results

Computed Tomography of the abdomen: a blind intestinal loop (thin arrow) was attributed to Meckel’s diverticulum. Concomitant focal thickening as well as edema of the intestinal wall and the surrounding mesenterial fat (thick arrow).

Computed Tomography of the abdomen: a blind intestinal loop (thin arrow) was attributed to Meckel’s diverticulum. Concomitant focal thickening as well as edema of the intestinal wall and the surrounding mesenterial fat (thick arrow).

Computed Tomography of the abdomen: a thin elongated hyperdense nodule about 2 cm long perforating the intestinal wall, attributed to a foreign body (fish-bone).

Computed Tomography of the abdomen: a thin elongated hyperdense nodule about 2 cm long perforating the intestinal wall, attributed to a foreign body (fish-bone).

The patient underwent an emergent exploratory laparotomy. Intraoperatively, distended small bowel coils and a hypertrophic but non-inflammatory appendix vermiformis were discovered. During the small bowel examination, adhesions as well as a large about one and a half inches long, inflammatory, and perforated by a fishbone Meckel’s diverticulum was observed about 80 cm from the ileocecal valve ( Fig. 3 ), solidly attached to the urinary bladder. Adhesiolysis, segmental small bowel resection incorporating the Meckel’s diverticulum, and a side-to-side small bowel anastomosis were carried out ( Fig. 4 ). Urinary bladder leakage was discovered during the Douglas pouch examination, and the bladder wall deficit was then closed via a double-layer suture pattern. A drainage tube inserted and positioned in Douglas’s pouch to detect any early postoperative leakage. The patient’s postoperative course was uneventful and the patient discharged home on the sixth postoperative day, and the Foley catheter was removed on the tenth postoperative day.

Postoperative specimen from small bowel segmental resection including the perforated by a fish bone Meckel’s diverticulum.

Postoperative specimen from small bowel segmental resection including the perforated by a fish bone Meckel’s diverticulum.

Postoperative specimen from small bowel segmental resection including the perforated by a fish bone Meckel’s diverticulum.

Meckel’s diverticulum is the most common congenital anomaly of gastrointestinal tract characterized by a blind pouch protruding from the wall of the small intestine [ 2 , 4 ]. It is a rare condition, occurring in approximately 2% of the population [ 3 ]. While Meckel’s diverticulum is usually asymptomatic, it can cause various complications such as intussusception, intestinal obstruction, ulceration, bleeding, diverticulitis, perforation and, very rarely, neoplasms and vesicoenteric fistulas [ 1 , 4 ].

Vesicoenteric fistulas (VEFs) are abnormal connections between the urinary bladder and the intestine that can result in the leakage of urine into the intestinal lumen. These fistulas are rare complications, with an incidence of 0.1%–0.2% in the general population [ 2 ]. Meckel’s diverticulum is a rare cause of vesicoenteric fistulas, accounting for less than 5% of all cases while most commonly occur secondary to diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, colon and bladder malignancies [ 6 ]. Recent literature has documented eleven similar cases, with Table 2 offering a comprehensive summary encompassing their symptoms, the diagnostic imaging techniques employed, and the surgical interventions performed. The cause of the formation of vesicointestinal fistulas to the reported cases included the following: unknown etiology—idiopathic in seven cases [ 2 , 3 , 5 , 7–10 ], Crohn disease [ 11 ], enterolith, adenocarcinoma of ectopic pancreatic tissue, and foreign body [ 12–14 ].

Eleven similar studies have been documented reporting vesicoenteric fistulas formation between Meckel’s diverticulum and urinary bladder

VEFs can be difficult to diagnose, as symptoms may be nonspecific and the condition is rare [ 5 ]. Symptoms of vesicoenteric fistulas can include abdominal pain, fever, lower urinary tract symptoms, urinary retention, and vomiting [ 6 , 7 ]. The diagnosis of these conditions can be made through a combination of clinical examination, laboratory tests, and imaging studies, such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), cystoscopy, Tc-99 m DTPA or gastrointestinal (GI) contrast studies [ 6 ]. In some cases, including ours, laparotomy may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis [ 11 ]. In our case, a vesicoenteric fistula could not be seen in the emergent CT examination of the abdomen. The diagnosis was confirmed intraoperatively with the existence of a vesicoenteric fistula developed between the perforated by a foreign body (fishbone) Meckel’s diverticulum and the urinary bladder.

The surgical approach for the treatment of vesicoenteric fistulas incorporating Meckel’s diverticulum typically involves the removal of the affected portion of the intestine and the Meckel’s diverticulum, as well as repair of the fistula [ 7 ]. In some cases, additional procedures such as appendectomy may be necessary [ 2 ]. After surgery, the patient may need to undergo urinary catheterization and may require ongoing monitoring for any complications [ 5 ]. Laparoscopic surgery can successfully be used to treat vesicoenteric fistula due to Meckel’s diverticulum [ 7 ]. Operative management of vesicoenteric fistulas involves resection and reanastomosis of the bowel segment causing the fistula and closing of the bladder [ 6 ].

In conclusion, Meckel’s diverticulum is a rare cause of vesicoenteric fistula formation. It could lead to life-threatening complications due to foreign body ingestion or perforation. The diagnosis of vesicoenteric fistula poses a challenge even for an experienced radiologist. General surgeons should be aware of this scarcity because of the provocative treatment required. Treatment is mainly surgical and involves the removal of the affected portion of the intestine incorporating the Meckel’s diverticulum, as well as repair of the fistula. Further studies should be conducted to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of laparoscopic surgery for the treatment of vesicoenteric fistulas incorporated Meckel’s diverticulum.

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

None declared.

No funding source to declare.

A consent form completed and signed by the patient.

Dimitrios Diamantidis (Author), Nikolaos Papatheodorou (Co-author), Panagiotis Kostoglou (Reviewer), Georgios Tsakaldimis (Reviewer), and Sotirios Botaitis (Supervisor).

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  • Published: 16 February 2024

Cultural threads in writing mastery: a structural analysis of perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, and motivation as mediated by self-reflection in Chinese EFL learners

  • Ye Tao 1 &
  • Jianbin Yu 1 , 2  

BMC Psychology volume  12 , Article number:  80 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

Metrics details

The study explores language acquisition in Chinese English as a Foreign Language (EFL) education, where English proficiency is crucial for global opportunities. As China gains prominence, the demand for English skills rises beyond communication to include academic and business success. The Chinese education system emphasizes proficient English writing for further education and professional achievement. This research investigates the complex linguistic context for EFL learners in China, analyzing the intersection of psychological factors, cultural nuances, varied pedagogy, and individual experiences.

Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) is utilized for analysis, enabling the creation of a metric set to explore intangibles such as perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, motivation, study habits, cultural influences, and introspection. The research utilizes a diverse sample from multiple universities across different regions of China, incorporating demographic factors to encompass the varied characteristics within the EFL learner community.

Results reveal that perfectionism (β = 0.30, p  < 0.001), learning self-efficacy (β = 0.25, p  = 0.005), motivation (β = 0.35, p  < 0.001), study habits (β = 0.20, p  = 0.01), and self-reflection (β = 0.28, p  < 0.001) significantly predict writing proficiency. Cultural effects (Beta = 0.15, p  = 0.05) show a statistically significant, albeit minimal, impact. Mediation-moderation analysis underscores perfectionism as a mediator (Beta = 0.25, p  = 0.005), emphasizing its influence on other predictors. Cultural factors act as moderators (Beta = 0.15, p  = 0.01), shaping the link between predictors and writing skills. The combined mediation and moderation effects on writing proficiency are positively significant (Beta = 0.20, p  = 0.02).

Conclusions

This study makes a significant theoretical contribution, enhancing existing models and providing practical insights for EFL educators and policymakers. Emphasizing the intricate relationship between psychological factors and cultural dynamics underscores the necessity for a sophisticated, culturally sensitive approach to language acquisition in Chinese EFL instruction. Beyond language skills, the research recognizes the importance of fostering a conducive environment that encourages personal development, socio-cultural awareness, and a holistic learning approach.

Peer Review reports

Introduction

The ability to communicate oneself effectively in writing has become more critical in the academic and professional worlds, making fluency in EFL a necessary goal for anyone pursuing an international education [ 1 ]. This study seeks to shed light on the intricate interplay between perfectionist tendencies, beliefs in one’s ability to learn, intrinsic motivation, and writing proficiency among Chinese students learning English as a foreign language. Understanding the factors (cultural, pedagogical, and individual) that influence Chinese EFL students’ ability to write in English calls for a thorough investigation. This study is essential for guiding efficient teaching methods, raising students’ accomplishments, and adding to the conversation about language education as a whole [ 2 ].

Background and context

The necessity for fluency in English has grown significantly in recent years in China due to the country’s expanding global influence. The importance of the English language as a method of communication and a gateway to better professional and educational opportunities has created this demand. The Chinese academic system lays heavy emphasis on the English language, and many students see the ability to write well in English as crucial to their future success [ 3 ] in both higher education and the job market. Chinese learners of EFL face a challenging linguistic landscape shaped by cultural nuance, pedagogical approach, and their unique paths to proficiency. Fluency in English has become more critical in academic, professional, and international contexts in China as a result of the country’s rapid economic development and rising global significance. In light of China’s ongoing interaction with the international community, the acquisition of English language skills has emerged as both a pragmatic need and a representation of cultural flexibility and global awareness [ 4 ]. In the Chinese cultural milieu, language has a purpose beyond essential communication, as it encompasses a multifaceted fabric of tradition, symbolism, and social stratification. The incorporation of English as a second language has initiated a nuanced interplay between enduring cultural norms and the worldwide linguistic requirements of the contemporary day. The impact of Confucian ideals, such as those seen in traditional East Asian societies, might potentially modify the attitudes of students towards authoritative figures, hence influencing their relationships with English language teachers and their approach to written tasks. The effect of Confucian values, mainly the focus on respect for authority, may have an impact on the manner in which students receive and react to comments provided in their writing [ 5 ]. The Chinese education system has seen substantial changes in order to adapt to the evolving needs of an increasingly dynamic global environment. The changes in question place significant emphasis on English language training, which signifies a dedication to providing Chinese learners with the required abilities for engaging in international cooperation and communication. The pedagogical strategies used in EFL classrooms often strive to strike a harmonious equilibrium between conventional language education and progressive techniques aimed at augmenting communicative competence [ 6 ]. The current educational landscape maintains a focus on rote memory. This practice has historical roots while also acknowledging the increasing significance of cultivating critical thinking and creative expression, especially in the realm of written communication.

EFL learners in China include a wide range of people who possess distinct origins, motivations, and learning methods. While many individuals may be motivated by academic ambitions, others may see English language competence as a crucial factor in gaining access to global employment markets or pursuing foreign educational prospects. The exposure to the English language among individuals is also subject to geographical changes [ 7 ]. Students residing in metropolitan locations are likely to have a more significant number of prospects for engaging in immersive language experiences. In contrast, those residing in rural regions may encounter higher obstacles in terms of obtaining resources for the English language. Within the framework of the Chinese education system, there exists a prevailing perception that the attainment of English proficiency, particularly in the domain of writing, serves as a pivotal factor in facilitating success throughout several tiers. A high level of English language proficiency is a mandatory requirement for acceptance into several foreign tertiary education programs. According toAlexander [ 8 ], Chinese students who have ambitions of pursuing higher education overseas acknowledge the significance of showcasing proficient writing abilities in order to thrive in highly competitive application procedures. In the context of a globalized world, the capacity to communicate effectively in English is becoming more intertwined with one’s prospects for employment. Employers, both domestically and internationally, often place a high value on applicants who possess strong English communication skills, with a particular emphasis on written proficiency. Proficient English writing abilities are often regarded as advantageous in a variety of professional domains, including business, technology, academia, and the arts. As China actively participates in partnerships with overseas counterparts, proficient written communication in the English language emerges as a crucial factor for achieving success in global endeavors. According toGuo&Asmawi [ 9 ], the acquisition of proficient English writing skills enables individuals to effectively communicate ideas clearly and succinctly, hence promoting successful cross-cultural communication.

The psychological concept of perfectionism, which involves the establishment of very high standards and a constant need for flawlessness, has received considerable study in the field of language acquisition. The intricate and diverse nature of language learning, particularly in relation to writing skills, is influenced by the presence of perfectionism. It is of utmost importance to comprehend the ways in which perfectionist inclinations are shown and exert an impact on the writing process within the population of Chinese EFL learners. This understanding is essential for devising interventions that are specifically tailored to facilitate the cultivation of a healthy academic trajectory [ 10 ]. The concept of self-efficacy, which is a fundamental element of Bandura’s social cognitive theory, pertains to an individual’s confidence in their capacity to execute a specific job successfully. The development of a sense of personal competence is crucial for learners of EFL who are expected to complete writing projects of varying degrees of difficulty and complexity. Insights into the motivational and cognitive components of language acquisition may be gained by analyzing the correlation between learner efficacy and writing competence [ 11 ]. An integral part of learning a language, motivation is the engine that keeps students working towards their goals. Teachers need to be aware of the factors that encourage or discourage students from actively participating in writing tasks. The intricate relationship between intrinsic motivation and written output among Chinese EFL students calls for a systematic investigation [ 12 ].

Rationale and significance

The dynamic relevance of the interaction between perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, motivation, and self-reflection is magnified in the unique context of Chinese EFL learners. Learners’ perspectives on accomplishment and success in language learning are shaped by their perfectionism, which may be culturally complex. To learn a new language effectively, one must balance demanding excellence and damaging oneself with excessive criticism. Conversely, learning self-efficacy investigates students’ confidence in their ability to become fluent English speakers, a factor that is strongly related to students’ cultural identity and past educational experiences. Cultural norms and social expectations in China inspire EFL students to learn a new language with a unique twist. As a natural learning component, self-reflection also helps students adjust their approach to language acquisition and gain insight into their progress. Our research aims to provide insights beyond standard frameworks and directly related to Chinese EFL learners’ cultural and educational environment by unraveling the intricacies and synergies that contribute to their holistic development within this rich tapestry of factors.

This study recognizes the necessity for a comprehensive approach to understanding Chinese EFL students’ English writing skills. This study examines the delicate relationship between students’ perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, motivation, and writing competence to understand better how they affect English writing outcomes. Cultural Influence and Self-Reflection complicate the investigation. This acknowledges the complex link between personality, social environment, and cognition. The implications of this discovery go beyond science. The findings of this research may be utilized to improve the Chinese EFL curriculum, teaching, and resources. Additionally, this study adds considerably to language learning knowledge. They assist academics, educators, and policymakers in understanding EFL writing ability in culturally diverse situations.

Objectives of the study

This research aims to accomplish three main goals:

To study how perfectionism, self-efficacy, and motivation affect Chinese EFL students’ writing.

To examine how culture affects perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, motivation, and writing skills.

To examine Chinese EFL students’ perfectionist tendencies, language learning self-efficacy, study motivation, and English writing skills.

The larger academic community recognizes the critical importance of this research on Chinese EFL learners. Fluency in English is needed to take advantage of the many worldwide possibilities presented by China’s rise to global superpower status. A fresh perspective on the complex process of language acquisition is provided by the detailed examination of cultural effects in conjunction with the in-depth investigation of psychological aspects, including learning self-efficacy, motivation, self-reflection, and perfectionism. This study adds to our knowledge of how these factors interact within a unique language and cultural setting by exploring the experiences of Chinese EFL learners. This study’s results have the potential to influence policymaking, pedagogical practices, and educational practices in order to improve this population’s English writing skills, which is an essential component of successful global communication.The hypothesized model for ready reference is shown in Fig.  1 .

figure 1

Hypothesized model

Source: self Extract

This study is divided into many sections to cover the issue thoroughly. The literature review then examines major theoretical frameworks and empirical studies on perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, motivation, and EFL writing competence. Study design, participant recruitment, data collection, and statistical analysis are detailed in the methods section. The next sections will present and debate the findings, followed by discussions on their possible uses, limits, and future research.

Literature review

The literature review is an essential part of learning about the theoretical models and empirical studies that form the basis of the study. The subsequent empirical investigation is triggered by combining cultural factors, motivational factors, and psychological concepts within the context of Chinese EFL students.

Relationship between perfectionism and EFL writing proficiency

The idea of perfectionism in psychology has gained prominence in the field of second language learning because of its profound impact on students’ mental processes and academic outcomes. According toStoeber [ 13 ], perfectionism is a complex concept that encompasses several aspects, including self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially dictated dimensions. This conception provides a fundamental framework for comprehending the intricate ramifications of perfectionism in the context of EFL acquisition. Perfectionism is acknowledged within the field of language acquisition as having the capacity to impact learners’ attitudes, behaviors, and results. The endeavor to achieve exceedingly high benchmarks and the inclination to be excessively self-critical provide the framework for a multifaceted interaction between perfectionism and different aspects of language acquisition, specifically within the realm of EFL instruction. The correlation between perfectionism and writing skills is of notable importance within the context of language acquisition. Tan [ 14 ] examined the relationship between self-oriented perfectionism and the quality of written assignments among students in a university setting. The results of their study indicated a significant positive association, indicating that those who possess high personal standards are more likely to have superior writing skills. This association suggests that the personal urge to achieve perfection might act as a motivating factor that improves the quality of written work. The discovery presented in this study raises the need to investigate the motivating dimensions of perfectionism and its impact on the acquisition of writing abilities among EFL learners in China [ 15 ]. The convergence of perfectionism and cultural factors, particularly in the context of Chinese culture, offers an extra dimension of intricacy. Cultural variables have a crucial role in influencing the expression of perfectionistic impulses among Chinese EFL learners. The contribution of cultural factors, namely collectivism and the impact of Confucian ideals, to the development of perfectionist tendencies, has been investigated by Yang et al. [ 16 ] and Wan et al. [ 17 ]. Within the context of Chinese culture, where there exists a strong inclination towards the pursuit of academic success, the significance placed on accomplishment and industriousness may either intensify or alleviate the consequences associated with perfectionism. The impact of collectivism in Chinese culture may shape people’s perceptions and reactions toward the social demands linked to perfectionism [ 18 ].

The integration of the literature results underscores the complex relationship among perfectionism, writing skills, and cultural factors within the domain of EFL education in China. The study approach being presented emphasizes the multifaceted character of perfectionism, acknowledging its capacity to both positively and negatively impact the writing performance of learners.

The initial hypothesis of the investigation is formulated based on the literature given.

Hypothesis 1

A significant correlation exists between perfectionism, cultural factors, and EFL writing skills among Chinese learners.

Hypothesis 1a

There is a positive correlation between self-oriented perfectionism levels and writing performance among EFL learners in China.

Hypothesis 1b

The impact of cultural characteristics, such as collectivism and the influence of Confucian principles, will serve as a moderating factor in the association between perfectionism and writing performance among Chinese EFL learners.

Influence of learning self-efficacy on EFL writing proficiency

The idea of learning self-efficacy, which is firmly grounded in Bandura’s social cognitive theory, plays a fundamental role in comprehending people’s attitudes about their ability to do activities successfully [ 19 ]. Bandura’s theoretical framework posits that self-efficacy beliefs have a significant influence on people’s decision-making processes, exerting an impact on the level of effort they invest and ultimately deciding their ability to persist in the face of obstacles. Within the realm of language acquisition, these components assume paramount importance as they have a significant influence on learners’ advancement, especially in the realm of written competence [ 20 ]. A multitude of empirical investigations have been conducted to examine the complex association between self-efficacy in learning and results in language acquisition. In their extensive study,Magogwe& Oliver [ 21 ] did a thorough inquiry to examine the relationship between self-efficacy beliefs and language proficiency. Their findings revealed a significant positive link between these two variables. This discovery highlights the motivating significance of people’s self-assurance in their language acquisition aptitude. Individuals who have a robust belief in their ability to succeed, sometimes referred to as self-efficacy, are more likely to display increased levels of desire, active participation, and, ultimately, enhanced performance in the acquisition of a new language. In the specific context of writing proficiency, the impact of gaining self-efficacy becomes notably significant. The act of writing is a multifaceted talent that requires not just proficiency in language but also a sense of self-assurance in appropriately expressing thoughts and concepts [ 22 ]. Individuals who possess a strong sense of self-efficacy in the domain of writing tend to have a greater inclination towards approaching writing activities with excitement, dedicating substantial effort towards honing their writing abilities, and demonstrating persistence in the face of obstacles. To comprehend the concept of learning self-efficacy in the Chinese educational setting, it is necessary to consider the impact of cultural factors. The study conducted by Chan [ 23 ] highlights the considerable influence of cultural values on the development of self-efficacy beliefs among the Chinese student population. The significant importance placed on academic accomplishment within Chinese culture is closely intertwined with learners’ conceptions of their skills, hence exerting an influence on their motivation and overall academic performance. The development of learning self-efficacy is also influenced by educational contexts, which include instructional approaches, peer relationships, and institutional support. Within the context of Chinese education, the amalgamation of traditional instructional techniques with contemporary, learner-focused methodologies significantly influences students’ perceptions of their academic capabilities [ 24 ]. The amalgamation of these scholarly discoveries highlights the complex and diverse characteristics of self-efficacy in the context of learning, emphasizing its crucial influence on language acquisition achievements, specifically in the domain of writing skills. The study approach being presented recognizes the interrelatedness of self-efficacy, cultural factors, and the educational environment in shaping the writing skills of EFL learners.

Wang et al. [ 25 ] developed a robust instrument to measure the proficiency of Chinese EFL instructors when it comes to drafting evaluation comments. Evaluation review competency, feedback collection procedures, comparison observations, composition understanding, and evaluation opinions’ usefulness approaches make up the research’s validated survey. There are ramifications for instructors, evaluators, and EFL instructors. Wang &Hemchua [ 26 ] highlight the underappreciated use of illustrations in the instruction of languages, especially when it comes to teaching English. They provide conceptual and practical implications for ELT materials that use illustrations to improve international interpersonal abilities and comprehension of culture. Using students’ confidence and readiness to interact in mixed-learning contexts as their primary foci, Guo et al. [ 27 ] explore how to motivate students to acquire languages. Basic competency and counseling modality acted as modifiers in their quasi-investigation of 232 subjects, which found that ways to scaffold substantially affect confidence levels.

The second hypothesis of the research, derived from the literature referenced, is as follows:

Hypothesis 2

A significant correlation exists between the levels of learning self-efficacy, cultural influences, and EFL writing skills among Chinese learners.

Hypothesis 2a

There is a positive relationship between the levels of learning self-efficacy among EFL learners in China and their ability in English writing.

Hypothesis 2b

The connection between learning self-efficacy and writing competency among Chinese EFL learners would be influenced by cultural variables.

Motivational factors in EFL writing proficiency

Motivation is widely acknowledged as a fundamental aspect of language acquisition, exerting a dynamic influence on learners’ levels of engagement and perseverance. According to Law et al. [ 28 ], motivation may be classified into two distinct dimensions: intrinsic and extrinsic. In the realm of motivation, there exists a coexistence between intrinsic motivation, derived from internal variables like interest and satisfaction, and extrinsic motivation, which is propelled by external rewards or consequences. When it comes to improving students’ writing abilities, both cognitive and emotional factors play essential roles in shaping students’ perspectives and actions. Research in the area of EFL acquisition has shed light on the nuanced relationship between intrinsic motivation and language learning outcomes. According toAtay& Kurt [ 29 ], Gardner’s suggested socio-educational paradigm emphasizes the concept of integrative motivation, which is tied to a strong propensity to integrate into the community of the target language. It is essential to understand the motivations that inspire students while teaching English as a foreign language in China, where being able to speak in English is frequently considered a method to access worldwide opportunities. Chinese EFL students’ motivation stems from a firm conviction that mastering English would open doors to opportunities throughout the world. Individuals invest time and energy into learning languages, with a focus on improving their writing abilities so that they may take an active role in global society, pursue foreign educational opportunities, and broaden their employment chances [ 30 ]. Cultural factors significantly influence motivational orientations in language acquisition. Li [ 31 ] study examines the concept of motivation within Asian EFL environments, with a particular focus on China. The research highlights the intricate interplay between motivation and cultural values, emphasizing the ever-evolving and multifaceted nature of motivation in these settings. The endeavor to achieve academic achievement, which is closely linked to broader societal desires for social acknowledgment, has a substantial impact on students’ motivational tendencies. A strong emphasis on the pursuit of intellectual achievement characterizes the Chinese cultural context. The drive to flourish in English writing may be closely associated with the social importance attributed to academic success. The motivation of Chinese EFL learners to develop writing competency is influenced by the potential for social recognition and increased possibilities, both within their local communities and on a worldwide scale [ 32 ]. The integration of the literature above results underscores the intricate interaction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, the impact of global possibilities on motivation within the Chinese setting, and the significance of cultural elements in creating patterns of motivation. The study approach being presented emphasizes the complex and varied nature of motivation, acknowledging its multiple origins and effects on the writing skills of EFL learners.

The third hypothesis suggested in this research is as follows:

Hypothesis 3

A significant correlation exists between motivational variables, cultural effects, and EFL writing skills among Chinese learners.

Hypothesis 3a

Chinese EFL learners who possess higher levels of integrative motivation will demonstrate enhanced competency in the skill of English writing.

Moderating role of cultural influences

The complex and dynamic relationship between cultural factors and language learning outcomes is a topic of great significance since it significantly impacts the efficacy of language training [ 33 ]. Cultural diversity comprises a range of factors, including communication methods, attitudes toward authority, and ways of learning. These factors have the potential to influence the interaction between psychological dimensions and language competency greatly. In the context of EFL education in China, it is crucial to possess a comprehensive awareness of cultural elements. This understanding is especially essential in the facilitation of links between psychological constructs and the level of competency in writing [ 34 ]. The phenomenon of acculturation, which pertains to the process of adapting to a new culture, has significant consequences for people’s approaches to activities related to language acquisition. The study conducted by Zhou et al. [ 35 ] places significant emphasis on the acculturation tactics used by people, highlighting the intricate equilibrium they establish in order to preserve their own culture while also assimilating into the new society. In the context of EFL education in China, where students are faced with the challenge of balancing traditional values with global expectations, cultural influences will probably have a significant moderating effect. The expression and perception of psychological constructs, such as perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, and motivation, may be influenced by cultural variances in communication styles. The manner in which feedback on writing is delivered to students in China, characterized by a cultural inclination towards indirect communication, can influence the association between perfectionism and writing skills [ 2 ]. The impact of cultural norms on learning self-efficacy beliefs may be seen via the influence of attitudes toward authority. In societies that place a strong emphasis on respecting authority, students’ levels of confidence while engaging in language acquisition activities may be influenced by their perception of the expectations set by authority people. Comprehending this phenomenon is essential in order to elucidate the moderating impact of cultural factors on the correlation between self-perceived competence in learning and proficiency in writing. The influence of cultural variances on motivational patterns may be seen in different methods of learning, such as those that prioritize rote memorization or those that stimulate critical thinking [ 36 ]. Students hailing from cultures that prioritize individual performance may exhibit intrinsic motivation driven by a personal aspiration for success. In contrast, students from collectivist cultures may get motivation from their contribution to the collective success of the group. It is imperative to acknowledge these cultural subtleties in order to fully grasp the manner in which cultural factors control the association between motivation and writing aptitude [ 37 ].

The fourth hypothesis of the investigation is stated as follows:

Hypothesis 4

The influence of cultural variables on the association between perfectionism and writing competence is expected to be significant among Chinese EFL learners.

Hypothesis 4a

The impact of cultural factors will be discernible in the correlation between learning self-efficacy and writing competence among Chinese EFL learners.

Hypothesis 4b

Cultural effects are expected to have a moderating effect on the association between motivating variables and writing competence in Chinese EFL learners.

Mediating effect of self-reflection

Self-reflection, which involves the intentional examination of one’s ideas, behaviors, and personal encounters, is a cognitive activity that has a substantial impact on the acquisition of language [ 38 ]. The use of metacognitive practice enhances the comprehension of language learning procedures and promotes the advancement of skills. Self-reflection has a vital role in developing EFL writers’ awareness and metacognitive control [ 39 ]. When it comes to writing, self-reflection is essential since it establishes a link between reflective practices and improvements in writing ability and the development of critical thinking skills. The research done by Lew et al. [ 40 ] explores the value of reflective journals in the writing process, demonstrating that the act of self-reflection helps students’ awareness of their writing talents and limits. Therefore, the raised awareness contributes to the ongoing development of one’s writing abilities. While it is generally agreed that introspection is crucial to learning a new language, additional research into the cultural differences in how this is seen is required. The existing knowledge gap presents an opportunity to explore the ways in which people from various cultural backgrounds, such as EFL learners in China, participate in reflective practices. The impact of cultural variations in communication styles and attitudes towards introspection on the manner in which EFL learners engage in self-reflection as a means of mediating the connections between psychological characteristics and writing competency has been explored byGreenier et al. [ 41 ]. The impact of cultural diversity on communication styles may shape the manner in which people articulate their ideas and experiences throughout the process of self-reflection. In societies that emphasize indirect modes of communication, the practice of self-reflection may manifest in intricate ways, influencing the extent and lucidity of learners’ perceptions. A comprehensive grasp of these cultural subtleties is needed in order to effectively evaluate the moderating influence of self-reflection within the domain of EFL writing competence [ 42 ]. The inclination to participate in metacognitive processes, such as self-reflection, may be influenced by individuals’ attitudes towards introspection, which are firmly ingrained in cultural norms. Cultures that place importance on individual introspection may cultivate a more robust correlation between self-reflection and skill in writing as learners engage in deliberate contemplation and evaluation of their writing approaches and results [ 43 ].

Drawing upon the material that has been referenced, the ultimate hypothesis of the investigation may be articulated as follows:

Hypothesis 5

The mediating role of self-reflection will be seen in the association between perfectionism and writing competence among Chinese EFL learners.

Hypothesis 5a

The presence of self-reflection as a mediating factor will be observable in the correlation between learning self-efficacy and writing competency among Chinese EFL learners.

Hypothesis 5b

The mediating role of self-reflection in the link between motivating variables and writing competency will be examined among Chinese EFL learners.

Hypothesis 5c

The moderating role of cultural influences will be seen in the mediating impact of self-reflection on the association between psychological characteristics and writing skills among Chinese EFL learners.

The primary objective of this research is to address significant deficiencies in current scholarly works by providing a comprehensive and culturally attuned investigation of the relationship between psychological factors, cultural influences, and self-reflection in relation to EFL writing competency among Chinese students. Prior research has recognized the impact of psychological factors, such as perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, and motivation, on EFL writing competency [ 44 , 45 ]. Nevertheless, there needs to be more cross-cultural analysis of these variables, particularly in relation to Chinese EFL learners. The primary objective of this research is to address the existing disparity by examining the complex relationship between psychological variables and writing competence while taking into account the distinct cultural intricacies seen within Chinese educational environments. Although scholars have recognized the significance of cultural effects on language acquisition, there is a need for studies investigating the moderating influence of cultural variables on the connection between psychological dimensions and EFL writing skills [ 46 , 47 ]. This research acknowledges the need to address this knowledge gap by investigating the ways in which cultural factors impact the intricate connections between perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, motivation, and writing competency in Chinese EFL learners. The significance of self-reflection in language acquisition is well acknowledged; nonetheless, there exists a need for comprehension of the mechanisms via which self-reflection functions within various cultural settings. The present study aims to fill this research vacuum by examining the mediating effect of self-reflection on the associations between psychological characteristics and writing competence. Additionally, this study takes into account the cultural components that influence reflective practice among Chinese EFL learners. Prior studies have often focused on specific psychological components in a fragmented manner, without a comprehensive framework that incorporates many aspects [ 48 , 49 ]. The study’s goal is to add to the existing body of knowledge by using a comprehensive approach that accounts for the interplaying effects of perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, motivation, cultural influences, and introspection. An integrated method is used to understand better the many processes that influence EFL writers’ abilities.

This study provides a thorough understanding of the relationships between perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, motivation, and writing proficiency among Chinese EFL students. This method goes beyond the narrow study of individual components to show how they all interact together to affect the final written product. The study of how cultural elements might operate as moderators is an essential contribution to the current knowledge. The primary goal of this study is to investigate cultural impacts on the links between psychological aspects and writing abilities in the context of Chinese EFL instruction. The study’s overarching goal is to help educators better understand cultural differences so that they may design more effective individualized learning plans. This research endeavor pioneers a novel exploration of the relatively unexplored significance of self-reflection in many cultural situations. This study aims to provide significant insights into the metacognitive processes that influence language learning outcomes among Chinese EFL learners. Specifically, it explores the role of self-reflection in mediating the links between psychological variables and writing competency. The implications of the study’s results have practical significance for professionals in the fields of education, curriculum development, and policymaking. The identification of cultural and psychological elements that impact EFL writing skills provides a basis for the creation of focused treatments that cater to the particular requirements of Chinese learners. These interventions have the potential to improve teaching practices, curriculum design, and support systems in order to maximize results related to writing competence.

Methodology

Participants.

This research focuses on English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners in China, specifically those enrolled in language learning programs at the postsecondary level, aiming to explore the intricate relationships between psychological variables, cultural factors, and writing skills. A purposeful sampling strategy targeted 563 individuals from diverse Chinese universities and language schools, representing major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. The data collection involved administering a structured questionnaire survey, ensuring reliability and accuracy. The survey utilized a Likert scale ranging from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree) to assess various constructs, including perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, motivation, writing skills, cultural influences, and self-reflection. The study incorporated a diverse set of variables, such as Writing Proficiency (WP), Perfectionism (PERFECT), Learning Self-Efficacy (LSE), Motivation (MOT), Study Habits (SH), Self-Reflection (SR), and Cultural Influence (CI). These variables were assessed using established instruments adapted from prior research, ensuring comprehensive insights into the complex dynamics influencing EFL writers’ competence in Chinese.

Instruments

Different instruments were used for collecting the data, each is explained as follows.

Writing Proficiency (WP).The study used the ‘Self-report writing proficiency scale’, which was derived from the research conducted by Silvia et al. [ 50 ]. The research implemented a reorganization of the items, including a set of five questions specifically relevant to the subject matter under investigation. The questions have been designed according to the 5-point Likert scale items. The provided question is presented in the following manner: “I can express my thoughts clearly in written English.”

Perfectionism (PERFECT)

The study used ‘Hewitt and Flett’s Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (MPS)’ adapted from the study of Hewitt et al. [ 51 ]. The five items are used in the study. The sample question is as follows: “I often set extremely high standards for my written assignments.”

Learning self-efficacy (LSE)

The study used ‘Bandura’s Self-Efficacy Scale’ from the scholarly work of Wang et al. [ 52 ] and redesigned five items related to the study theme. The sample question is as follows: “I am confident in my ability to learn and improve my English writing skills.”

Motivation (MOT)

The study used ‘Gardner’s Integrative Motivation Scale’, adapted from the scholarly work ofChoubsaz&Choubsaz [ 53 ]. The five items have been redesigned according to the study’s theme. The sample question is as follows: “I am motivated to improve my English writing skills.”

Study habits (SH)

The study used the ‘Self-report writing proficiency scale’, adapted from the research of Silvia et al. [ 50 ]. The sample question is as follows: “I allocate dedicated time to practice writing in English.”

Self-reflection (SR)

The study used ‘Vandergrift &Tafaghodtari’s Self-Reflection Scale’ taken from the scholarly work of Vandergrift et al. [ 54 ] and re-structured the questions as per the study’s theme. The five questions are used in the study. The sample question is as follows: “I often reflect on my writing strengths and weaknesses.”

Cultural influence (CI)

Cultural context shapes how learners with strong self-efficacy (LSE) and high motivation (MOT) utilize these traits for effective writing, considering cultural norms and values. The study used a ‘Customized scale’ based on some identified cultural dimensions, adapted from the scholarly work of Li &Kalyanaraman [ 55 ]. The five items have been taken for cultural influence on writing proficiency in English. The sample question is as follows: “My cultural background affects my approach to writing in English.”

Data analysis

Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was employed in this study utilizing Smart PLS software. The measurement model’s robustness was evaluated through various statistical assessments. Reliability, a crucial aspect ensuring the consistency of measurements, was estimated using internal consistency measures, specifically Cronbach’s alpha, for each latent variable. Divergent validity, examining the distinctiveness of different latent variables, and convergent validity, assessing the extent to which indicators of the same latent variable converge, were thoroughly estimated. Smart PLS facilitated these analyses, providing insights into the reliability and validity of the measurement model, crucial for elucidating the intricate relationships among latent variables within the structural equation framework.

Model fit indices, including but not limited to chi-square, Comparative Fit Index (CFI), and Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA), were assessed to determine the overall fit of the structural equation model.The use of this complete method assures the strength and accuracy of our measuring model while also offering significant insights into the intricate relationship between several elements that impact the writing skills of EFL learners in the Chinese setting.

Results and discussion

Table  1 displays the demographic distribution of participants, offering valuable insights into the characteristics of the research sample, including variables such as gender, age group, academic level, and proficiency in EFL.

The demographics of the study’s participants provide light on their heterogeneous distribution among various groups. With 49.73% male and 50.27% female responses, the poll displays a fair representation when it comes to gender. The present equilibrium provides an excellent chance to examine research subjects thoroughly within a multidimensional gender framework. There is a wide variety of ages represented in this poll, although respondents aged 21–23 make up a sizable chunk (35.52%). Incorporating a wide range of people from different ages and backgrounds into our studies of linguistic phenomena is made possible by the existence of demographic change. A large majority of the participants (62.17%) are undergraduate students, showing that individuals just beginning their formal education are overrepresented. Finally, there is a wide range of proficiency in EFL, with a sizable majority (44.41%) located at the intermediate level. Incorporating a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and educational levels increases the study’s applicability and provides more nuanced findings. Descriptive statistics for the study’s significant variables are summarized in Table  2 , which may be used to get an understanding of the data set’s central tendency and variability.

The participants in the study had a moderate degree of perfectionist inclinations, as indicated by a mean score of 3.75 and a standard deviation of 0.92 on a scale ranging from 2 to 5. The construct of Learning Self-Efficacy, which is measured on a scale ranging from 2 to 5, has a mean value of 4.20 and a standard deviation of 0.80. These statistics indicate that participants typically had a high degree of confidence in their perceived capability to acquire proficiency in the English language. The participants’ participation in language acquisition is influenced by motivational variables, as shown by a moderate degree of motivation with a mean of 3.90 and a standard deviation of 0.85. The domains of Study Habits, Cultural Influences, and Self-Reflection have mean scores of 4.05, 3.60, and 4.15, respectively, mainly suggesting good trends in these areas. The Writing ability assessment, which yields scores ranging from 2 to 5, has a mean of 4.2 and a standard deviation of 0.64. The results show that the average level of writing skill among the sample is relatively high. To provide the groundwork for future inferential investigations in the study, the offered descriptive statistics provide a thorough understanding of the measures of central tendency and dispersion for each variable. Table  3 ’s correlation matrix gives a complete picture of the connections between the variables. Each column in the matrix represents the correlation coefficient between two variables, indicating the strength and direction of the connection.

The association between Writing Proficiency and other factors is of significance, i.e., the moderate to high positive correlations seen with Perfectionism (0.45), Learning Self-Efficacy (0.35), and Motivation (0.40). The observed correlation coefficient of 0.25 between Perfectionism and Learning Self-Efficacy (LSE) indicates a slight positive link. Similar to these findings, we find that perfectionism is somewhat positively related to both motivation ( r  = 0.30) and study habits ( r  = 0.15). The link between perfectionism and cultural influences is just 0.20. However, the association between perfectionism and self-reflection is a robust 0.35. A moderate to strong positive link ( r  = 0.45) is seen between Perfectionism and Writing Proficiency, indicating the greatest positive correlation among the variables. In connection to the construct of Learning Self-Efficacy, it is seen that there exists a modest positive correlation with Motivation ( r  = 0.40), a modest positive correlation with Study Habits ( r  = 0.20), and a moderate positive correlation with Cultural Influences ( r  = 0.30). The observed correlation coefficient of 0.35 between Learning Self-Efficacy and Writing Proficiency suggests a modest positive relationship between these two variables. Motivation has a modest positive association with Study Habits ( r  = 0.15) and a moderate positive association with Cultural Influences ( r  = 0.25). The observed correlation coefficient of 0.40 between Motivation and Writing Proficiency indicates a modest positive association. The study habits have limited associations with the other factors, underscoring its largely autonomous character within this particular environment. The findings indicate that there are weak to moderate positive relationships between Cultural Influences and Perfectionism ( r  = 0.20), Learning Self-Efficacy ( r  = 0.30), Motivation ( r  = 0.25), and Self-Reflection ( r  = 0.35). The results indicate that there is a moderate positive relationship between Self-Reflection and three variables: Perfectionism ( r  = 0.35), Learning Self-Efficacy ( r  = 0.25), and Writing Proficiency ( r  = 0.30).

The existence of a positive association between Perfectionism and Learning Self-Efficacy is consistent with established psychological theories, suggesting that persons who strive for high standards may also possess a strong conviction in their ability to learn [ 56 ]. This implies that cultivating a favorable self-efficacy attitude may be a deliberate endeavor to improve learners’ perfectionistic inclinations, which may lead to increased academic achievement and subsequent economic production. The association between Motivation and learning self-efficacy aligns with motivational theories that underscore the interdependent connection between an individual’s belief in their learning capabilities and their will to attain mastery of a language [ 57 ]. Individuals who possess a strong motivation to study and have a confident confidence in their ability to succeed may have a greater likelihood of achieving success in both academic and professional domains. This, in turn, has the potential to contribute to the overall economic competitiveness of a country. The presence of a robust positive link between Perfectionism and Writing ability highlights a complex relationship between the pursuit of excellence and one’s natural ability in language. Individuals exhibiting perfectionist tendencies may possess a greater propensity for generating written work of superior quality, hence potentially yielding economic ramifications in the domains of proficient communication, scholastic success, and future job prospects. Moreover, the observed positive connection between Cultural Influences and many psychological dimensions underscores the complex interaction between cultural values and individual educational encounters. The comprehension and use of cultural influences might be advantageous in formulating educational policies and linguistic programs that are in harmony with the socio-cultural context, hence possibly cultivating a workforce with improved abilities in global communication.

Table  4 provides a thorough examination of the Convergent validity score, which assesses the validity of the measurement model by analyzing the associations between latent components and their respective indicators. The academic interpretation presented in this research greatly strengthens the methodological rigor and deepens our comprehension of the psychological notions being examined.

When analyzing Perfectionism, it is seen that the Multidimensional Scale (MS) and Personal Standards (PS) indicators have significant factor loadings, ranging from 0.85 to 0.90, respectively. The substantial factor loadings highlight a strong correlation between the underlying concept of Perfectionism and the observable indicators, thereby emphasizing their significant contributions to its assessment. The construct of learning self-efficacy may be accurately assessed using Bandura’s Self-Efficacy Scale (BSES) and Perceived Ability (PA), which have factor loadings ranging from 0.80 to 0.85. The strong loadings observed indicate that both indicators effectively measure the latent variable of Learning Self-Efficacy, which represents participants’ belief in their skills to learn a language. Motivation, which includes both intrinsic and extrinsic components, is effectively measured by the Academic Motivation Scale (AMS) and the Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation (IEM) indicators, which have factor loadings ranging from 0.80 to 0.90. The substantial loadings observed in this study serve to emphasize the efficacy of the selected indicators in capturing the underlying concept of Motivation. The study habits, as assessed by the Time Management Scale (TMS) and Study Environment (SE), exhibit factor loadings within the acceptable range of 0.80 to 0.85. The observed loadings indicate that the constructs of TMS and SE are valid measures of the latent variable of Study Habits, providing insights into individuals’ abilities to manage their time and their preferences for study environments. Cultural influences, as measured by the Cultural Values Scale (CVS) and Cultural Background Impact (CBI), show factor loadings ranging from 0.75 to 0.88. Both variables provide substantial contributions to the measurement of Cultural Influences, highlighting the influence of cultural values and background on the psychological constructs of individuals. Self-reflection, as evaluated by the Reflective Learning Scale (RLS) and Metacognitive Awareness (MA), demonstrates effective measurement with factor loadings ranging from 0.88 to 0.92. The observed high loadings suggest that both the RLS and MA measures effectively capture the underlying concept of Self-Reflection, providing evidence of participants’ engagement in reflective learning activities and their knowledge of metacognitive processes. The assessment of writing proficiency is conducted using the Writing Proficiency Scale (WPS) and Writing Quality (WQ), which have consistently shown strong factor loadings ranging from 0.75 to 0.88. The obtained loadings provide support for the validity of WPS and WQ as indicators of the latent construct of Writing skills. They demonstrate that both measures accurately capture participants’ skill in writing and the quality of their written work.

The appropriateness of the model is further supported by the fit indices, namely the Comparative Fit Index (CFI) and the Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA). The model exhibits a satisfactory fit to the observed data, as shown by the CFI value of 0.96 and the RMSEA value of 0.06. The inclusion of these indices, in addition to the component loadings, serves to enhance the reliability and validity of the measurement model in accurately capturing the psychological aspects that are being examined. The findings of hypothesis testing are shown in Table  5 , offering significant insights into the complex interactions among several predictor factors and the outcome variable of Writing Proficiency. Each hypothesis examines the distinct impact of a psychological component on the acquisition of writing abilities in individuals learning EFL.

Hypothesis 1 proposes that there is a substantial positive correlation between Perfectionism and Writing Proficiency (WP). The obtained Beta coefficient of 0.30, accompanied by a p-value below 0.001, suggests that persons who possess high personal standards and tend to be self-critical are more likely to have exceptional writing skills. The discovery above is consistent with economic logic since perfectionism may result in a precise focus on particulars and a dedication to generating written material of exceptional quality, both of which are crucial characteristics in academic and professional environments [ 58 ]. The present study examines the impact of Learning Self-Efficacy (LSE) on Writing Proficiency. The findings indicate a statistically significant positive correlation (Beta = 0.25, p  = 0.005) between learners’ self-efficacy in language acquisition and their proficiency in written expression. This is consistent with logical thinking and supported hypothesis 2 , as persons with high self-efficacy tend to approach writing projects with a sense of confidence, dedicating their efforts and demonstrating persistence in order to get the best possible results [ 59 ]. The present study investigates the relationship between motivation and writing proficiency. The significant and strong positive correlation (β = 0.35, p  < 0.001) highlights the crucial influence of motivation on the development of writing abilities, as supported the hypothesis 3 . According to Rose et al. [ 60 ], persons who possess a strong sense of motivation are inclined to see writing ability as a highly advantageous talent that contributes to their academic and professional opportunities. Consequently, this perception drives them to consistently invest their efforts and actively participate in various writing endeavors. The hypothesis 4 examines the correlation between study habits and writing proficiency. The findings of this research demonstrate a statistically significant positive relationship (β = 0.20, p  = 0.01) between efficient study habits and better writing abilities, emphasizing the significance of the former in the development of the latter. According toAlshuraiaan [ 61 ], the implementation of effective study habits may enhance the utilization of time and resources, hence creating a favorable setting for the development of writing skills. This study H(5a) investigates the impact of cultural influences on writing proficiency. The observed connection is marginally significant (Beta = 0.15, p  = 0.05), suggesting that cultural factors may play a role in how a person learns to write. Cultural variables may affect how people approach writing, leading to the expression of different worldviews and modes of expression [ 62 ]. H(5b,c) performed research on how S-R affected students’ writing abilities. The results show that there is a positive and substantial correlation between the two variables (Beta = 0.28, p 0.001). This shows the significance of developing better writing abilities via reflective learning methodologies. Chung et al. [ 63 ] claim that self-reflective individuals may get a more complete understanding of their writing strengths and weaknesses. With this newfound insight, they may hone in on particular areas to improve their writing.

The research supports renowned theoretical frameworks in education, psychology, and language learning. Learning self-efficacy is seen through the prism of Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory, which postulates that people’s perceptions of their skills impact the results of their learning. In addition, the investigation of motivation is based on the Self-Determination Theory. This theory highlights the importance of internal and external influences in guiding long-term involvement and competence. In order to decipher the complex nature of perfectionism, the research also uses Hewitt and Flett’s Psychological Perfectionism Theory. The discussion is strongly supported by these theoretical foundations, which provide a solid framework for understanding the results and how they fit into the larger body of knowledge in psychology and language acquisition.

In conclusion, the outcomes of the hypothesis testing provide valuable insights into the diverse array of variables that impact the writing skills of EFL learners. The economic justifications highlight the possible consequences of these psychological concepts on academic and professional achievement, emphasizing the need for focused treatments to improve writing abilities in language acquisition settings. The findings of a hierarchical regression analysis examining the potential mediation and moderation effects on the association between predictor factors and the outcome variable of Writing Proficiency are shown in Table  6 . The aforementioned multi-step approach offers significant contributions to the understanding of the intricate relationship between psychological dimensions, hence illuminating possible effects that may mediate or moderate this relationship.

In the first model, the incorporation of perfectionism as an intermediary variable in the association between predictor factors and Writing Proficiency results in a Beta coefficient of 0.25 ( p  = 0.005). The results of this study indicate that perfectionism serves as a partial mediator, implying that the influence of other predictor factors on Writing Proficiency is partially mediated by perfectionism. The observed mediation effect has substantial significance for both management and instructional contexts. The focus of treatments aiming at improving writing skills among EFL learners is to address perfectionistic inclinations [ 64 ]. Perfectionism, which entails an unwavering dedication to exceedingly high standards and intensified self-evaluation, has the potential to either help or impede achievements in academia and the professional realm. The comprehension of the mediating function of perfectionism is crucial for educators and intervention designers, as it highlights the need for specific tactics aimed at effectively managing and using this characteristic. On the one hand, persons who possess perfectionistic inclinations may have a strong motivation for achieving greatness. When this desire is well-directed, it may have a favorable impact on one’s writing skills. Conversely, an excessive inclination towards perfectionism may result in heightened levels of tension, anxiety, and a pervasive apprehension of failure, so hindering the process of language acquisition and hampering writing proficiency. Hence, it is essential to develop therapies that aim to achieve a harmonious equilibrium, promoting a constructive pursuit of excellence while mitigating the adverse effects associated with perfectionism [ 65 ]. The provision of resources for students to effectively control perfectionistic impulses, the cultivation of a development mindset, and the promotion of a supportive learning environment may together enhance the advantageous features of perfectionism while minimizing its potential disadvantages. In addition, it has been shown that persons who possess better management of perfectionism tend to exhibit higher levels of adaptability, resilience, and proficiency in communication within academic and professional environments. These attributes have been shown to have a favorable impact on their overall long-term achievements [ 66 ].

In the second model, the examination of the moderating impact of Cultural Influences demonstrates a statistically significant Beta coefficient of 0.15 ( p  = 0.01). The finding above suggests that the effect of predictor variables on Writing Proficiency is contingent upon cultural factors. This statement suggests that the cultural environment in which language acquisition occurs has a significant impact on the strength and characteristics of the connection between psychological factors and writing abilities. The phenomenon of cultural effects in the Chinese EFL learning environment is characterized by the moderation effect, which emphasizes the intricate interaction between individual psychological elements and the broader cultural background. According toAl-Takhaynehet al. [ 67 ], several factors, such as cultural values, social expectations, and educational standards, might serve as moderators, exerting an influence on the relationship between psychological dimensions and writing proficiency results. This observation has significant value for individuals in the field of education, policymakers, and curriculum designers who want to customize language learning interventions to align with the distinct cultural dynamics of a given setting. The significance of acknowledging cultural moderation highlights the need to use context-specific methodologies in language instruction. The effectiveness of a uniform technique may be limited since the influence of psychological elements on writing skills might differ depending on the cultural context of learners. In light of this, treatments that take into consideration cultural subtleties and include educational probably practises that are sensitive to culture would result in more precise and effective results [ 68 ]. In addition, recognizing the moderating influence of culture aids in cultivating a learning environment that is more inclusive and efficient, guaranteeing that language instruction corresponds with the cultural values and expectations of the students [ 69 ].

The third model provides a thorough examination of the mediation and moderation effects, specifically investigating the combined impact of Perfectionism and Cultural Influences on Writing Proficiency. The Beta value of 0.20 ( p  = 0.02) suggests a complex association in which both Perfectionism and Cultural Influences jointly contribute to the variability seen in Writing Proficiency. The finding above underscores the delicate relationship between internal psychological elements and exterior cultural influences in the realm of Chinese EFL education. The incorporation of mediation and moderation effects implies that the relationship between Perfectionism and Writing Proficiency is influenced not only by other psychological factors, as shown in Model 2, but also by cultural factors. This statement underscores the need for comprehensive and contextually appropriate treatments in the realm of language acquisition. The findings suggest that only targeting perfectionistic inclinations may not be enough; instead, treatments should take into account the broader cultural framework within which language acquisition takes place. The results above emphasize the need to use comprehensive strategies to improve writing skills. Language education programs and treatments need to acknowledge the interdependence between internal psychological processes, such as perfectionism, and exterior cultural factors [ 70 ]. The comprehensive comprehension of this subject matter may provide valuable insights for the creation of specific approaches that tackle individual psychological elements and cultural influences. As a result, this can lead to improved language learning results that are both more efficient and culturally attuned.

Theoretical and practical contributions

This research made significant advances in language learning, psychology, and education theory. This study examines perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, motivation, study habits, cultural effects, and self-reflection in Chinese EFL training. To extend and expand existing theoretical models, this research uses a complete theoretical framework to provide nuanced insights into complex relationships between many factors. This study adds significantly to the literature on cultural influences and language learning. This research examines how Chinese culture affects cognitive frameworks and written communication. This research contributes to cross-cultural language learning theories and examines global language education. Furthermore, mediating and regulating elements enhance the theoretical framework. Perfectionism and cultural influences help us grasp the intricate relationships between personality characteristics and writing abilities. By improving our knowledge of language learning, this study benefits psychology and education.

The implications for Chinese and foreign language instructors, policymakers, and practitioners are enormous. Writing ability prediction study may help tailor English language competency programs [ 71 ]. The study’s results may affect curriculum and instruction design. Parkhouse et al. [ 72 ] suggest customizing language courses to students’ perfectionism and cultures to boost classroom efficiency. Language training should emphasize reflection, study habits, and pupils’ innate desires [ 73 ]. This study may help inform culturally sensitive language education policies. Policymakers may tailor curricula to Chinese students by considering cultural considerations. This helps create evidence-based learning environment rules. This study’s theoretical and practical contributions enable a comprehensive and culturally sensitive second language teaching strategy. This study recognizes the link between psychological elements and cultural aspects and lays the groundwork for future EFL learning research and practice.

This study provides important insights that educators, policymakers, and practitioners may use in EFL education in China and other real-world language learning environments. In order to develop more effective treatments and teaching methods, it is essential to understand the substantial predictive impacts of factors including cultural influences, perfectionism, motivation, study habits, self-reflection, and learning self-efficacy on writing competence. Writing programs may be customized to help students overcome their perfectionist inclinations, build self-confidence, and inspire them to study via relevant activities. Using these findings, policymakers should push for changes to the curriculum that teach students to think critically and write with an awareness of cultural context and improve their language skills. By acknowledging the moderating effect of cultural factors on the link between predictors and writing abilities, language education practitioners may create treatments that include cultural components in writing training.

Conclusions and policy recommendations

This research looked at how learning to write in English as a second language is affected by both individual and societal influences. The findings shed light on the intricate relationships between variables, including perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, motivation, and cultural influences. In addition, this study aimed to delineate the mediating role of perfectionism and the moderating influence of cultural variables on the components that determine writing proficiency. These observations provide valuable contributions to the broader understanding of the many elements that impact the results of language acquisition. The following policy suggestions are proposed to facilitate a comprehensive and culturally aware approach to EFL education, promoting an atmosphere favorable to language learning and mastery, i.e.,

Academia must engage in collaborative efforts with educators in order to develop an EFL curriculum that effectively integrates culturally relevant subject matter and instructional approaches. The incorporation of indigenous cultural tales, literary works, and illustrative instances into language learning materials has the potential to augment students’ levels of involvement and motivation.

The implementation of professional development programs targeting cross-cultural competence and awareness is vital for EFL instructors. These programs have the potential to provide educators with the necessary skills to effectively negotiate varied cultural settings within the classroom setting and successfully modify teaching tactics to cater to the unique requirements of students from a wide range of cultural backgrounds.

Educational strategies need to prioritize the establishment of a conducive and all-encompassing learning milieu. Efforts aimed at fostering cultural interaction, facilitating open discourse, and cultivating mutual understanding among students have the potential to create a pleasant environment that enriches the language-learning process.

Governments may consider the examination of technological integration as a means to encourage virtual cultural interactions. The use of online platforms, virtual reality, and multimedia materials may provide students the opportunity to engage in immersive experiences, enabling them to connect with genuine cultural material that extends beyond the physical boundaries of the traditional classroom setting.

Officials need to contemplate the implementation of incentives or subsidies for language study abroad programs. Participating in immersive experiences in English-speaking nations may provide students with direct exposure to cultural subtleties and linguistic settings, therefore exerting a substantial influence on their language skills.

It is essential to foster further scholarly investigation into the convergence of cultural factors and the process of acquiring language skills. Academia needs to be updated on developing research results and use evidence-based strategies when formulating language education legislation.

Foster partnerships with local communities to establish language learning projects that transcend traditional classroom boundaries. Community involvement initiatives, language exchange initiatives, and extracurricular activities may provide supplementary avenues for students to actively participate in and augment their language proficiency within authentic contexts.

Study directions for subsequent research include delving more into aspects of English language competency beyond the current focus on writing ability in the Chinese EFL setting. Future studies can examine how Chinese EFL students’ comprehension, reading, listening, and verbal skills are fine-tuned.Subsequent investigations may also include the use of longitudinal methodologies in order to investigate the dynamic characteristics of the discovered connections. Moreover, the examination of particular cultural features and the exploration of therapies aimed at mitigating the possible adverse effects of perfectionism on language acquisition provide attractive areas for future research. These efforts have the potential to enhance language instruction practices by making them more focused and efficient.

Data availability

Data will be made available upon request to corresponding author.

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Tao, Y., Yu, J. Cultural threads in writing mastery: a structural analysis of perfectionism, learning self-efficacy, and motivation as mediated by self-reflection in Chinese EFL learners. BMC Psychol 12 , 80 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-024-01572-5

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Lau F, Kuziemsky C, editors. Handbook of eHealth Evaluation: An Evidence-based Approach [Internet]. Victoria (BC): University of Victoria; 2017 Feb 27.

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Handbook of eHealth Evaluation: An Evidence-based Approach [Internet].

Chapter 9 methods for literature reviews.

Guy Paré and Spyros Kitsiou .

9.1. Introduction

Literature reviews play a critical role in scholarship because science remains, first and foremost, a cumulative endeavour ( vom Brocke et al., 2009 ). As in any academic discipline, rigorous knowledge syntheses are becoming indispensable in keeping up with an exponentially growing eHealth literature, assisting practitioners, academics, and graduate students in finding, evaluating, and synthesizing the contents of many empirical and conceptual papers. Among other methods, literature reviews are essential for: (a) identifying what has been written on a subject or topic; (b) determining the extent to which a specific research area reveals any interpretable trends or patterns; (c) aggregating empirical findings related to a narrow research question to support evidence-based practice; (d) generating new frameworks and theories; and (e) identifying topics or questions requiring more investigation ( Paré, Trudel, Jaana, & Kitsiou, 2015 ).

Literature reviews can take two major forms. The most prevalent one is the “literature review” or “background” section within a journal paper or a chapter in a graduate thesis. This section synthesizes the extant literature and usually identifies the gaps in knowledge that the empirical study addresses ( Sylvester, Tate, & Johnstone, 2013 ). It may also provide a theoretical foundation for the proposed study, substantiate the presence of the research problem, justify the research as one that contributes something new to the cumulated knowledge, or validate the methods and approaches for the proposed study ( Hart, 1998 ; Levy & Ellis, 2006 ).

The second form of literature review, which is the focus of this chapter, constitutes an original and valuable work of research in and of itself ( Paré et al., 2015 ). Rather than providing a base for a researcher’s own work, it creates a solid starting point for all members of the community interested in a particular area or topic ( Mulrow, 1987 ). The so-called “review article” is a journal-length paper which has an overarching purpose to synthesize the literature in a field, without collecting or analyzing any primary data ( Green, Johnson, & Adams, 2006 ).

When appropriately conducted, review articles represent powerful information sources for practitioners looking for state-of-the art evidence to guide their decision-making and work practices ( Paré et al., 2015 ). Further, high-quality reviews become frequently cited pieces of work which researchers seek out as a first clear outline of the literature when undertaking empirical studies ( Cooper, 1988 ; Rowe, 2014 ). Scholars who track and gauge the impact of articles have found that review papers are cited and downloaded more often than any other type of published article ( Cronin, Ryan, & Coughlan, 2008 ; Montori, Wilczynski, Morgan, Haynes, & Hedges, 2003 ; Patsopoulos, Analatos, & Ioannidis, 2005 ). The reason for their popularity may be the fact that reading the review enables one to have an overview, if not a detailed knowledge of the area in question, as well as references to the most useful primary sources ( Cronin et al., 2008 ). Although they are not easy to conduct, the commitment to complete a review article provides a tremendous service to one’s academic community ( Paré et al., 2015 ; Petticrew & Roberts, 2006 ). Most, if not all, peer-reviewed journals in the fields of medical informatics publish review articles of some type.

The main objectives of this chapter are fourfold: (a) to provide an overview of the major steps and activities involved in conducting a stand-alone literature review; (b) to describe and contrast the different types of review articles that can contribute to the eHealth knowledge base; (c) to illustrate each review type with one or two examples from the eHealth literature; and (d) to provide a series of recommendations for prospective authors of review articles in this domain.

9.2. Overview of the Literature Review Process and Steps

As explained in Templier and Paré (2015) , there are six generic steps involved in conducting a review article:

  • formulating the research question(s) and objective(s),
  • searching the extant literature,
  • screening for inclusion,
  • assessing the quality of primary studies,
  • extracting data, and
  • analyzing data.

Although these steps are presented here in sequential order, one must keep in mind that the review process can be iterative and that many activities can be initiated during the planning stage and later refined during subsequent phases ( Finfgeld-Connett & Johnson, 2013 ; Kitchenham & Charters, 2007 ).

Formulating the research question(s) and objective(s): As a first step, members of the review team must appropriately justify the need for the review itself ( Petticrew & Roberts, 2006 ), identify the review’s main objective(s) ( Okoli & Schabram, 2010 ), and define the concepts or variables at the heart of their synthesis ( Cooper & Hedges, 2009 ; Webster & Watson, 2002 ). Importantly, they also need to articulate the research question(s) they propose to investigate ( Kitchenham & Charters, 2007 ). In this regard, we concur with Jesson, Matheson, and Lacey (2011) that clearly articulated research questions are key ingredients that guide the entire review methodology; they underscore the type of information that is needed, inform the search for and selection of relevant literature, and guide or orient the subsequent analysis. Searching the extant literature: The next step consists of searching the literature and making decisions about the suitability of material to be considered in the review ( Cooper, 1988 ). There exist three main coverage strategies. First, exhaustive coverage means an effort is made to be as comprehensive as possible in order to ensure that all relevant studies, published and unpublished, are included in the review and, thus, conclusions are based on this all-inclusive knowledge base. The second type of coverage consists of presenting materials that are representative of most other works in a given field or area. Often authors who adopt this strategy will search for relevant articles in a small number of top-tier journals in a field ( Paré et al., 2015 ). In the third strategy, the review team concentrates on prior works that have been central or pivotal to a particular topic. This may include empirical studies or conceptual papers that initiated a line of investigation, changed how problems or questions were framed, introduced new methods or concepts, or engendered important debate ( Cooper, 1988 ). Screening for inclusion: The following step consists of evaluating the applicability of the material identified in the preceding step ( Levy & Ellis, 2006 ; vom Brocke et al., 2009 ). Once a group of potential studies has been identified, members of the review team must screen them to determine their relevance ( Petticrew & Roberts, 2006 ). A set of predetermined rules provides a basis for including or excluding certain studies. This exercise requires a significant investment on the part of researchers, who must ensure enhanced objectivity and avoid biases or mistakes. As discussed later in this chapter, for certain types of reviews there must be at least two independent reviewers involved in the screening process and a procedure to resolve disagreements must also be in place ( Liberati et al., 2009 ; Shea et al., 2009 ). Assessing the quality of primary studies: In addition to screening material for inclusion, members of the review team may need to assess the scientific quality of the selected studies, that is, appraise the rigour of the research design and methods. Such formal assessment, which is usually conducted independently by at least two coders, helps members of the review team refine which studies to include in the final sample, determine whether or not the differences in quality may affect their conclusions, or guide how they analyze the data and interpret the findings ( Petticrew & Roberts, 2006 ). Ascribing quality scores to each primary study or considering through domain-based evaluations which study components have or have not been designed and executed appropriately makes it possible to reflect on the extent to which the selected study addresses possible biases and maximizes validity ( Shea et al., 2009 ). Extracting data: The following step involves gathering or extracting applicable information from each primary study included in the sample and deciding what is relevant to the problem of interest ( Cooper & Hedges, 2009 ). Indeed, the type of data that should be recorded mainly depends on the initial research questions ( Okoli & Schabram, 2010 ). However, important information may also be gathered about how, when, where and by whom the primary study was conducted, the research design and methods, or qualitative/quantitative results ( Cooper & Hedges, 2009 ). Analyzing and synthesizing data : As a final step, members of the review team must collate, summarize, aggregate, organize, and compare the evidence extracted from the included studies. The extracted data must be presented in a meaningful way that suggests a new contribution to the extant literature ( Jesson et al., 2011 ). Webster and Watson (2002) warn researchers that literature reviews should be much more than lists of papers and should provide a coherent lens to make sense of extant knowledge on a given topic. There exist several methods and techniques for synthesizing quantitative (e.g., frequency analysis, meta-analysis) and qualitative (e.g., grounded theory, narrative analysis, meta-ethnography) evidence ( Dixon-Woods, Agarwal, Jones, Young, & Sutton, 2005 ; Thomas & Harden, 2008 ).

9.3. Types of Review Articles and Brief Illustrations

EHealth researchers have at their disposal a number of approaches and methods for making sense out of existing literature, all with the purpose of casting current research findings into historical contexts or explaining contradictions that might exist among a set of primary research studies conducted on a particular topic. Our classification scheme is largely inspired from Paré and colleagues’ (2015) typology. Below we present and illustrate those review types that we feel are central to the growth and development of the eHealth domain.

9.3.1. Narrative Reviews

The narrative review is the “traditional” way of reviewing the extant literature and is skewed towards a qualitative interpretation of prior knowledge ( Sylvester et al., 2013 ). Put simply, a narrative review attempts to summarize or synthesize what has been written on a particular topic but does not seek generalization or cumulative knowledge from what is reviewed ( Davies, 2000 ; Green et al., 2006 ). Instead, the review team often undertakes the task of accumulating and synthesizing the literature to demonstrate the value of a particular point of view ( Baumeister & Leary, 1997 ). As such, reviewers may selectively ignore or limit the attention paid to certain studies in order to make a point. In this rather unsystematic approach, the selection of information from primary articles is subjective, lacks explicit criteria for inclusion and can lead to biased interpretations or inferences ( Green et al., 2006 ). There are several narrative reviews in the particular eHealth domain, as in all fields, which follow such an unstructured approach ( Silva et al., 2015 ; Paul et al., 2015 ).

Despite these criticisms, this type of review can be very useful in gathering together a volume of literature in a specific subject area and synthesizing it. As mentioned above, its primary purpose is to provide the reader with a comprehensive background for understanding current knowledge and highlighting the significance of new research ( Cronin et al., 2008 ). Faculty like to use narrative reviews in the classroom because they are often more up to date than textbooks, provide a single source for students to reference, and expose students to peer-reviewed literature ( Green et al., 2006 ). For researchers, narrative reviews can inspire research ideas by identifying gaps or inconsistencies in a body of knowledge, thus helping researchers to determine research questions or formulate hypotheses. Importantly, narrative reviews can also be used as educational articles to bring practitioners up to date with certain topics of issues ( Green et al., 2006 ).

Recently, there have been several efforts to introduce more rigour in narrative reviews that will elucidate common pitfalls and bring changes into their publication standards. Information systems researchers, among others, have contributed to advancing knowledge on how to structure a “traditional” review. For instance, Levy and Ellis (2006) proposed a generic framework for conducting such reviews. Their model follows the systematic data processing approach comprised of three steps, namely: (a) literature search and screening; (b) data extraction and analysis; and (c) writing the literature review. They provide detailed and very helpful instructions on how to conduct each step of the review process. As another methodological contribution, vom Brocke et al. (2009) offered a series of guidelines for conducting literature reviews, with a particular focus on how to search and extract the relevant body of knowledge. Last, Bandara, Miskon, and Fielt (2011) proposed a structured, predefined and tool-supported method to identify primary studies within a feasible scope, extract relevant content from identified articles, synthesize and analyze the findings, and effectively write and present the results of the literature review. We highly recommend that prospective authors of narrative reviews consult these useful sources before embarking on their work.

Darlow and Wen (2015) provide a good example of a highly structured narrative review in the eHealth field. These authors synthesized published articles that describe the development process of mobile health ( m-health ) interventions for patients’ cancer care self-management. As in most narrative reviews, the scope of the research questions being investigated is broad: (a) how development of these systems are carried out; (b) which methods are used to investigate these systems; and (c) what conclusions can be drawn as a result of the development of these systems. To provide clear answers to these questions, a literature search was conducted on six electronic databases and Google Scholar . The search was performed using several terms and free text words, combining them in an appropriate manner. Four inclusion and three exclusion criteria were utilized during the screening process. Both authors independently reviewed each of the identified articles to determine eligibility and extract study information. A flow diagram shows the number of studies identified, screened, and included or excluded at each stage of study selection. In terms of contributions, this review provides a series of practical recommendations for m-health intervention development.

9.3.2. Descriptive or Mapping Reviews

The primary goal of a descriptive review is to determine the extent to which a body of knowledge in a particular research topic reveals any interpretable pattern or trend with respect to pre-existing propositions, theories, methodologies or findings ( King & He, 2005 ; Paré et al., 2015 ). In contrast with narrative reviews, descriptive reviews follow a systematic and transparent procedure, including searching, screening and classifying studies ( Petersen, Vakkalanka, & Kuzniarz, 2015 ). Indeed, structured search methods are used to form a representative sample of a larger group of published works ( Paré et al., 2015 ). Further, authors of descriptive reviews extract from each study certain characteristics of interest, such as publication year, research methods, data collection techniques, and direction or strength of research outcomes (e.g., positive, negative, or non-significant) in the form of frequency analysis to produce quantitative results ( Sylvester et al., 2013 ). In essence, each study included in a descriptive review is treated as the unit of analysis and the published literature as a whole provides a database from which the authors attempt to identify any interpretable trends or draw overall conclusions about the merits of existing conceptualizations, propositions, methods or findings ( Paré et al., 2015 ). In doing so, a descriptive review may claim that its findings represent the state of the art in a particular domain ( King & He, 2005 ).

In the fields of health sciences and medical informatics, reviews that focus on examining the range, nature and evolution of a topic area are described by Anderson, Allen, Peckham, and Goodwin (2008) as mapping reviews . Like descriptive reviews, the research questions are generic and usually relate to publication patterns and trends. There is no preconceived plan to systematically review all of the literature although this can be done. Instead, researchers often present studies that are representative of most works published in a particular area and they consider a specific time frame to be mapped.

An example of this approach in the eHealth domain is offered by DeShazo, Lavallie, and Wolf (2009). The purpose of this descriptive or mapping review was to characterize publication trends in the medical informatics literature over a 20-year period (1987 to 2006). To achieve this ambitious objective, the authors performed a bibliometric analysis of medical informatics citations indexed in medline using publication trends, journal frequencies, impact factors, Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) term frequencies, and characteristics of citations. Findings revealed that there were over 77,000 medical informatics articles published during the covered period in numerous journals and that the average annual growth rate was 12%. The MeSH term analysis also suggested a strong interdisciplinary trend. Finally, average impact scores increased over time with two notable growth periods. Overall, patterns in research outputs that seem to characterize the historic trends and current components of the field of medical informatics suggest it may be a maturing discipline (DeShazo et al., 2009).

9.3.3. Scoping Reviews

Scoping reviews attempt to provide an initial indication of the potential size and nature of the extant literature on an emergent topic (Arksey & O’Malley, 2005; Daudt, van Mossel, & Scott, 2013 ; Levac, Colquhoun, & O’Brien, 2010). A scoping review may be conducted to examine the extent, range and nature of research activities in a particular area, determine the value of undertaking a full systematic review (discussed next), or identify research gaps in the extant literature ( Paré et al., 2015 ). In line with their main objective, scoping reviews usually conclude with the presentation of a detailed research agenda for future works along with potential implications for both practice and research.

Unlike narrative and descriptive reviews, the whole point of scoping the field is to be as comprehensive as possible, including grey literature (Arksey & O’Malley, 2005). Inclusion and exclusion criteria must be established to help researchers eliminate studies that are not aligned with the research questions. It is also recommended that at least two independent coders review abstracts yielded from the search strategy and then the full articles for study selection ( Daudt et al., 2013 ). The synthesized evidence from content or thematic analysis is relatively easy to present in tabular form (Arksey & O’Malley, 2005; Thomas & Harden, 2008 ).

One of the most highly cited scoping reviews in the eHealth domain was published by Archer, Fevrier-Thomas, Lokker, McKibbon, and Straus (2011) . These authors reviewed the existing literature on personal health record ( phr ) systems including design, functionality, implementation, applications, outcomes, and benefits. Seven databases were searched from 1985 to March 2010. Several search terms relating to phr s were used during this process. Two authors independently screened titles and abstracts to determine inclusion status. A second screen of full-text articles, again by two independent members of the research team, ensured that the studies described phr s. All in all, 130 articles met the criteria and their data were extracted manually into a database. The authors concluded that although there is a large amount of survey, observational, cohort/panel, and anecdotal evidence of phr benefits and satisfaction for patients, more research is needed to evaluate the results of phr implementations. Their in-depth analysis of the literature signalled that there is little solid evidence from randomized controlled trials or other studies through the use of phr s. Hence, they suggested that more research is needed that addresses the current lack of understanding of optimal functionality and usability of these systems, and how they can play a beneficial role in supporting patient self-management ( Archer et al., 2011 ).

9.3.4. Forms of Aggregative Reviews

Healthcare providers, practitioners, and policy-makers are nowadays overwhelmed with large volumes of information, including research-based evidence from numerous clinical trials and evaluation studies, assessing the effectiveness of health information technologies and interventions ( Ammenwerth & de Keizer, 2004 ; Deshazo et al., 2009 ). It is unrealistic to expect that all these disparate actors will have the time, skills, and necessary resources to identify the available evidence in the area of their expertise and consider it when making decisions. Systematic reviews that involve the rigorous application of scientific strategies aimed at limiting subjectivity and bias (i.e., systematic and random errors) can respond to this challenge.

Systematic reviews attempt to aggregate, appraise, and synthesize in a single source all empirical evidence that meet a set of previously specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a clearly formulated and often narrow research question on a particular topic of interest to support evidence-based practice ( Liberati et al., 2009 ). They adhere closely to explicit scientific principles ( Liberati et al., 2009 ) and rigorous methodological guidelines (Higgins & Green, 2008) aimed at reducing random and systematic errors that can lead to deviations from the truth in results or inferences. The use of explicit methods allows systematic reviews to aggregate a large body of research evidence, assess whether effects or relationships are in the same direction and of the same general magnitude, explain possible inconsistencies between study results, and determine the strength of the overall evidence for every outcome of interest based on the quality of included studies and the general consistency among them ( Cook, Mulrow, & Haynes, 1997 ). The main procedures of a systematic review involve:

  • Formulating a review question and developing a search strategy based on explicit inclusion criteria for the identification of eligible studies (usually described in the context of a detailed review protocol).
  • Searching for eligible studies using multiple databases and information sources, including grey literature sources, without any language restrictions.
  • Selecting studies, extracting data, and assessing risk of bias in a duplicate manner using two independent reviewers to avoid random or systematic errors in the process.
  • Analyzing data using quantitative or qualitative methods.
  • Presenting results in summary of findings tables.
  • Interpreting results and drawing conclusions.

Many systematic reviews, but not all, use statistical methods to combine the results of independent studies into a single quantitative estimate or summary effect size. Known as meta-analyses , these reviews use specific data extraction and statistical techniques (e.g., network, frequentist, or Bayesian meta-analyses) to calculate from each study by outcome of interest an effect size along with a confidence interval that reflects the degree of uncertainty behind the point estimate of effect ( Borenstein, Hedges, Higgins, & Rothstein, 2009 ; Deeks, Higgins, & Altman, 2008 ). Subsequently, they use fixed or random-effects analysis models to combine the results of the included studies, assess statistical heterogeneity, and calculate a weighted average of the effect estimates from the different studies, taking into account their sample sizes. The summary effect size is a value that reflects the average magnitude of the intervention effect for a particular outcome of interest or, more generally, the strength of a relationship between two variables across all studies included in the systematic review. By statistically combining data from multiple studies, meta-analyses can create more precise and reliable estimates of intervention effects than those derived from individual studies alone, when these are examined independently as discrete sources of information.

The review by Gurol-Urganci, de Jongh, Vodopivec-Jamsek, Atun, and Car (2013) on the effects of mobile phone messaging reminders for attendance at healthcare appointments is an illustrative example of a high-quality systematic review with meta-analysis. Missed appointments are a major cause of inefficiency in healthcare delivery with substantial monetary costs to health systems. These authors sought to assess whether mobile phone-based appointment reminders delivered through Short Message Service ( sms ) or Multimedia Messaging Service ( mms ) are effective in improving rates of patient attendance and reducing overall costs. To this end, they conducted a comprehensive search on multiple databases using highly sensitive search strategies without language or publication-type restrictions to identify all rct s that are eligible for inclusion. In order to minimize the risk of omitting eligible studies not captured by the original search, they supplemented all electronic searches with manual screening of trial registers and references contained in the included studies. Study selection, data extraction, and risk of bias assessments were performed inde­­pen­dently by two coders using standardized methods to ensure consistency and to eliminate potential errors. Findings from eight rct s involving 6,615 participants were pooled into meta-analyses to calculate the magnitude of effects that mobile text message reminders have on the rate of attendance at healthcare appointments compared to no reminders and phone call reminders.

Meta-analyses are regarded as powerful tools for deriving meaningful conclusions. However, there are situations in which it is neither reasonable nor appropriate to pool studies together using meta-analytic methods simply because there is extensive clinical heterogeneity between the included studies or variation in measurement tools, comparisons, or outcomes of interest. In these cases, systematic reviews can use qualitative synthesis methods such as vote counting, content analysis, classification schemes and tabulations, as an alternative approach to narratively synthesize the results of the independent studies included in the review. This form of review is known as qualitative systematic review.

A rigorous example of one such review in the eHealth domain is presented by Mickan, Atherton, Roberts, Heneghan, and Tilson (2014) on the use of handheld computers by healthcare professionals and their impact on access to information and clinical decision-making. In line with the methodological guide­lines for systematic reviews, these authors: (a) developed and registered with prospero ( www.crd.york.ac.uk/ prospero / ) an a priori review protocol; (b) conducted comprehensive searches for eligible studies using multiple databases and other supplementary strategies (e.g., forward searches); and (c) subsequently carried out study selection, data extraction, and risk of bias assessments in a duplicate manner to eliminate potential errors in the review process. Heterogeneity between the included studies in terms of reported outcomes and measures precluded the use of meta-analytic methods. To this end, the authors resorted to using narrative analysis and synthesis to describe the effectiveness of handheld computers on accessing information for clinical knowledge, adherence to safety and clinical quality guidelines, and diagnostic decision-making.

In recent years, the number of systematic reviews in the field of health informatics has increased considerably. Systematic reviews with discordant findings can cause great confusion and make it difficult for decision-makers to interpret the review-level evidence ( Moher, 2013 ). Therefore, there is a growing need for appraisal and synthesis of prior systematic reviews to ensure that decision-making is constantly informed by the best available accumulated evidence. Umbrella reviews , also known as overviews of systematic reviews, are tertiary types of evidence synthesis that aim to accomplish this; that is, they aim to compare and contrast findings from multiple systematic reviews and meta-analyses ( Becker & Oxman, 2008 ). Umbrella reviews generally adhere to the same principles and rigorous methodological guidelines used in systematic reviews. However, the unit of analysis in umbrella reviews is the systematic review rather than the primary study ( Becker & Oxman, 2008 ). Unlike systematic reviews that have a narrow focus of inquiry, umbrella reviews focus on broader research topics for which there are several potential interventions ( Smith, Devane, Begley, & Clarke, 2011 ). A recent umbrella review on the effects of home telemonitoring interventions for patients with heart failure critically appraised, compared, and synthesized evidence from 15 systematic reviews to investigate which types of home telemonitoring technologies and forms of interventions are more effective in reducing mortality and hospital admissions ( Kitsiou, Paré, & Jaana, 2015 ).

9.3.5. Realist Reviews

Realist reviews are theory-driven interpretative reviews developed to inform, enhance, or supplement conventional systematic reviews by making sense of heterogeneous evidence about complex interventions applied in diverse contexts in a way that informs policy decision-making ( Greenhalgh, Wong, Westhorp, & Pawson, 2011 ). They originated from criticisms of positivist systematic reviews which centre on their “simplistic” underlying assumptions ( Oates, 2011 ). As explained above, systematic reviews seek to identify causation. Such logic is appropriate for fields like medicine and education where findings of randomized controlled trials can be aggregated to see whether a new treatment or intervention does improve outcomes. However, many argue that it is not possible to establish such direct causal links between interventions and outcomes in fields such as social policy, management, and information systems where for any intervention there is unlikely to be a regular or consistent outcome ( Oates, 2011 ; Pawson, 2006 ; Rousseau, Manning, & Denyer, 2008 ).

To circumvent these limitations, Pawson, Greenhalgh, Harvey, and Walshe (2005) have proposed a new approach for synthesizing knowledge that seeks to unpack the mechanism of how “complex interventions” work in particular contexts. The basic research question — what works? — which is usually associated with systematic reviews changes to: what is it about this intervention that works, for whom, in what circumstances, in what respects and why? Realist reviews have no particular preference for either quantitative or qualitative evidence. As a theory-building approach, a realist review usually starts by articulating likely underlying mechanisms and then scrutinizes available evidence to find out whether and where these mechanisms are applicable ( Shepperd et al., 2009 ). Primary studies found in the extant literature are viewed as case studies which can test and modify the initial theories ( Rousseau et al., 2008 ).

The main objective pursued in the realist review conducted by Otte-Trojel, de Bont, Rundall, and van de Klundert (2014) was to examine how patient portals contribute to health service delivery and patient outcomes. The specific goals were to investigate how outcomes are produced and, most importantly, how variations in outcomes can be explained. The research team started with an exploratory review of background documents and research studies to identify ways in which patient portals may contribute to health service delivery and patient outcomes. The authors identified six main ways which represent “educated guesses” to be tested against the data in the evaluation studies. These studies were identified through a formal and systematic search in four databases between 2003 and 2013. Two members of the research team selected the articles using a pre-established list of inclusion and exclusion criteria and following a two-step procedure. The authors then extracted data from the selected articles and created several tables, one for each outcome category. They organized information to bring forward those mechanisms where patient portals contribute to outcomes and the variation in outcomes across different contexts.

9.3.6. Critical Reviews

Lastly, critical reviews aim to provide a critical evaluation and interpretive analysis of existing literature on a particular topic of interest to reveal strengths, weaknesses, contradictions, controversies, inconsistencies, and/or other important issues with respect to theories, hypotheses, research methods or results ( Baumeister & Leary, 1997 ; Kirkevold, 1997 ). Unlike other review types, critical reviews attempt to take a reflective account of the research that has been done in a particular area of interest, and assess its credibility by using appraisal instruments or critical interpretive methods. In this way, critical reviews attempt to constructively inform other scholars about the weaknesses of prior research and strengthen knowledge development by giving focus and direction to studies for further improvement ( Kirkevold, 1997 ).

Kitsiou, Paré, and Jaana (2013) provide an example of a critical review that assessed the methodological quality of prior systematic reviews of home telemonitoring studies for chronic patients. The authors conducted a comprehensive search on multiple databases to identify eligible reviews and subsequently used a validated instrument to conduct an in-depth quality appraisal. Results indicate that the majority of systematic reviews in this particular area suffer from important methodological flaws and biases that impair their internal validity and limit their usefulness for clinical and decision-making purposes. To this end, they provide a number of recommendations to strengthen knowledge development towards improving the design and execution of future reviews on home telemonitoring.

9.4. Summary

Table 9.1 outlines the main types of literature reviews that were described in the previous sub-sections and summarizes the main characteristics that distinguish one review type from another. It also includes key references to methodological guidelines and useful sources that can be used by eHealth scholars and researchers for planning and developing reviews.

Table 9.1. Typology of Literature Reviews (adapted from Paré et al., 2015).

Typology of Literature Reviews (adapted from Paré et al., 2015).

As shown in Table 9.1 , each review type addresses different kinds of research questions or objectives, which subsequently define and dictate the methods and approaches that need to be used to achieve the overarching goal(s) of the review. For example, in the case of narrative reviews, there is greater flexibility in searching and synthesizing articles ( Green et al., 2006 ). Researchers are often relatively free to use a diversity of approaches to search, identify, and select relevant scientific articles, describe their operational characteristics, present how the individual studies fit together, and formulate conclusions. On the other hand, systematic reviews are characterized by their high level of systematicity, rigour, and use of explicit methods, based on an “a priori” review plan that aims to minimize bias in the analysis and synthesis process (Higgins & Green, 2008). Some reviews are exploratory in nature (e.g., scoping/mapping reviews), whereas others may be conducted to discover patterns (e.g., descriptive reviews) or involve a synthesis approach that may include the critical analysis of prior research ( Paré et al., 2015 ). Hence, in order to select the most appropriate type of review, it is critical to know before embarking on a review project, why the research synthesis is conducted and what type of methods are best aligned with the pursued goals.

9.5. Concluding Remarks

In light of the increased use of evidence-based practice and research generating stronger evidence ( Grady et al., 2011 ; Lyden et al., 2013 ), review articles have become essential tools for summarizing, synthesizing, integrating or critically appraising prior knowledge in the eHealth field. As mentioned earlier, when rigorously conducted review articles represent powerful information sources for eHealth scholars and practitioners looking for state-of-the-art evidence. The typology of literature reviews we used herein will allow eHealth researchers, graduate students and practitioners to gain a better understanding of the similarities and differences between review types.

We must stress that this classification scheme does not privilege any specific type of review as being of higher quality than another ( Paré et al., 2015 ). As explained above, each type of review has its own strengths and limitations. Having said that, we realize that the methodological rigour of any review — be it qualitative, quantitative or mixed — is a critical aspect that should be considered seriously by prospective authors. In the present context, the notion of rigour refers to the reliability and validity of the review process described in section 9.2. For one thing, reliability is related to the reproducibility of the review process and steps, which is facilitated by a comprehensive documentation of the literature search process, extraction, coding and analysis performed in the review. Whether the search is comprehensive or not, whether it involves a methodical approach for data extraction and synthesis or not, it is important that the review documents in an explicit and transparent manner the steps and approach that were used in the process of its development. Next, validity characterizes the degree to which the review process was conducted appropriately. It goes beyond documentation and reflects decisions related to the selection of the sources, the search terms used, the period of time covered, the articles selected in the search, and the application of backward and forward searches ( vom Brocke et al., 2009 ). In short, the rigour of any review article is reflected by the explicitness of its methods (i.e., transparency) and the soundness of the approach used. We refer those interested in the concepts of rigour and quality to the work of Templier and Paré (2015) which offers a detailed set of methodological guidelines for conducting and evaluating various types of review articles.

To conclude, our main objective in this chapter was to demystify the various types of literature reviews that are central to the continuous development of the eHealth field. It is our hope that our descriptive account will serve as a valuable source for those conducting, evaluating or using reviews in this important and growing domain.

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  • Cite this Page Paré G, Kitsiou S. Chapter 9 Methods for Literature Reviews. In: Lau F, Kuziemsky C, editors. Handbook of eHealth Evaluation: An Evidence-based Approach [Internet]. Victoria (BC): University of Victoria; 2017 Feb 27.
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  • Introduction
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  • Concluding Remarks

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  1. How to Write a Literature Review

    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 Free lecture slides Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions Introduction Quick Run-through Step 1 & 2 Step 3 Step 4 Step 5

  2. Writing a Literature Review

    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.

  3. Writing a Literature Review

    A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources that provides an overview of a particular topic. Literature reviews are a collection of the most relevant and significant publications regarding that topic in order to provide a comprehensive look at what has been said on the topic and by whom. The basic components of a literature review include:

  4. Learn how to write a review of literature

    Writing the introduction In the introduction, you should: Define or identify the general topic, issue, or area of concern, thus providing an appropriate context for reviewing the literature.

  5. Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review

    Literature reviews are in great demand in most scientific fields. Their need stems from the ever-increasing output of scientific publications .For example, compared to 1991, in 2008 three, eight, and forty times more papers were indexed in Web of Science on malaria, obesity, and biodiversity, respectively .Given such mountains of papers, scientists cannot be expected to examine in detail every ...

  6. Approaching literature review for academic purposes: The Literature

    Writing the literature review (LR) is often viewed as a difficult task that can be a point of writer's block and procrastination ( 1) in postgraduate life. Disagreements on the definitions or classifications of LRs ( 2) may confuse students about their purpose and scope, as well as how to perform an LR.

  7. Literature review

    A literature review also includes a critical evaluation of the material; this is why it is called a literature review rather than a literature report. It is a process of reviewing the literature, as well as a form of writing. To illustrate the difference between reporting and reviewing, think about television or film review articles.

  8. 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.

  9. Getting started

    What is a literature review? Definition: A literature review is a systematic examination and synthesis of existing scholarly research on a specific topic or subject. Purpose: It serves to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge within a particular field. Analysis: Involves critically evaluating and summarizing key findings, methodologies, and debates found in ...

  10. Writing the Literature Review: Common Mistakes and Best Practices

    1 Altmetric Part of the Springer Texts in Education book series (SPTE) Abstract The literature review is an essential component of academic research writing, providing a comprehensive overview of existing research and informing the development of new studies.

  11. Writing an effective literature review

    Mapping the gap. The purpose of the literature review section of a manuscript is not to report what is known about your topic. The purpose is to identify what remains unknown—what academic writing scholar Janet Giltrow has called the 'knowledge deficit'—thus establishing the need for your research study [].In an earlier Writer's Craft instalment, the Problem-Gap-Hook heuristic was ...

  12. 5. The 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 ...

  13. Guides: Academic Writing: How to Build a Literature Review

    Structure of a Literature Review. As mentioned in other tabs, literature reviews should discuss the big ideas that make up a topic. Each literature review should be broken up into different subtopics. Each subtopic should use groups of articles as evidence to support the ideas. There are several different ways of organizing a literature review.

  14. Steps in Conducting 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 ...

  15. What is a Literature Review?

    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.

  16. Literature Reviews

    The "literature" of a literature review refers to any collection of materials on a topic, not necessarily the great literary texts of the world. "Literature" could be anything from a set of government pamphlets on British colonial methods in Africa to scholarly articles on the treatment of a torn ACL.

  17. Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide

    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 ...

  18. Literature Reviews

    Structure. The three elements of a literature review are introduction, body, and conclusion. Introduction. Define the topic of the literature review, including any terminology. Introduce the central theme and organization of the literature review. Summarize the state of research on the topic. Frame the literature review with your research question.

  19. Literature Review: Conducting & Writing

    Literature Review: Conducting & Writing; Sample Literature Reviews; Search this Guide Search. Literature Review: Conducting & Writing. This guide will provide research and writing tips to help students complete a literature review assignment. ... Have you written a stellar literature review you care to share for teaching purposes?

  20. Literature Review

    It involves identifying, evaluating, and synthesizing relevant literature, including scholarly articles, books, and other sources, to provide a summary and critical assessment of what is known about the topic. ... How to write Literature Review. Here are some steps to follow when writing a literature review:

  21. Writing a literature review

    A formal literature review is an evidence-based, in-depth analysis of a subject. There are many reasons for writing one and these will influence the length and style of your review, but in essence a literature review is a critical appraisal of the current collective knowledge on a subject.

  22. Home

    A general overview of what a literature review is What a literature review means; When and where to use a literature review; Myths about literature reviews; Literature reviews vs. bibliographies; What literature reviews should include What you need to include in your literature review; What your literature should focus on; The flow of your ...

  23. English 2100: Writing About Literature: Form and Genre

    Contains fully cross-searchable texts including scholarly essays, recent periodicals, historical newspaper articles, reference books, etc. Includes the Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience, Index to Black Periodicals Full Text, Black Literature Index, and the Chicago Defender historical newspaper.

  24. AI Literature Review Generator

    Generate a comprehensive literature review based on a specific research topic. HyperWrite's AI Literature Review Generator is a revolutionary tool that automates the process of creating a comprehensive literature review. Powered by the most advanced AI models, this tool can search and analyze scholarly articles, books, and other resources to identify key themes, methodologies, findings, and ...

  25. Writing, reading, and critiquing reviews

    In 2009 Grant and colleagues conducted a typology of reviews to aid readers makes sense of the different review types, listing fourteen different ways of conducting reviews, not all of which are mutually exclusive. 3 Interestingly, in their typology they did not include narrative reviews which are often used by authors in health professions educ...

  26. Management of vesicoenteric fistulas arising from ...

    An extensive review of the literature was conducted referring all the cases of vesicoenteric fistula incorporating Meckel's diverticulum to elucidate the clinical characteristics, explore the diagnostic yield, and to summarize the therapeutic approach. ... Receive exclusive offers and updates from Oxford Academic. Citing articles via. Google ...

  27. Cultural threads in writing mastery: a structural analysis of

    The ability to communicate oneself effectively in writing has become more critical in the academic and professional worlds, making fluency in EFL a necessary goal for anyone pursuing an international education [].This study seeks to shed light on the intricate interplay between perfectionist tendencies, beliefs in one's ability to learn, intrinsic motivation, and writing proficiency among ...

  28. alpha.elicit.org

    alpha.elicit.org

  29. Chapter 9 Methods for Literature Reviews

    Literature reviews can take two major forms. The most prevalent one is the "literature review" or "background" section within a journal paper or a chapter in a graduate thesis. This section synthesizes the extant literature and usually identifies the gaps in knowledge that the empirical study addresses ( Sylvester, Tate, & Johnstone, 2013 ).