Why is it important to do a literature review in research?
The importance of scientific communication in the healthcare industry
The Importance and Role of Biostatistics in Clinical Research
“A substantive, thorough, sophisticated literature review is a precondition for doing substantive, thorough, sophisticated research”. Boote and Baile 2005
Authors of manuscripts treat writing a literature review as a routine work or a mere formality. But a seasoned one knows the purpose and importance of a well-written literature review. Since it is one of the basic needs for researches at any level, they have to be done vigilantly. Only then the reader will know that the basics of research have not been neglected.
The aim of any literature review is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of existing knowledge in a particular field without adding any new contributions. Being built on existing knowledge they help the researcher to even turn the wheels of the topic of research. It is possible only with profound knowledge of what is wrong in the existing findings in detail to overpower them. For other researches, the literature review gives the direction to be headed for its success.
The common perception of literature review and reality:
As per the common belief, literature reviews are only a summary of the sources related to the research. And many authors of scientific manuscripts believe that they are only surveys of what are the researches are done on the chosen topic. But on the contrary, it uses published information from pertinent and relevant sources like
- Scholarly books
- Scientific papers
- Latest studies in the field
- Established school of thoughts
- Relevant articles from renowned scientific journals
and many more for a field of study or theory or a particular problem to do the following:
- Summarize into a brief account of all information
- Synthesize the information by restructuring and reorganizing
- Critical evaluation of a concept or a school of thought or ideas
- Familiarize the authors to the extent of knowledge in the particular field
- Compare & contrast
By doing the above on the relevant information, it provides the reader of the scientific manuscript with the following for a better understanding of it:
- It establishes the authors’ in-depth understanding and knowledge of their field subject
- It gives the background of the research
- Portrays the scientific manuscript plan of examining the research result
- Illuminates on how the knowledge has changed within the field
- Highlights what has already been done in a particular field
- Information of the generally accepted facts, emerging and current state of the topic of research
- Identifies the research gap that is still unexplored or under-researched fields
- Demonstrates how the research fits within a larger field of study
- Provides an overview of the sources explored during the research of a particular topic
Importance of literature review in research:
The importance of literature review in scientific manuscripts can be condensed into an analytical feature to enable the multifold reach of its significance. It adds value to the legitimacy of the research in many ways:
- Provides the interpretation of existing literature in light of updated developments in the field to help in establishing the consistency in knowledge and relevancy of existing materials
- It helps in calculating the impact of the latest information in the field by mapping their progress of knowledge.
- It brings out the dialects of contradictions between various thoughts within the field to establish facts
- The research gaps scrutinized initially are further explored to establish the latest facts of theories to add value to the field
- Indicates the current research place in the schema of a particular field
- Provides information for relevancy and coherency to check the research
- Apart from elucidating the continuance of knowledge, it also points out areas that require further investigation and thus aid as a starting point of any future research
- Justifies the research and sets up the research question
- Sets up a theoretical framework comprising the concepts and theories of the research upon which its success can be judged
- Helps to adopt a more appropriate methodology for the research by examining the strengths and weaknesses of existing research in the same field
- Increases the significance of the results by comparing it with the existing literature
- Provides a point of reference by writing the findings in the scientific manuscript
- Helps to get the due credit from the audience for having done the fact-finding and fact-checking mission in the scientific manuscripts
- The more the reference of relevant sources of it could increase more of its trustworthiness with the readers
- Helps to prevent plagiarism by tailoring and uniquely tweaking the scientific manuscript not to repeat other’s original idea
- By preventing plagiarism , it saves the scientific manuscript from rejection and thus also saves a lot of time and money
- Helps to evaluate, condense and synthesize gist in the author’s own words to sharpen the research focus
- Helps to compare and contrast to show the originality and uniqueness of the research than that of the existing other researches
- Rationalizes the need for conducting the particular research in a specified field
- Helps to collect data accurately for allowing any new methodology of research than the existing ones
- Enables the readers of the manuscript to answer the following questions of its readers for its better chances for publication
- What do the researchers know?
- What do they not know?
- Is the scientific manuscript reliable and trustworthy?
- What are the knowledge gaps of the researcher?
22. It helps the readers to identify the following for further reading of the scientific manuscript:
- What has been already established, discredited and accepted in the particular field of research
- Areas of controversy and conflicts among different schools of thought
- Unsolved problems and issues in the connected field of research
- The emerging trends and approaches
- How the research extends, builds upon and leaves behind from the previous research
A profound literature review with many relevant sources of reference will enhance the chances of the scientific manuscript publication in renowned and reputed scientific journals .
journal Publishing services | Scientific Editing Services | Medical Writing Services | scientific research writing service | Scientific communication services
Scientific Research Paper Writing
Medical Research Paper Writing
Scientific Communication in healthcare
Statistical analyses of case-control studies
PUB - Selecting material (e.g. excipient, active pharmaceutical ingredient) for drug development
Selecting material (e.g. excipient, active pharmaceutical ingredient, packaging material) for drug development
PUB - Health Economics of Data Modeling
Health economics in clinical trials
Comments are closed.
Fact check: Correcting the record about the UC Berkeley Library’s long-term space plan
- Log in to your Library account
- Hours and Maps
- Connect from Off Campus
- UC Berkeley Home
Conducting a literature review: why do a literature review, why do a literature review.
- How To Find "The Literature"
- Found it -- Now What?
Besides the obvious reason for students -- because it is assigned! -- a literature review helps you explore the research that has come before you, to see how your research question has (or has not) already been addressed.
- core research in the field
- experts in the subject area
- methodology you may want to use (or avoid)
- gaps in knowledge -- or where your research would fit in
It Also Helps You:
- Publish and share your findings
- Justify requests for grants and other funding
- Identify best practices to inform practice
- Set wider context for a program evaluation
- Compile information to support community organizing
Great brief overview, from NCSU
Want To Know More?
- Next: How To Find "The Literature" >>
- Last Updated: Dec 7, 2022 12:19 PM
- URL: https://guides.lib.berkeley.edu/litreview
Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library
- Research Help
YSN Doctoral Programs: Steps in Conducting a Literature Review
- Biomedical Databases
- Global (Public Health) Databases
- Soc. Sci., History, and Law Databases
- Grey Literature
- Trials Registers
- Data and Statistics
- Public Policy
- Google Tips
- Recommended Books
- Steps in Conducting a Literature Review
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.
APA7 Style resources
APA Style Blog - for those harder to find answers
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?
- 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.
- << Previous: Recommended Books
- Last Updated: Oct 31, 2023 3:00 PM
- URL: https://guides.library.yale.edu/YSNDoctoral
Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts
Writing a Literature Review
Welcome to the Purdue OWL
This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.
Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- UConn Library
- Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide
Literature Review: The What, Why and How-to Guide — Introduction
- Getting Started
- How to Pick a Topic
- Strategies to Find Sources
- Evaluating Sources & Lit. Reviews
- Tips for Writing Literature Reviews
- Writing Literature Review: Useful Sites
- Citation Resources
- Other Academic Writings
What are Literature Reviews?
So, what is a literature review? "A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries." Taylor, D. The literature review: A few tips on conducting it . University of Toronto Health Sciences Writing Centre.
Goals of Literature Reviews
What are the goals of creating a Literature Review? A literature could be written to accomplish different aims:
- To develop a theory or evaluate an existing theory
- To summarize the historical or existing state of a research topic
- Identify a problem in a field of research
Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1997). Writing narrative literature reviews . Review of General Psychology , 1 (3), 311-320.
What kinds of sources require a Literature Review?
- A research paper assigned in a course
- A thesis or dissertation
- A grant proposal
- An article intended for publication in a journal
All these instances require you to collect what has been written about your research topic so that you can demonstrate how your own research sheds new light on the topic.
Types of Literature Reviews
What kinds of literature reviews are written?
Narrative review: The purpose of this type of review is to describe the current state of the research on a specific topic/research and to offer a critical analysis of the literature reviewed. Studies are grouped by research/theoretical categories, and themes and trends, strengths and weakness, and gaps are identified. The review ends with a conclusion section which summarizes the findings regarding the state of the research of the specific study, the gaps identify and if applicable, explains how the author's research will address gaps identify in the review and expand the knowledge on the topic reviewed.
- Example : Predictors and Outcomes of U.S. Quality Maternity Leave: A Review and Conceptual Framework: 10.1177/08948453211037398
Systematic review : "The authors of a systematic review use a specific procedure to search the research literature, select the studies to include in their review, and critically evaluate the studies they find." (p. 139). Nelson, L. K. (2013). Research in Communication Sciences and Disorders . Plural Publishing.
- Example : The effect of leave policies on increasing fertility: a systematic review: 10.1057/s41599-022-01270-w
Meta-analysis : "Meta-analysis is a method of reviewing research findings in a quantitative fashion by transforming the data from individual studies into what is called an effect size and then pooling and analyzing this information. The basic goal in meta-analysis is to explain why different outcomes have occurred in different studies." (p. 197). Roberts, M. C., & Ilardi, S. S. (2003). Handbook of Research Methods in Clinical Psychology . Blackwell Publishing.
- Example : Employment Instability and Fertility in Europe: A Meta-Analysis: 10.1215/00703370-9164737
Meta-synthesis : "Qualitative meta-synthesis is a type of qualitative study that uses as data the findings from other qualitative studies linked by the same or related topic." (p.312). Zimmer, L. (2006). Qualitative meta-synthesis: A question of dialoguing with texts . Journal of Advanced Nursing , 53 (3), 311-318.
- Example : Women’s perspectives on career successes and barriers: A qualitative meta-synthesis: 10.1177/05390184221113735
Literature Reviews in the Health Sciences
- UConn Health subject guide on systematic reviews Explanation of the different review types used in health sciences literature as well as tools to help you find the right review type
- << Previous: Getting Started
- Next: How to Pick a Topic >>
- Last Updated: Sep 21, 2022 2:16 PM
- URL: https://guides.lib.uconn.edu/literaturereview
- Become Involved |
- Give to the Library |
- Staff Directory |
- UNF Library
- Thomas G. Carpenter Library
Conducting a Literature Review
Benefits of conducting a literature review.
- Steps in Conducting a Literature Review
- Summary of the Process
- Additional Resources
- Literature Review Tutorial by American University Library
- The Literature Review: A Few Tips On Conducting It by University of Toronto
- Write a Literature Review by UC Santa Cruz University Library
While there might be many reasons for conducting a literature review, following are four key outcomes of doing the review.
Assessment of the current state of research on a topic . This is probably the most obvious value of the literature review. Once a researcher has determined an area to work with for a research project, a search of relevant information sources will help determine what is already known about the topic and how extensively the topic has already been researched.
Identification of the experts on a particular topic . One of the additional benefits derived from doing the literature review is that it will quickly reveal which researchers have written the most on a particular topic and are, therefore, probably the experts on the topic. Someone who has written twenty articles on a topic or on related topics is more than likely more knowledgeable than someone who has written a single article. This same writer will likely turn up as a reference in most of the other articles written on the same topic. From the number of articles written by the author and the number of times the writer has been cited by other authors, a researcher will be able to assume that the particular author is an expert in the area and, thus, a key resource for consultation in the current research to be undertaken.
Identification of key questions about a topic that need further research . In many cases a researcher may discover new angles that need further exploration by reviewing what has already been written on a topic. For example, research may suggest that listening to music while studying might lead to better retention of ideas, but the research might not have assessed whether a particular style of music is more beneficial than another. A researcher who is interested in pursuing this topic would then do well to follow up existing studies with a new study, based on previous research, that tries to identify which styles of music are most beneficial to retention.
Determination of methodologies used in past studies of the same or similar topics. It is often useful to review the types of studies that previous researchers have launched as a means of determining what approaches might be of most benefit in further developing a topic. By the same token, a review of previously conducted studies might lend itself to researchers determining a new angle for approaching research.
Upon completion of the literature review, a researcher should have a solid foundation of knowledge in the area and a good feel for the direction any new research should take. Should any additional questions arise during the course of the research, the researcher will know which experts to consult in order to quickly clear up those questions.
- << Previous: Home
- Next: Steps in Conducting a Literature Review >>
- Last Updated: Aug 29, 2022 8:54 AM
- URL: https://libguides.unf.edu/litreview
Evidence-Based Practice (EBP)
- The EBP Process
- Forming a Clinical Question
- Inclusion & Exclusion Criteria
- Acquiring Evidence
- Appraising the Quality of the Evidence
- Writing a Literature Review
- Finding Psychological Tests & Assessment Instruments
What Is a Literature Review?
A literature review is an integrated analysis of scholarly writings that are related directly to your research question. Put simply, it's a critical evaluation of what's already been written on a particular topic . It represents the literature that provides background information on your topic and shows a connection between those writings 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.
What a Literature Review Is Not:
- A list or summary of sources
- An annotated bibliography
- A grouping of broad, unrelated sources
- A compilation of everything that has been written on a particular topic
- Literary criticism (think English) or a book review
Why Literature Reviews Are Important
- They explain the background of research on a topic
- They demonstrate why a topic is significant to a subject area
- They discover relationships between research studies/ideas
- They identify major themes, concepts, and researchers on a topic
- They identify critical gaps and points of disagreement
- They discuss further research questions that logically come out of the previous studies
To Learn More about Conducting and Writing a Lit Review . . .
Monash University (in Australia) has created several extremely helpful, interactive tutorials.
- The Stand-Alone Literature Review, https://www.monash.edu/rlo/assignment-samples/science/stand-alone-literature-review
- Researching for Your Literature Review, https://guides.lib.monash.edu/researching-for-your-literature-review/home
- Writing a Literature Review, https://www.monash.edu/rlo/graduate-research-writing/write-the-thesis/writing-a-literature-review
Keep Track of Your Sources!
A citation manager can be helpful way to work with large numbers of citations. See UMSL Libraries' Citing Sources guide for more information. Personally, I highly recommend Zotero —it's free, easy to use, and versatile. If you need help getting started with Zotero or one of the other citation managers, please contact a librarian.
- << Previous: Appraising the Quality of the Evidence
- Next: Finding Psychological Tests & Assessment Instruments >>
- Last Updated: Nov 15, 2023 11:47 AM
- URL: https://libguides.umsl.edu/ebp
Literature Review Research
Literature review, types of literature reviews.
- Finding information
- Additional Resources
- Explains the background of research on a topic
- Demonstrates why a topic is significant to a subject area
- Helps focus your own research questions or problems
- Discovers relationships between research studies/ideas
- Suggests unexplored ideas or populations
- Identifies major themes, concepts, and researchers on a topic
- Tests assumptions; may help counter preconceived ideas and remove unconscious bias.
- Identifies critical gaps, points of disagreement, or potentially flawed methodology or theoretical approaches
Argumentative Review This form examines literature selectively in order to support or refute an argument, deeply imbedded assumption, or philosophical problem already established in the literature.
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. A well-done integrative review meets the same standards as primary research in regard to clarity, rigor, and replication.
Historical Review Historical reviews are focused 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 This approach provides a framework of understanding at different levels (i.e. those of theory, substantive fields, research approaches and data collection and analysis techniques), enables researchers to draw on a wide variety of knowledge ranging from the conceptual level to practical documents for use in fieldwork.
Systematic Review 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. Typically it focuses on a very specific empirical question.
Examines the theory that has accumulated in regard to an issue, concept, theory, phenomena. 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.
* Kennedy, Mary M. "Defining a Literature." Educational Researcher 36 (April 2007): 139-147.
All content in this section is from The Literature Review created by Dr. Robert Larabee USC
- Next: Finding information >>
- Last Updated: Oct 26, 2023 8:34 PM
- URL: https://guides.lib.odu.edu/literaturereview
An official website of the United States government
The .gov means it’s official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.
The site is secure. The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.
- Account settings
- Advanced Search
- Journal List
- Clinics (Sao Paulo)
Approaching literature review for academic purposes: The Literature Review Checklist
Debora f.b. leite.
I Departamento de Ginecologia e Obstetricia, Faculdade de Ciencias Medicas, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Campinas, SP, BR
II Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Pernambuco, PE, BR
III Hospital das Clinicas, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Pernambuco, PE, BR
Maria Auxiliadora Soares Padilha
Jose g. cecatti.
A sophisticated literature review (LR) can result in a robust dissertation/thesis by scrutinizing the main problem examined by the academic study; anticipating research hypotheses, methods and results; and maintaining the interest of the audience in how the dissertation/thesis will provide solutions for the current gaps in a particular field. Unfortunately, little guidance is available on elaborating LRs, and writing an LR chapter is not a linear process. An LR translates students’ abilities in information literacy, the language domain, and critical writing. Students in postgraduate programs should be systematically trained in these skills. Therefore, this paper discusses the purposes of LRs in dissertations and theses. Second, the paper considers five steps for developing a review: defining the main topic, searching the literature, analyzing the results, writing the review and reflecting on the writing. Ultimately, this study proposes a twelve-item LR checklist. By clearly stating the desired achievements, this checklist allows Masters and Ph.D. students to continuously assess their own progress in elaborating an LR. Institutions aiming to strengthen students’ necessary skills in critical academic writing should also use this tool.
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. Interestingly, at many universities, the LR is still an important element in any academic work, despite the more recent trend of producing scientific articles rather than classical theses.
The LR is not an isolated section of the thesis/dissertation or a copy of the background section of a research proposal. It identifies the state-of-the-art knowledge in a particular field, clarifies information that is already known, elucidates implications of the problem being analyzed, links theory and practice ( 3 - 5 ), highlights gaps in the current literature, and places the dissertation/thesis within the research agenda of that field. Additionally, by writing the LR, postgraduate students will comprehend the structure of the subject and elaborate on their cognitive connections ( 3 ) while analyzing and synthesizing data with increasing maturity.
At the same time, the LR transforms the student and hints at the contents of other chapters for the reader. First, the LR explains the research question; second, it supports the hypothesis, objectives, and methods of the research project; and finally, it facilitates a description of the student’s interpretation of the results and his/her conclusions. For scholars, the LR is an introductory chapter ( 6 ). If it is well written, it demonstrates the student’s understanding of and maturity in a particular topic. A sound and sophisticated LR can indicate a robust dissertation/thesis.
A consensus on the best method to elaborate a dissertation/thesis has not been achieved. The LR can be a distinct chapter or included in different sections; it can be part of the introduction chapter, part of each research topic, or part of each published paper ( 7 ). However, scholars view the LR as an integral part of the main body of an academic work because it is intrinsically connected to other sections ( Figure 1 ) and is frequently present. The structure of the LR depends on the conventions of a particular discipline, the rules of the department, and the student’s and supervisor’s areas of expertise, needs and interests.
Interestingly, many postgraduate students choose to submit their LR to peer-reviewed journals. As LRs are critical evaluations of current knowledge, they are indeed publishable material, even in the form of narrative or systematic reviews. However, systematic reviews have specific patterns 1 ( 8 ) that may not entirely fit with the questions posed in the dissertation/thesis. Additionally, the scope of a systematic review may be too narrow, and the strict criteria for study inclusion may omit important information from the dissertation/thesis. Therefore, this essay discusses the definition of an LR is and methods to develop an LR in the context of an academic dissertation/thesis. Finally, we suggest a checklist to evaluate an LR.
WHAT IS A LITERATURE REVIEW IN A THESIS?
Conducting research and writing a dissertation/thesis translates rational thinking and enthusiasm ( 9 ). While a strong body of literature that instructs students on research methodology, data analysis and writing scientific papers exists, little guidance on performing LRs is available. The LR is a unique opportunity to assess and contrast various arguments and theories, not just summarize them. The research results should not be discussed within the LR, but the postgraduate student tends to write a comprehensive LR while reflecting on his or her own findings ( 10 ).
Many people believe that writing an LR is a lonely and linear process. Supervisors or the institutions assume that the Ph.D. student has mastered the relevant techniques and vocabulary associated with his/her subject and conducts a self-reflection about previously published findings. Indeed, while elaborating the LR, the student should aggregate diverse skills, which mainly rely on his/her own commitment to mastering them. Thus, less supervision should be required ( 11 ). However, the parameters described above might not currently be the case for many students ( 11 , 12 ), and the lack of formal and systematic training on writing LRs is an important concern ( 11 ).
An institutional environment devoted to active learning will provide students the opportunity to continuously reflect on LRs, which will form a dialogue between the postgraduate student and the current literature in a particular field ( 13 ). Postgraduate students will be interpreting studies by other researchers, and, according to Hart (1998) ( 3 ), the outcomes of the LR in a dissertation/thesis include the following:
- To identify what research has been performed and what topics require further investigation in a particular field of knowledge;
- To determine the context of the problem;
- To recognize the main methodologies and techniques that have been used in the past;
- To place the current research project within the historical, methodological and theoretical context of a particular field;
- To identify significant aspects of the topic;
- To elucidate the implications of the topic;
- To offer an alternative perspective;
- To discern how the studied subject is structured;
- To improve the student’s subject vocabulary in a particular field; and
- To characterize the links between theory and practice.
A sound LR translates the postgraduate student’s expertise in academic and scientific writing: it expresses his/her level of comfort with synthesizing ideas ( 11 ). The LR reveals how well the postgraduate student has proceeded in three domains: an effective literature search, the language domain, and critical writing.
Effective literature search
All students should be trained in gathering appropriate data for specific purposes, and information literacy skills are a cornerstone. These skills are defined as “an individual’s ability to know when they need information, to identify information that can help them address the issue or problem at hand, and to locate, evaluate, and use that information effectively” ( 14 ). Librarian support is of vital importance in coaching the appropriate use of Boolean logic (AND, OR, NOT) and other tools for highly efficient literature searches (e.g., quotation marks and truncation), as is the appropriate management of electronic databases.
Academic writing must be concise and precise: unnecessary words distract the reader from the essential content ( 15 ). In this context, reading about issues distant from the research topic ( 16 ) may increase students’ general vocabulary and familiarity with grammar. Ultimately, reading diverse materials facilitates and encourages the writing process itself.
Critical judgment includes critical reading, thinking and writing. It supposes a student’s analytical reflection about what he/she has read. The student should delineate the basic elements of the topic, characterize the most relevant claims, identify relationships, and finally contrast those relationships ( 17 ). Each scientific document highlights the perspective of the author, and students will become more confident in judging the supporting evidence and underlying premises of a study and constructing their own counterargument as they read more articles. A paucity of integration or contradictory perspectives indicates lower levels of cognitive complexity ( 12 ).
Thus, while elaborating an LR, the postgraduate student should achieve the highest category of Bloom’s cognitive skills: evaluation ( 12 ). The writer should not only summarize data and understand each topic but also be able to make judgments based on objective criteria, compare resources and findings, identify discrepancies due to methodology, and construct his/her own argument ( 12 ). As a result, the student will be sufficiently confident to show his/her own voice .
Writing a consistent LR is an intense and complex activity that reveals the training and long-lasting academic skills of a writer. It is not a lonely or linear process. However, students are unlikely to be prepared to write an LR if they have not mastered the aforementioned domains ( 10 ). An institutional environment that supports student learning is crucial.
Different institutions employ distinct methods to promote students’ learning processes. First, many universities propose modules to develop behind the scenes activities that enhance self-reflection about general skills (e.g., the skills we have mastered and the skills we need to develop further), behaviors that should be incorporated (e.g., self-criticism about one’s own thoughts), and each student’s role in the advancement of his/her field. Lectures or workshops about LRs themselves are useful because they describe the purposes of the LR and how it fits into the whole picture of a student’s work. These activities may explain what type of discussion an LR must involve, the importance of defining the correct scope, the reasons to include a particular resource, and the main role of critical reading.
Some pedagogic services that promote a continuous improvement in study and academic skills are equally important. Examples include workshops about time management, the accomplishment of personal objectives, active learning, and foreign languages for nonnative speakers. Additionally, opportunities to converse with other students promotes an awareness of others’ experiences and difficulties. Ultimately, the supervisor’s role in providing feedback and setting deadlines is crucial in developing students’ abilities and in strengthening students’ writing quality ( 12 ).
HOW SHOULD A LITERATURE REVIEW BE DEVELOPED?
A consensus on the appropriate method for elaborating an LR is not available, but four main steps are generally accepted: defining the main topic, searching the literature, analyzing the results, and writing ( 6 ). We suggest a fifth step: reflecting on the information that has been written in previous publications ( Figure 2 ).
First step: Defining the main topic
Planning an LR is directly linked to the research main question of the thesis and occurs in parallel to students’ training in the three domains discussed above. The planning stage helps organize ideas, delimit the scope of the LR ( 11 ), and avoid the wasting of time in the process. Planning includes the following steps:
- Reflecting on the scope of the LR: postgraduate students will have assumptions about what material must be addressed and what information is not essential to an LR ( 13 , 18 ). Cooper’s Taxonomy of Literature Reviews 2 systematizes the writing process through six characteristics and nonmutually exclusive categories. The focus refers to the reviewer’s most important points of interest, while the goals concern what students want to achieve with the LR. The perspective assumes answers to the student’s own view of the LR and how he/she presents a particular issue. The coverage defines how comprehensive the student is in presenting the literature, and the organization determines the sequence of arguments. The audience is defined as the group for whom the LR is written.
- Designating sections and subsections: Headings and subheadings should be specific, explanatory and have a coherent sequence throughout the text ( 4 ). They simulate an inverted pyramid, with an increasing level of reflection and depth of argument.
- Identifying keywords: The relevant keywords for each LR section should be listed to guide the literature search. This list should mirror what Hart (1998) ( 3 ) advocates as subject vocabulary . The keywords will also be useful when the student is writing the LR since they guide the reader through the text.
- Delineating the time interval and language of documents to be retrieved in the second step. The most recently published documents should be considered, but relevant texts published before a predefined cutoff year can be included if they are classic documents in that field. Extra care should be employed when translating documents.
Second step: Searching the literature
The ability to gather adequate information from the literature must be addressed in postgraduate programs. Librarian support is important, particularly for accessing difficult texts. This step comprises the following components:
- Searching the literature itself: This process consists of defining which databases (electronic or dissertation/thesis repositories), official documents, and books will be searched and then actively conducting the search. Information literacy skills have a central role in this stage. While searching electronic databases, controlled vocabulary (e.g., Medical Subject Headings, or MeSH, for the PubMed database) or specific standardized syntax rules may need to be applied.
In addition, two other approaches are suggested. First, a review of the reference list of each document might be useful for identifying relevant publications to be included and important opinions to be assessed. This step is also relevant for referencing the original studies and leading authors in that field. Moreover, students can directly contact the experts on a particular topic to consult with them regarding their experience or use them as a source of additional unpublished documents.
Before submitting a dissertation/thesis, the electronic search strategy should be repeated. This process will ensure that the most recently published papers will be considered in the LR.
- Selecting documents for inclusion: Generally, the most recent literature will be included in the form of published peer-reviewed papers. Assess books and unpublished material, such as conference abstracts, academic texts and government reports, are also important to assess since the gray literature also offers valuable information. However, since these materials are not peer-reviewed, we recommend that they are carefully added to the LR.
This task is an important exercise in time management. First, students should read the title and abstract to understand whether that document suits their purposes, addresses the research question, and helps develop the topic of interest. Then, they should scan the full text, determine how it is structured, group it with similar documents, and verify whether other arguments might be considered ( 5 ).
Third step: Analyzing the results
Critical reading and thinking skills are important in this step. This step consists of the following components:
- Reading documents: The student may read various texts in depth according to LR sections and subsections ( defining the main topic ), which is not a passive activity ( 1 ). Some questions should be asked to practice critical analysis skills, as listed below. Is the research question evident and articulated with previous knowledge? What are the authors’ research goals and theoretical orientations, and how do they interact? Are the authors’ claims related to other scholars’ research? Do the authors consider different perspectives? Was the research project designed and conducted properly? Are the results and discussion plausible, and are they consistent with the research objectives and methodology? What are the strengths and limitations of this work? How do the authors support their findings? How does this work contribute to the current research topic? ( 1 , 19 )
- Taking notes: Students who systematically take notes on each document are more readily able to establish similarities or differences with other documents and to highlight personal observations. This approach reinforces the student’s ideas about the next step and helps develop his/her own academic voice ( 1 , 13 ). Voice recognition software ( 16 ), mind maps ( 5 ), flowcharts, tables, spreadsheets, personal comments on the referenced texts, and note-taking apps are all available tools for managing these observations, and the student him/herself should use the tool that best improves his/her learning. Additionally, when a student is considering submitting an LR to a peer-reviewed journal, notes should be taken on the activities performed in all five steps to ensure that they are able to be replicated.
Fourth step: Writing
The recognition of when a student is able and ready to write after a sufficient period of reading and thinking is likely a difficult task. Some students can produce a review in a single long work session. However, as discussed above, writing is not a linear process, and students do not need to write LRs according to a specific sequence of sections. Writing an LR is a time-consuming task, and some scholars believe that a period of at least six months is sufficient ( 6 ). An LR, and academic writing in general, expresses the writer’s proper thoughts, conclusions about others’ work ( 6 , 10 , 13 , 16 ), and decisions about methods to progress in the chosen field of knowledge. Thus, each student is expected to present a different learning and writing trajectory.
In this step, writing methods should be considered; then, editing, citing and correct referencing should complete this stage, at least temporarily. Freewriting techniques may be a good starting point for brainstorming ideas and improving the understanding of the information that has been read ( 1 ). Students should consider the following parameters when creating an agenda for writing the LR: two-hour writing blocks (at minimum), with prespecified tasks that are possible to complete in one section; short (minutes) and long breaks (days or weeks) to allow sufficient time for mental rest and reflection; and short- and long-term goals to motivate the writing itself ( 20 ). With increasing experience, this scheme can vary widely, and it is not a straightforward rule. Importantly, each discipline has a different way of writing ( 1 ), and each department has its own preferred styles for citations and references.
Fifth step: Reflecting on the writing
In this step, the postgraduate student should ask him/herself the same questions as in the analyzing the results step, which can take more time than anticipated. Ambiguities, repeated ideas, and a lack of coherence may not be noted when the student is immersed in the writing task for long periods. The whole effort will likely be a work in progress, and continuous refinements in the written material will occur once the writing process has begun.
LITERATURE REVIEW CHECKLIST
In contrast to review papers, the LR of a dissertation/thesis should not be a standalone piece or work. Instead, it should present the student as a scholar and should maintain the interest of the audience in how that dissertation/thesis will provide solutions for the current gaps in a particular field.
A checklist for evaluating an LR is convenient for students’ continuous academic development and research transparency: it clearly states the desired achievements for the LR of a dissertation/thesis. Here, we present an LR checklist developed from an LR scoring rubric ( 11 ). For a critical analysis of an LR, we maintain the five categories but offer twelve criteria that are not scaled ( Figure 3 ). The criteria all have the same importance and are not mutually exclusive.
First category: Coverage
1. justified criteria exist for the inclusion and exclusion of literature in the review.
This criterion builds on the main topic and areas covered by the LR ( 18 ). While experts may be confident in retrieving and selecting literature, postgraduate students must convince their audience about the adequacy of their search strategy and their reasons for intentionally selecting what material to cover ( 11 ). References from different fields of knowledge provide distinct perspective, but narrowing the scope of coverage may be important in areas with a large body of existing knowledge.
Second category: Synthesis
2. a critical examination of the state of the field exists.
A critical examination is an assessment of distinct aspects in the field ( 1 ) along with a constructive argument. It is not a negative critique but an expression of the student’s understanding of how other scholars have added to the topic ( 1 ), and the student should analyze and contextualize contradictory statements. A writer’s personal bias (beliefs or political involvement) have been shown to influence the structure and writing of a document; therefore, the cultural and paradigmatic background guide how the theories are revised and presented ( 13 ). However, an honest judgment is important when considering different perspectives.
3. The topic or problem is clearly placed in the context of the broader scholarly literature
The broader scholarly literature should be related to the chosen main topic for the LR ( how to develop the literature review section). The LR can cover the literature from one or more disciplines, depending on its scope, but it should always offer a new perspective. In addition, students should be careful in citing and referencing previous publications. As a rule, original studies and primary references should generally be included. Systematic and narrative reviews present summarized data, and it may be important to cite them, particularly for issues that should be understood but do not require a detailed description. Similarly, quotations highlight the exact statement from another publication. However, excessive referencing may disclose lower levels of analysis and synthesis by the student.
4. The LR is critically placed in the historical context of the field
Situating the LR in its historical context shows the level of comfort of the student in addressing a particular topic. Instead of only presenting statements and theories in a temporal approach, which occasionally follows a linear timeline, the LR should authentically characterize the student’s academic work in the state-of-art techniques in their particular field of knowledge. Thus, the LR should reinforce why the dissertation/thesis represents original work in the chosen research field.
5. Ambiguities in definitions are considered and resolved
Distinct theories on the same topic may exist in different disciplines, and one discipline may consider multiple concepts to explain one topic. These misunderstandings should be addressed and contemplated. The LR should not synthesize all theories or concepts at the same time. Although this approach might demonstrate in-depth reading on a particular topic, it can reveal a student’s inability to comprehend and synthesize his/her research problem.
6. Important variables and phenomena relevant to the topic are articulated
The LR is a unique opportunity to articulate ideas and arguments and to purpose new relationships between them ( 10 , 11 ). More importantly, a sound LR will outline to the audience how these important variables and phenomena will be addressed in the current academic work. Indeed, the LR should build a bidirectional link with the remaining sections and ground the connections between all of the sections ( Figure 1 ).
7. A synthesized new perspective on the literature has been established
The LR is a ‘creative inquiry’ ( 13 ) in which the student elaborates his/her own discourse, builds on previous knowledge in the field, and describes his/her own perspective while interpreting others’ work ( 13 , 17 ). Thus, students should articulate the current knowledge, not accept the results at face value ( 11 , 13 , 17 ), and improve their own cognitive abilities ( 12 ).
Third category: Methodology
8. the main methodologies and research techniques that have been used in the field are identified and their advantages and disadvantages are discussed.
The LR is expected to distinguish the research that has been completed from investigations that remain to be performed, address the benefits and limitations of the main methods applied to date, and consider the strategies for addressing the expected limitations described above. While placing his/her research within the methodological context of a particular topic, the LR will justify the methodology of the study and substantiate the student’s interpretations.
9. Ideas and theories in the field are related to research methodologies
The audience expects the writer to analyze and synthesize methodological approaches in the field. The findings should be explained according to the strengths and limitations of previous research methods, and students must avoid interpretations that are not supported by the analyzed literature. This criterion translates to the student’s comprehension of the applicability and types of answers provided by different research methodologies, even those using a quantitative or qualitative research approach.
Fourth category: Significance
10. the scholarly significance of the research problem is rationalized.
The LR is an introductory section of a dissertation/thesis and will present the postgraduate student as a scholar in a particular field ( 11 ). Therefore, the LR should discuss how the research problem is currently addressed in the discipline being investigated or in different disciplines, depending on the scope of the LR. The LR explains the academic paradigms in the topic of interest ( 13 ) and methods to advance the field from these starting points. However, an excess number of personal citations—whether referencing the student’s research or studies by his/her research team—may reflect a narrow literature search and a lack of comprehensive synthesis of ideas and arguments.
11. The practical significance of the research problem is rationalized
The practical significance indicates a student’s comprehensive understanding of research terminology (e.g., risk versus associated factor), methodology (e.g., efficacy versus effectiveness) and plausible interpretations in the context of the field. Notably, the academic argument about a topic may not always reflect the debate in real life terms. For example, using a quantitative approach in epidemiology, statistically significant differences between groups do not explain all of the factors involved in a particular problem ( 21 ). Therefore, excessive faith in p -values may reflect lower levels of critical evaluation of the context and implications of a research problem by the student.
Fifth category: Rhetoric
12. the lr was written with a coherent, clear structure that supported the review.
This category strictly relates to the language domain: the text should be coherent and presented in a logical sequence, regardless of which organizational ( 18 ) approach is chosen. The beginning of each section/subsection should state what themes will be addressed, paragraphs should be carefully linked to each other ( 10 ), and the first sentence of each paragraph should generally summarize the content. Additionally, the student’s statements are clear, sound, and linked to other scholars’ works, and precise and concise language that follows standardized writing conventions (e.g., in terms of active/passive voice and verb tenses) is used. Attention to grammar, such as orthography and punctuation, indicates prudence and supports a robust dissertation/thesis. Ultimately, all of these strategies provide fluency and consistency for the text.
Although the scoring rubric was initially proposed for postgraduate programs in education research, we are convinced that this checklist is a valuable tool for all academic areas. It enables the monitoring of students’ learning curves and a concentrated effort on any criteria that are not yet achieved. For institutions, the checklist is a guide to support supervisors’ feedback, improve students’ writing skills, and highlight the learning goals of each program. These criteria do not form a linear sequence, but ideally, all twelve achievements should be perceived in the LR.
A single correct method to classify, evaluate and guide the elaboration of an LR has not been established. In this essay, we have suggested directions for planning, structuring and critically evaluating an LR. The planning of the scope of an LR and approaches to complete it is a valuable effort, and the five steps represent a rational starting point. An institutional environment devoted to active learning will support students in continuously reflecting on LRs, which will form a dialogue between the writer and the current literature in a particular field ( 13 ).
The completion of an LR is a challenging and necessary process for understanding one’s own field of expertise. Knowledge is always transitory, but our responsibility as scholars is to provide a critical contribution to our field, allowing others to think through our work. Good researchers are grounded in sophisticated LRs, which reveal a writer’s training and long-lasting academic skills. We recommend using the LR checklist as a tool for strengthening the skills necessary for critical academic writing.
Leite DFB has initially conceived the idea and has written the first draft of this review. Padilha MAS and Cecatti JG have supervised data interpretation and critically reviewed the manuscript. All authors have read the draft and agreed with this submission. Authors are responsible for all aspects of this academic piece.
We are grateful to all of the professors of the ‘Getting Started with Graduate Research and Generic Skills’ module at University College Cork, Cork, Ireland, for suggesting and supporting this article. Funding: DFBL has granted scholarship from Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education (CAPES) to take part of her Ph.D. studies in Ireland (process number 88881.134512/2016-01). There is no participation from sponsors on authors’ decision to write or to submit this manuscript.
No potential conflict of interest was reported.
1 The questions posed in systematic reviews usually follow the ‘PICOS’ acronym: Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcomes, Study design.
2 In 1988, Cooper proposed a taxonomy that aims to facilitate students’ and institutions’ understanding of literature reviews. Six characteristics with specific categories are briefly described: Focus: research outcomes, research methodologies, theories, or practices and applications; Goals: integration (generalization, conflict resolution, and linguistic bridge-building), criticism, or identification of central issues; Perspective: neutral representation or espousal of a position; Coverage: exhaustive, exhaustive with selective citations, representative, central or pivotal; Organization: historical, conceptual, or methodological; and Audience: specialized scholars, general scholars, practitioners or policymakers, or the general public.
- Schools & departments
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.
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.
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
Writing Literature Reviews: What is a "Literature Review"?
- What is a "Literature Review"?
- 1. Brainstorm
- 3. Refine Your Search Strategy and Topic
- 4. Structure Your Lit Review
- Helpful Sites
This guide is intended to assist you in writing the literature review section of a scholarly article or research paper. It is important to know that research is a messy process. You may find yourself repeating steps, doing them out of order, or even adjusting your topic or the focus of your review. This is a normal part of scholarly writing.
The tabs offer a suggested series of steps (1-4) that will help you research, organize, and write your review.
If you need help, please contact your librarian.
- provide a summary of the published academic work on a topic
- help "make the case" for why someone is writing their paper or conducting their research
- can be the "background" section of a larger paper or it can be the focus of an entire paper
Goals of a Literature Review
- including the major theories, issues, works, and debates in the field
- synthesize all this information into an organized summary
- critique current knowledge of a topic
- identify aspects of the topic that need further investigation
Plagiarism and Citation
Citation is when you give credit to someone else's ideas, words, creative works, or contributions in your own paper.
Reasons to cite:
- Give credit the author(s) of the works that you used to write your paper.
- Avoid plagiarism (which means you are claiming someone else's work as your own. This will get you in big trouble. See the Purdue Online Writing Lab for more information.)
- Show that you know your topic well and have read and thought about what others have already said.
- Show your readers where to find the original sources of the information you present so they can read them fully.
When to cite? What to cite?
- Cite other people's words, ideas and other intellectual property that you use in your papers or that influence your ideas, including things such as books, articles, reports, data/statistics, speeches, academic articles, works of art, songs.
- Cite direct quotes, facts or statistics AND when you summarize or paraphrase others' ideas.
Helpful Sites on Literature Reviews
Much of the information in this guide and more information can be found on the websites listed on the Helpful Sites tab .
Ask A Librarian
Make an appointment
Chat with a Librarian
Email [email protected]
- Next: 1. Brainstorm >>
- University of Colorado Boulder Libraries
- Research Guides
- Writing Literature Reviews
- Last Updated: Nov 14, 2023 10:47 AM
- URL: https://libguides.colorado.edu/litreview
Have a language expert improve your writing
Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.
- Knowledge Base
- How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates
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.
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.
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 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.
A faster, more affordable way to improve your paper
Scribbr’s new AI Proofreader checks your document and corrects spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes with near-human accuracy and the efficiency of AI!
Proofread my paper
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).
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.
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
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.
Open Google Slides Download PowerPoint
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
- Null hypothesis
- Statistical power
- Probability distribution
- Effect size
- Poisson distribution
- 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 .
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
McCombes, S. (2023, September 11). How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved November 21, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/literature-review/
Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, what is a theoretical framework | guide to organizing, what is a research methodology | steps & tips, how to write a research proposal | examples & templates, what is your plagiarism score.
Take the first step and invest in your future.
Offering flexibility & convenience in 51 online degrees & programs.
Featuring 15 intercollegiate NCAA Div II athletic teams.
Find your Fit
UIS has over 85 student and 10 greek life organizations, and many volunteer opportunities.
Arts & Culture
Celebrating the arts to create rich cultural experiences on campus.
Give Like a Star
Your generosity helps fuel fundraising for scholarships, programs and new initiatives.
UIS was listed No. 1 in Illinois and No. 3 in the Midwest in 2023 rankings.
- Quick links Applicants & Students Important Apps & Links Alumni Faculty and Staff Community Admissions How to Apply Cost & Aid Tuition Calculator Registrar Orientation Visit Campus Academics Register for Class Programs of Study Online Degrees & Programs Graduate Education International Student Services Study Away Student Support UIS Life Dining Diversity & Inclusion Get Involved Health & Wellness COVID-19 United in Safety Residence Life Student Life Programs UIS Connection Important Apps UIS Mobile App Advise U Canvas myUIS i-card Balance Pay My Bill - UIS Bursar Self-Service Registration Email Resources Bookstore Box Information Technology Services Library Orbit Policies Webtools Get Connected Area Information Calendar Campus Recreation Departments & Programs (A-Z) Parking UIS Newsroom Connect & Get Involved Update your Info Alumni Events Alumni Networks & Groups Volunteer Opportunities Alumni Board News & Publications Featured Alumni Alumni News UIS Alumni Magazine Resources Order your Transcripts Give Back Alumni Programs Career Development Services & Support Accessibility Services Campus Services Campus Police Facilities & Services Registrar Faculty & Staff Resources Website Project Request Web Services Training & Tools Academic Impressions Career Connect CSA Reporting Cybersecurity Training Faculty Research FERPA Training Website Login Campus Resources Newsroom Campus Calendar Campus Maps i-Card Human Resources Public Relations Webtools Arts & Events UIS Performing Arts Center Visual Arts Gallery Event Calendar Sangamon Experience Center for Lincoln Studies ECCE Speaker Series Community Engagement Center for State Policy and Leadership Illinois Innocence Project Innovate Springfield Central IL Nonprofit Resource Center NPR Illinois Community Resources Child Protection Training Academy Office of Electronic Media University Archives/IRAD Institute for Illinois Public Finance
- Request Info Request info for.... Undergraduate/Graduate Online Study Away Continuing & Professional Education International Student Services General Inquiries
The purpose of a literature review is to collect relevant, timely research on your chosen topic, and synthesize it into a cohesive summary of existing knowledge in the field. This then prepares you for making your own argument on that topic, or for conducting your own original research.
Depending on your field of study, literature reviews can take different forms. Some disciplines require that you synthesize your sources topically, organizing your paragraphs according to how your different sources discuss similar topics. Other disciplines require that you discuss each source in individual paragraphs, covering various aspects in that single article, chapter, or book.
Within your review of a given source, you can cover many different aspects, including (if a research study) the purpose, scope, methods, results, any discussion points, limitations, and implications for future research. Make sure you know which model your professor expects you to follow when writing your own literature reviews.
Tip : Literature reviews may or may not be a graded component of your class or major assignment, but even if it is not, it is a good idea to draft one so that you know the current conversations taking place on your chosen topic. It can better prepare you to write your own, unique argument.
Benefits of Literature Reviews
- Literature reviews allow you to gain familiarity with the current knowledge in your chosen field, as well as the boundaries and limitations of that field.
- Literature reviews also help you to gain an understanding of the theory(ies) driving the field, allowing you to place your research question into context.
- Literature reviews provide an opportunity for you to see and even evaluate successful and unsuccessful assessment and research methods in your field.
- Literature reviews prevent you from duplicating the same information as others writing in your field, allowing you to find your own, unique approach to your topic.
- Literature reviews give you familiarity with the knowledge in your field, giving you the chance to analyze the significance of your additional research.
Choosing Your Sources
When selecting your sources to compile your literature review, make sure you follow these guidelines to ensure you are working with the strongest, most appropriate sources possible.
Find sources within the scope of your topic
Find sources that are not too old for your assignment
Find sources whose authors have authority on your topic
Find sources that meet your instructor’s guidelines (academic, professional, print, etc.)
Tip: Treat your professors and librarians as experts you can turn to for advice on how to locate sources. They are a valuable asset to you, so take advantage of them!
Organizing Your Literature Review
Some assignments require discussing your sources together, in paragraphs organized according to shared topics between them.
For example, in a literature review covering current conversations on Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home , authors may discuss various topics including:
- her graphic style
- her allusions to various literary texts
- her story’s implications regarding LGBT experiences in 20 th century America.
In this case, you would cluster your sources on these three topics. One paragraph would cover how the sources you collected dealt with Bechdel’s graphic style. Another, her allusions. A third, her implications.
Each of these paragraphs would discuss how the sources you found treated these topics in connection to one another. Basically, you compare and contrast how your sources discuss similar issues and points.
To determine these shared topics, examine aspects including:
- Definition of terms
- Common ground
- Issues that divide
- Rhetorical context
Depending on the assignment, your professor may prefer that you discuss each source in your literature review individually (in their own, separate paragraphs or sections). Your professor may give you specific guidelines as far as what to cover in these paragraphs/sections.
If, for instance, your sources are all primary research studies, here are some aspects to consider covering:
Each section of your literature review, in this case, will identify all of these elements for each individual article.
You may or may not need to separate your information into multiple paragraphs for each source. If you do, using proper headings in the appropriate citation style (APA, MLA, etc.) will help keep you organized.
If you are writing a literature review as part of a larger assignment, you generally do not need an introduction and/or conclusion, because it is embedded within the context of your larger paper.
If, however, your literature review is a standalone assignment, it is a good idea to include some sort of introduction and conclusion to provide your reader with context regarding your topic, purpose, and any relevant implications or further questions. Make sure you know what your professor is expecting for your literature review’s content.
Typically, a literature review concludes with a full bibliography of your included sources. Make sure you use the style guide required by your professor for this assignment.
Literature Review: Purpose of a Literature Review
- Literature Review
- Purpose of a Literature Review
- Work in Progress
- Compiling & Writing
- Books, Articles, & Web Pages
- Types of Literature Reviews
- Departmental Differences
- Citation Styles & Plagiarism
- Know the Difference! Systematic Review vs. Literature Review
The purpose of a literature review is to:
- Provide a foundation of knowledge on a topic
- Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication and give credit to other researchers
- Identify inconstancies: gaps in research, conflicts in previous studies, open questions left from other research
- Identify the need for additional research (justifying your research)
- Identify the relationship of works in the context of their contribution to the topic and other works
- Place your own research within the context of existing literature, making a case for why further study is needed.
Videos & Tutorials
VIDEO: What is the role of a literature review in research? What's it mean to "review" the literature? Get the big picture of what to expect as part of the process. This video is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license. License, credits, and contact information can be found here: https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/tutorials/litreview/
Elements in a Literature Review
- Elements in a Literature Review txt of infographic
- << Previous: Literature Review
- Next: Searching >>
- Last Updated: Oct 19, 2023 12:07 PM
- URL: https://uscupstate.libguides.com/Literature_Review
- Research Process
Literature Review in Research Writing
- 4 minute read
- 411.2K views
Table of Contents
Research on research? If you find this idea rather peculiar, know that nowadays, with the huge amount of information produced daily all around the world, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep up to date with all of it. In addition to the sheer amount of research, there is also its origin. We are witnessing the economic and intellectual emergence of countries like China, Brazil, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates, for example, that are producing scholarly literature in their own languages. So, apart from the effort of gathering information, there must also be translators prepared to unify all of it in a single language to be the object of the literature survey. At Elsevier, our team of translators is ready to support researchers by delivering high-quality scientific translations , in several languages, to serve their research – no matter the topic.
What is a literature review?
A literature review is a study – or, more accurately, a survey – involving scholarly material, with the aim to discuss published information about a specific topic or research question. Therefore, to write a literature review, it is compulsory that you are a real expert in the object of study. The results and findings will be published and made available to the public, namely scientists working in the same area of research.
How to Write a Literature Review
First of all, don’t forget that writing a literature review is a great responsibility. It’s a document that is expected to be highly reliable, especially concerning its sources and findings. You have to feel intellectually comfortable in the area of study and highly proficient in the target language; misconceptions and errors do not have a place in a document as important as a literature review. In fact, you might want to consider text editing services, like those offered at Elsevier, to make sure your literature is following the highest standards of text quality. You want to make sure your literature review is memorable by its novelty and quality rather than language errors.
Writing a literature review requires expertise but also organization. We cannot teach you about your topic of research, but we can provide a few steps to guide you through conducting a literature review:
- Choose your topic or research question: It should not be too comprehensive or too limited. You have to complete your task within a feasible time frame.
- Set the scope: Define boundaries concerning the number of sources, time frame to be covered, geographical area, etc.
- Decide which databases you will use for your searches: In order to search the best viable sources for your literature review, use highly regarded, comprehensive databases to get a big picture of the literature related to your topic.
- Search, search, and search: Now you’ll start to investigate the research on your topic. It’s critical that you keep track of all the sources. Start by looking at research abstracts in detail to see if their respective studies relate to or are useful for your own work. Next, search for bibliographies and references that can help you broaden your list of resources. Choose the most relevant literature and remember to keep notes of their bibliographic references to be used later on.
- Review all the literature, appraising carefully it’s content: After reading the study’s abstract, pay attention to the rest of the content of the articles you deem the “most relevant.” Identify methodologies, the most important questions they address, if they are well-designed and executed, and if they are cited enough, etc.
If it’s the first time you’ve published a literature review, note that it is important to follow a special structure. Just like in a thesis, for example, it is expected that you have an introduction – giving the general idea of the central topic and organizational pattern – a body – which contains the actual discussion of the sources – and finally the conclusion or recommendations – where you bring forward whatever you have drawn from the reviewed literature. The conclusion may even suggest there are no agreeable findings and that the discussion should be continued.
Why are literature reviews important?
Literature reviews constantly feed new research, that constantly feeds literature reviews…and we could go on and on. The fact is, one acts like a force over the other and this is what makes science, as a global discipline, constantly develop and evolve. As a scientist, writing a literature review can be very beneficial to your career, and set you apart from the expert elite in your field of interest. But it also can be an overwhelming task, so don’t hesitate in contacting Elsevier for text editing services, either for profound edition or just a last revision. We guarantee the very highest standards. You can also save time by letting us suggest and make the necessary amendments to your manuscript, so that it fits the structural pattern of a literature review. Who knows how many worldwide researchers you will impact with your next perfectly written literature review.
Know more: How to Find a Gap in Research .
Language Editing Services by Elsevier Author Services:
What is a Research Gap
- Manuscript Preparation
Types of Scientific Articles
You may also like.
Five Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Biomedical Research Paper
Making Technical Writing in Environmental Engineering Accessible
To Err is Not Human: The Dangers of AI-assisted Academic Writing
When Data Speak, Listen: Importance of Data Collection and Analysis Methods
Choosing the Right Research Methodology: A Guide for Researchers
Navigating the Reproducibility Crisis: A Guide to Analytical Method Validation
Why is data validation important in research?
Writing a good review article
Input your search keywords and press Enter.
- Essay Writing
- Extended Essays
- IB Internal Assessment
- Theory of Knowledge
- Literature Review
- Research Writing
- Assignment Help
- Capstone Projects
- College Application
- Online Class
- Order Assignment
Why Is Literature Review Important? (3 Benefits Explained)
by Antony W
January 21, 2023
Every research project needs a literature review. And while it’s one of the most challenging parts of the assignment, in part because of the intensity of the research involved, it’s by far the most important section of a research paper.
Many students fail to write comprehensive literature reviews because they see the assignment as a formality.
For the most part, they’ll vaguely create a list of existing studies and consider the assignment complete. But such an approach overlooks why a literature review is important.
We need to take a step back and look beyond the definition of a literature review.
In particular, the goal of this guide is to help you explore the significance of the review of the existing literature.
Once you understand the role that literature reviews play in research projects, you’ll give the assignment the full attention that it deserves.
Writing a literature review is important for the following reasons:
- It demonstrates that you understand the issue you’re investigating.
- A literature review allows you to develop a more theoretical framework for your research.
- It justifies your research and shows the gaps present in the current literature.
Get Literature Review Writing Help
Do you find the workload involved in writing a literature review for your thesis, research paper, or standalone project overwhelming? We understand how involving the writing process can be, and we are here to help you with writing if you currently feel stuck.
You can hire a professional literature review writer from Help for Assessment to get the writing done for you. Whether you have a flexible deadline or the submission date for the literature is almost due, you can count on our team to help you get the paper done fast.
What is a Literature Review?
A literature review is a study of the already existing research in a given area of study.
While it’s common in physical and social sciences, instructors may also request student to complete the assignment within the humanities space.
The review can be a standalone project or a part of an academic assignment.
If your professor or instructor asks you to write the review as a standalone project, your focus will be on exploring how a specific field of inquiry has developed over the course of time.
In the case where you have to include the review as part of your academic paper, the goal will be to set the background for the topic (or issue) you’re currently investigating.
How is Literature Review Different from an Essay?
In an education setting whether students are used to writing tons of essays every month, it’s likely for many to wonder whether an essay could be the same as a literature review.
While a literature review and an essay both require research before writing, there are a number of differences between them that you need to know.
Types of Literature Review
We’ll look at the significance of a literature review in a moment.
For now let’s look at the types of literature reviews that your instructor may ask you to write.
As of this writing, there are 6 types of reviews that you need to know about. These are:
1. Argumentative Review
Examines a literature review with the intention to support or refuse an argument, with the aim being to develop a body of literature that can establish a contrarian point of view.
2. Integrative Literature Review
This type of review critiques and synthesizes related literature to generate a new framework and perspective on a topic.
Researchers have to address identical and/or related hypotheses or research problems to comply with research standards with regards to replication, vigor, and clarity.
3. Historical Literature
The focus of the review is to examine research within a given period, and usually starts from the time a research problem or issue emerged.
Then, you have to trace its evolution throughout the suggested timeframe within the scholarship of that particular discipline.
4. Methodological Literature Review
The focus shifts from what someone said to how they ended up saying what they said.
Since the focus here is on the method of analysis, methodological reviews gives a better framework that help one to understand exactly how a researcher draws their conclusion from a wide range of knowledge.
5. Systematic Literature
A systematic review focuses on the existing evidence related to a specific research question.
You will need to use a pre-specified and standardized approach to identify, evaluate, and appraise research, not to mention collect, analyze, and report data collected from the review.
Understand that the goal of a systematic review is to evaluate, summarize, and document research that focuses on a specific (or clearly defined) research problem.
6. Theoretical Literature Review
Theoretical review focuses on examining theories that resulted from an issue, a concept, or a situation.
It’s through this type of review that a researcher can easily establish the kind of theories that already formulated, the degree to what researchers have investigated them, and the relationship between them.
It’s through theoretical review that one can develop new hypotheses for testing and can therefore help to determine what theories aren’t sufficient to explain emerging research problems.
Why Is Literature Review Important?
Now that you know the difference between an essay and a review as well as the different types of literature review, it’s important to look at why it’s important to examine existing literature in your research.
There are a number of reasons why instructors ask you to write a review , and they’re as follow:
1. Demonstrate a Clear Understanding of the Subject
Writing a literature review demonstrates that you have a clear understanding of the subject you’re investigating.
It also means that you can easily identify, evaluate, and summarize existing research that’s relevant to your work.
2. Justify Your Research
There’s more to writing a research paper than just identifying topic and generating your research question from it.
You also have to go as far as to justify your research, and the only way to do that is by including a literature review in your work.
It’s important to understand that looking at past research is the only way to identify gaps that exist in the current literature.
That can go a long way to help fill in the gap by addressing them in your own research work.
3. Helps to Set a Resourceful Theoretical Framework
Because a research paper assignment builds up on the ideas of already existing research, doing a literature review can help you to set a resourceful theoretical framework on which to base your study.
The theoretical framework will include concepts and theories that you will base your research on. And keep in mind that it’s this framework that professors will use to judge the overall quality of your work.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. what are the benefits of literature review in research.
A literature review in research allows you to discover exiting knowledge in your field and the boundaries and limitations that exists within that field.
Moreover, doing a review of existing literature helps you to understand the theories that drive an area of investigation, making it easy for you to place your research question into proper context.
2. What is the Effect of a Good Literature Review?
In addition to providing context, reducing research redundancy, and informing methodology, a well-written literature review can maximize relevance, enhance originality, and ensure professional standards in writing.
3. What is a Strength of a Literature Review?
The strength of a literature review is the ability to improve your information seeking skills and enhancing your knowledge about the topic under investigation.
As you can see, a review is quite a significant part of a research project, so you should treat it with the seriousness that it deserves.
At the end of the day, you want to create a good connection between you and your readers, and the best way to do that is to pack just as much value as you can in your literature review project.
About the author
Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.
Why the literature review is important
- PMID: 21129081
- DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-849X.2010.00664.x
- Databases, Bibliographic
- Research Design
- Review Literature as Topic*
- Open access
- Published: 24 November 2023
A resilience view on health system resilience: a scoping review of empirical studies and reviews
- Samantha Copeland ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-6946-7165 1 ,
- Saba Hinrichs-Krapels ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-9043-8847 1 ,
- Federica Fecondo 1 ,
- Esteban Ralon Santizo 1 ,
- Roland Bal ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-7202-5053 2 &
- Tina Comes ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-8721-8314 1
BMC Health Services Research volume 23 , Article number: 1297 ( 2023 ) Cite this article
Prompted by recent shocks and stresses to health systems globally, various studies have emerged on health system resilience. Our aim is to describe how health system resilience is operationalised within empirical studies and previous reviews. We compare these to the core conceptualisations and characteristics of resilience in a broader set of domains (specifically, engineering, socio-ecological, organisational and community resilience concepts), and trace the different schools, concepts and applications of resilience across the health literature.
We searched the Pubmed database for concepts related to ‘resilience’ and ‘health systems’. Two separate analyses were conducted for included studies: a total of n = 87 empirical studies on health system resilience were characterised according to part of health systems covered, type of threat, resilience phase, resilience paradigm, and approaches to building resilience; and a total of n = 30 reviews received full-text review and characterised according to type of review, resilience concepts identified in the review, and theoretical framework or underlying resilience conceptualisation.
The intersection of health and resilience clearly has gained importance in the academic discourse with most papers published since 2018 in a variety of journals and in response to external threats, or in reference to more frequent hospital crisis management. Most studies focus on either resilience of health systems generally (and thereby responding to an external shock or stress), or on resilience within hospitals (and thereby to regular shocks and operations). Less attention has been given to community-based and primary care, whether formal or informal. While most publications do not make the research paradigm explicit, ‘resilience engineering’ is the most prominent one, followed by ‘community resilience’ and ‘organisational resilience’. The social-ecological systems roots of resilience find the least application, confirming our findings of the limited application of the concept of transformation in the health resilience literature.
Our review shows that the field is fragmented, especially in the use of resilience paradigms and approaches from non-health resilience domains, and the health system settings in which these are used. This fragmentation and siloed approach can be problematic given the connections within and between the complex and adaptive health systems, ranging from community actors to local, regional, or national public health organisations to secondary care. Without a comprehensive definition and framework that captures these interdependencies, operationalising, measuring and improving resilience remains challenging.
Peer Review reports
Background and context to this review.
The past 10 years have challenged health systems globally with several public health emergencies (COVID-19, SARS, Ebola Virus Disease), environmental disasters (flooding, hurricanes and earthquakes), as well as war and conflict shocks. Although health providers often deal with crises, these large-scale emergencies have revealed a need to deal with unprecedented care demand and shortages of staff, supplies and infrastructure. Beyond the direct effects and disruptions of each crisis, there are cascading effects such as delays in routine and non-emergency care. When these crises start to spread across political borders, there are governance, financial and cultural barriers that affect the ability to provide care equitably to all those in need.
These sudden shocks and disruptions have prompted policymakers, practitioners, and scholars to learn how to increase the resilience of health systems. In recent research, perhaps prompted by COVID-19, there is has been a surge of interest in the concept of resilience, and many reviews have already been conducted on this topic, exploring the presence of resilience in empirical studies, or whether we can learn from the concepts of resilience generally to improve health system performance. For example, Biddle et al. 2020 provide a narrative review of resilience concepts in empirical studies, but provide little in-depth characterisation of resilience characteristics and their relevant capacities, or their applications across different health systems, which could provide useful learning on how to operationalise resilience in different health system contexts [ 1 ]. As Forsgren et al. (2022, this issue) suggest, this focus on the theoretical has led to a lack of knowledge about which strategies for building resilience have been successful, a gap they seek to close [ 2 ]. Similarly, Khalil et al. (2022) point out the need to operationalise resilience concepts into healthcare practice [ 3 ]. However, what is missing is a thorough analysis of what resilience paradigms and concepts outside of the health domain can offer health systems research and practice. Wiig and O’Hara offer a particularly useful starting point with their analysis of the impact that resilience engineering concepts are having on health systems research [ 4 ]. Our aim here is to augment existing reviews on resilience in health systems, and to specifically compare the way resilience is operationalised in empirical studies to the core paradigms and conceptualisations of resilience from a broader set of domains (specifically, engineering sciences, socio-ecological sciences, organisational resilience, and community resilience). We thus take up the unique task, to review the paradigms and approaches to resilience, and map them on the different subsystems of the health system to which they are applied. Rather than bypass the possible variations in conceptual frameworks, we sought to track them; and thereby identify the relationship between conceptual origins showed in the literature, which parts of the health system they focus on, and the aspects of resilience used.
To achieve this objective, we had two specific sub-objectives which guided our search and review method:
To characterise the empirical studies dealing with resilience in health systems by (i) types of disasters, threats or events that have triggered these studies, (ii) the part of the health system covered, and (iii) the resilience concepts used in these studies.
To provide a review of reviews to show the various resilience paradigms and conceptualisations used across the health literature already synthesised by existing reviews.
Conceptualisations of resilience in other domains influencing our review
The word resilience stems from the Latin resilio, or ‘to jump back’ [ 5 ]. Resilience has double roots in socio-ecological systems and in psychology. In psychology, research has focused on the ability of individuals to deal with trauma and extremely adverse events (Comes et al., 2019 [ 6 ]). Studies focus on personality traits that help defend against exposure to extreme stress; this includes aspects such as meaningful purpose, agency and a growth mindset [ 7 ]. Taking a systems- rather than an individual perspective, in this paper we do not focus on psychological resilience.
In socio-ecological systems, the concept of resilience was introduced in Holling’s seminal paper to characterise the ability of a system to evolve and adapt under shocks and stresses [ 8 ]. Holling’s work inspired a rich body of work in fields ranging from resilience of ecosystems to climate adaptation [ 9 , 10 ]. Resilience in this realm is often defined as “ “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks ” [ 11 ], or the ability to persist by changing. This evolutionary perspective stresses the emergence of systems properties, and the rise of rare events, which “ can unpredictably shape structure at critical times or at locations of increased vulnerability ” [ 12 ]. This notion of resilience, however, is in contrast with the need for planning and decision-making, and does not fit the long lead-times and life cycles that are typical for decisions in health care planning and management.
In engineering, resilience is largely used to refer to the ability of some system to rapidly return to a single state of equilibrium or stability after a disruption, thereby ensuring continued functioning and rapid recovery from stress and disturbances [ 13 , 14 ]. Often, engineering resilience is associated with robustness, broadly understood as the ability to withstand shocks and ‘bounce back’ to the same performance level. These principles have been instrumental in identifying critical points in complex, interdependent infrastructure networks [ 15 ], analysing disruptions [ 16 ] or for designing new infrastructures and tools [ 17 ]. However, these approaches do not explicitly incorporate aspects of adaptation and transformation that socio-ecological systems or community resilience encompasses.
From the perspective of social-ecological resilience, which puts forward the concept of resilience as a non-equilibrium notion, there are important links to participation and self-organisation that are common to community resilience and the social capital theories of resilience [ 18 , 19 ]. These concepts focus on the networked sets of capacities that a community or organisation can generate, in order to be(come) resilient [ 20 ]. While community resilience focuses on the adaptive capacity of communities and their abilities to respond [ 20 ], organisational resilience seeks to explain the features of highly resilient organisations [ 21 , 22 ]. These concepts are also prominent in the disaster resilience literature, where resilience has been promoted as a way to analyse and understand the reaction of a system to a hazardous event, promoting activities such as improving coping capacities and livelihoods [ 23 ].
Overall, we observe three major principles that are meant to improve resilience: reducing impacts or consequences (robustness), reducing recovery time (absorption), and reducing future vulnerabilities (adaptation and transformation). These principles are represented to a different degree in the four paradigms that we are investigating here: socio-ecological systems resilience [ 8 ], engineering resilience [ 14 , 24 ], community resilience [ 20 ], and organisational resilience [ 21 , 22 ].
For our study, we sought to look for instances in which these concepts were used, addressed, or referred to, either in the empirical studies (aim 1 above) or in the reviews (aim 2 above).
We describe our work as a scoping review of empirical studies and reviews, which we explain as follows: We first searched for any studies relating to resilience and its accompanying definitions in the health literature, and applied inclusion/exclusion criteria (see full details below). We then divided our included studies into two categories to match our sub-objectives above: empirical or non-review studies were analysed according to the characteristics described in sub-objective (1) above, while all reviews were reviewed separately and key resilience themes and concepts were extracted for sub-objective (2). The results from both components were analysed together to satisfy our overarching objective. These components are conceptualised in Fig. 1 .
Overview of the two sub-objectives for our study
We expanded the search string and method used by Turenne et al. 2019 [ 25 ], who provided a conceptual analysis of health systems resilience, by adding broader search terms that enabled us to include regional, local or care provider-based empirical studies. We also limited our search to PubMed, as our focus was to identify specifically how the health literature conceptualises and uses ‘resilience’ and compare this analysis to other disciplinary domains in our analysis and discussion. We conducted our search on 16 June 2021 which yielded 2773 results (see Supplementary file A for PRISMA flowchart); and the full search string is provided below:
(((“resilien*”[Title/Abstract]) OR ("coping strateg*"[Title/Abstract]) OR ("system responsiveness"[Title/Abstract]) OR ("system adaptation"[Title/Abstract])).
AND ( ("health* system*" [Title/Abstract]) OR ( (“health systems plans" [MeSH Terms]) OR ( "Health Planning/organization and administration"[Mesh])) OR ("Public Health/organization and administration"[Mesh]) OR ( "Organization and Administration/organization and administration"[Mesh] OR "Organization and Administration/prevention and control"[Mesh] OR "Organization and Administration/supply and distribution"[Mesh]) OR ("comprehensive health care/organization and administration"[Mesh]) OR ("Public Health Administration"[MeSH]) OR ("Public Health Systems Research"[MeSH]) OR ("health policy"[MeSH]) OR (national health programs/organization and administration[MeSH]) OR ("efficiency, organizational" [MeSH]) OR ("Health Services/organization and administration"[MeSH]))).
AND ("english" [Language]).
To remain up to date with the latest literature, and in response to helpful feedback from one of our reviewers, we updated our search in June 2023 which yielded a further 796 results. These are not included in the empirical study review (sub-objective (1) in Fig. 1 ), but we did include the extra n = 23 reviews we found in the full-text review analysis (sub-objective (2)).
For the analysis of empirical studies (sub-objective (1) in Fig. 1 ), we included studies if they met the following criteria:
Context: The study is conducted within any part of the health system (including primary care or social care settings, national decision-making, public health local or regional authorities). Individual psychological resilience (of patients or of the workforce) were excluded, unless the study explicitly related such individual resilience as a contributor to the resilience of the system.
Process: The study relates to any aspect of resilience including, for example, adaptation, coping mechanisms, learning from a shock or disaster (see below for ‘resilience concepts’ used in data extraction and analysis).
Study type: Commentaries, editorials, news articles and conference proceedings were excluded.
Language: Only studies in English were included.
Time period: No date limitations were set.
For eligibility in the full-text review of reviews (sub-objective 2 above), we applied the same criteria, except for study type, since this had to be a review with an included search and analysis method (e.g., scoping review, systematic review, narrative review).
We used the platform ‘Rayyan’ for screening the titles and abstracts. Three reviewers piloted the screening based on the inclusion/exclusion eligibility criteria. Two reviewers rescreened these relevant/possibly relevant records and we resolved the disagreements in group meetings. We followed arbitration by a third reviewer.
Following study selection, the studies were divided into two categories (Fig. 1 ): (a) empirical studies that concerned resilience of the health system, and (b) reviews (any method included). This resulted in n = 87 articles included in part (a) and n = 30 articles included in part (b) the review of reviews (see Supplementary file A for our adapted PRISMA-Scoping reviews flowchart). The following steps (data extraction and analysis) were conducted separately and their associated methods are reported in two parts below.
Data extraction and analysis
Data analysis for sub-objective 1: statistical analysis of empirical studies.
While the studies included in these statistical analyses were not reviewed in full, the following data from these articles were extracted:
General study publication information: This includes publication date, journal, authors, title, location of study (country).
Types of threat: This refers to the type of threat, event or disaster studied, including COVID-19, Ebola, environmental disasters, etc.
Part of the health system covered in study: This included health system (general/unspecified), community health workforce, primary care, community formal or informal actors (non-health), secondary care (hospital), public health (national, prevention), public health (national), regional/local public health organisations.
Resilience paradigms: To understand the use and evolution of the resilience concept and its characteristics within health systems research, we analysed the articles according to the underlying resilience research paradigm. We searched for the different resilience domain perspectives as outlined above. As we were aiming to embed the health resilience studies into the broader resilience discourse, we here focused on links to the existing fields, rather than on the emerging literature on health resilience. The categories included socio-ecological systems resilience, engineering resilience, community resilience, and organisational resilience.
Resilience aspects: We analysed the resilience phase or aspect considered. Following Manyena et al. (2019) [ 23 ] and their comprehensive review of the resilience literature, we distinguish preventive, preparedness, absorptive, adaptive and transformative capacities. We use, whenever possible, the standards defined by UNISDR terminology Footnote 1 and combine these with recent a recent policy documents for the EU [ 26 ] and the IPCC Glossary Footnote 2 :
Prevention: “activities to provide outright avoidance of the adverse impact of hazards” (UNISDR)
Preparedness: “activities and measures taken in advance to ensure effective response to the impact of a hazard” (UNISDR)
Absorption: “ability of a system to keep or rapidly recover the same level of performance and service delivery (in terms of quantity, quality, and equity)” [ 26 ]
Adaptation: “process of adjustment to changing conditions, including risks and crises” [ 26 ]
Transformation: “a profound and often deliberate shift initiated by communities toward sustainability, facilitated by changes in individual and collective values and behaviours” (IPCC).
Resilience approach: Subsequently, we also analysed the approaches that were put forward or studied as a means to achieve resilience (e.g., robustness, agility, redundancy). Rather than diving deeply into the use and meaning of each concept, we here compare how the concepts are used across the different literatures, and which terms dominate.
Further, we followed Meerow et al.’s [ 27 ] approach in analysing resilience of what and to what. In the ‘ of what’ category, we analysed which parts of the health system were studied, ranging from specific departments within a hospital, to the public health system. Under ‘ to what’ we analysed the shocks or stresses that the system under consideration was supposed to, and the drivers for resilience. To understand how the different concepts are applied across paradigms and domains, we developed heat maps that show the frequency of co-occurrence of different terms.
We designed and tested the data extraction form in a spreadsheet shared via Google Sheets to enter: author-title of the review, year and location(s), country in which the empirical study was conducted, threat ( to what? ), the part of the health system that was studied ( of what? ), the underlying theoretical paradigm used, the resilience phase, and the concepts that were referred to as means to improve resilience. We also indicated if the related choices were not made specific or could not be inferred from the manuscript. To capture intersections between the concepts, and understand how different capacities are co-evolving or co-used, we analysed and counted all concepts that a paper touched upon, i.e., if a paper referred to e.g., absorption and adaptation, we counted it under both categories.
Where possible, we inferred paradigms and concepts as mentioned from the abstract. If that was not possible, the full papers were scrutinised for additional information. If the category could not be detected, we labelled the paper as ‘not specified’. In addition, because of the breadth of the field, we grouped papers where possible. For instance, papers that referred to ‘rapidly bouncing back’ were categorised under the resilience engineering paradigm.
Data extraction for sub-objective 2: review of reviews.
The reviews included in our study ( n = 30) were reviewed via full-text review. We designed and tested a separate extraction form in a spreadsheet shared via Google sheets to include: type of review, resilience concepts identified in the review, and theoretical framework or underlying resilience framework or definition.
We present our results in two sections. In part (a) we describe the nature of the included empirical studies that address resilience in health systems. This includes the types of disasters or events that are either used for data or context for these studies, their chronology, the part of health system covered by the studies, methods used, and resulting knowledge contribution of the study. In part (b) we present the results of our full scoping review of reviews, focussing in particular on the way resilience is conceptualised in these papers. In the discussion following this section, we compare and contrast these conceptualisations to the principles of resilience identified within part (1).
(a) Describing empirical studies addressing resilience within health systems
We included a total of n = 87 articles in the descriptive analysis, available in full in a table in Supplementary File C .
Nature of empirical studies on resilience in health systems
Our included articles are drawn from a broad spectrum of journals covering different fields and domains within healthcare (Fig. 2 ), with the highest number of publications in global health ( n = 15, 17%) and public health ( n = 13, 15%). These studies are also published in interdisciplinary journals, or in other domains, such as emergency management ( n = 4, 5%) or computer science ( n = 3, 3%).
Distribution of journal categories considered in this review ( n = 87)
Location and setting of empirical studies on resilience in health systems
The settings in which these included studies were conducted were distributed fairly evenly across Europe ( n = 15, 17%), Africa ( n = 15, 17%), and North America ( n = 13, 15%), see Fig. 3 . For Asia, we distinguished the Middle East ( n = 8, 9%), where papers often focus on conflict and refugees (e.g. [ 28 , 29 ], from South Eastern Asia and China ( n = 6, 7%), where studies largely focused on emergency management departments [ 30 , 31 ]. Fewer studies were conducted in Oceania ( n = 4, 5%) South America ( n = 3, 3%) and Central America ( n = 1, 1%). Few papers reported to focus generally on low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) ( n = 2, 2%) or global health systems issues ( n = 1, 1%). A total of 18 papers (21%) did not specify the location of study within the title or abstract.
Distribution of study locations ( n = 87)
Threats prompting empirical studies on resilience
By categorising the studies according to their year of publication and the associated ‘threat’ (disaster, emergency etc.) that was studied, we were able to observe patterns in how these threats prompted resilience research over time (Fig. 4 ). The intersection of health and resilience clearly has gained importance in the academic discourse with the majority of papers published since 2018 ( n = 47, 54%). Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic created another peak in health systems research (starting 2020, n = 21 or 24%), after a slight drop in 2019. The 2021 data covers the papers published up to June 2021, when we conducted our search for empirical studies.
Identified literature on health system resilience ( n = 87) organised by threat or type of challenge and year (from 2004 until June 2021)
A majority of publications ( n = 49, 56%) made specific the resilience challenge addressed, while 38 publications were generally referring to health systems resilience, driven by the general complexity and uncertainty that the health system is exposed to, but without referring to a clear threat or challenge. For the publications that refer to a threat, infectious diseases and epidemics ( n = 24, 27%) formed the largest group of publications. Clearly, this category was dominated by COVID-19 ( n = 13) and Ebola ( n = 8) with other infectious diseases playing a minor role.
Many of the COVID-19 publications reported on the lessons learnt from the first wave of the pandemic across different countries [ 32 , 33 , 34 , 35 ]. The publications about Ebola (which gained prominence in 2015), were published from 2015 to 2020, speaking to the long-term challenges to the health system. While the initial publications focus on the immediate impact [ 36 ], the later studies shift to the development of the health system [ 37 , 38 ] and community resilience or community health workers [ 39 , 40 , 41 ].
Somewhat surprisingly, natural disasters find relatively few mentions with a total of 5 publications (6%) that cover Hurricane Sandy e.g., [ 42 , 43 ] and earthquakes in Central America (e.g., Haiti [ 44 ]) and South Eastern Asia (Fukushima e.g., [ 45 ]). Economic stresses and shocks ( n = 7, 8%) have gained importance in the aftermath of the 2011 financial crisis across geographical locations (e.g., [ 46 , 47 , 48 , 49 ]). The ongoing war and conflicts in the Middle East and the subsequent refugee crises have inspired a range of health resilience papers since 2016 ( n = 9, 10%) [ 28 , 29 , 50 ].
Components of the health system covered by empirical studies, compared to threats
Focusing on the question which parts of the health systems are the objects of investigation, Fig. 5 shows that most studies focus on the health system generally, without further specification ( n = 40, 46%), followed by secondary care (specifically, hospitals; n = 21, 24%). The articles focussed on health systems generally cover diverse challenges and specific threats ranging from conflict and economic crises to antimicrobial resistance [ 51 , 52 , 53 , 54 ]. In contrast, the resilience of hospitals is often studied in general terms, with the majority of papers studying the regular disruptions, uncertainties and complexities with which a hospital is confronted [ 55 , 56 , 57 , 58 ], rather than specific and/or external shocks or stresses. Primary care ( n = 9, 10%) is mostly discussed in a post-disaster or conflict context [ 53 , 59 , 60 ]. National public health organisations ( n = 8, 9%) [ 61 ], regional and local public health care organisations ( n = 6, 7%) [ 62 ] and community actors (formal, informal and workforce) ( n = 4, 5%) (eg [ 40 ]) have received less attention. Figure 5 shows that the publications on communities were driven by the literature on Ebola (e.g. [ 39 , 40 , 63 ]), which also have promoted a shift towards community.
Literature on health resilience ( n = 87) organised by location in the health system (resilience of what?) and threat or type of challenge (resilience to what?)
Aspects and phases of resilience used in empirical studies
Conventionally, the health resilience literature distinguishes three main capacities or outcomes: absorption, adaptation and transformation [ 1 , 64 ]. However, our findings show that many of the empirical studies we found focussing on resilience—given that they are rooted in the risk, safety, and emergency management domain—also focus on prevention and control (e.g. [ 31 , 46 ]) as well as preparedness [ 65 , 66 , 67 ] as key capacities and outcomes. Especially in response to COVID-19, several authors focus on preparing for or preventing pandemics (e.g., [ 33 , 68 , 69 ]). While conventionally, these outcomes are considered as a part of risk management rather than resilience [ 26 ], the health resilience literature integrates both realms under the umbrella of resilience.
Figure 6 shows that the idea of absorption, or rapidly bouncing back, is the most used resilience aspect ( n = 35, 40%) with a wide range of applications, ranging from communities recovering from natural disasters [ 42 ] to the ability of emergency departments to absorb a surge of patients [ 30 , 70 ] or external disturbances [ 71 ]. Preparedness ( n = 25, 29%) and adaptation ( n = 15, 17%) follow. Prevention & control ( n = 8, 9%) are primarily referred to in literature that describes resilience to epidemics and infectious disease (see above). Transformation ( n = 5, 6%) has received limited attention [ 49 ], often in conjunction with other qualities, such as adaptation (e.g., [ 59 ]. And while the resilience literature often stresses the need to absorb, adapt and recover, only two publications (2%) refer to all three capacities [ 28 , 50 ]. Strikingly, both of these publications focus on the situation of Syrian refugees.
Analysis of specific resilience capacities or outcomes ( n = 87)
Underlying resilience paradigm or disciplinary contributions in empirical studies
To track how these different research traditions and paradigms are influencing the field of health resilience, we analysed the publications for mentions of the underlying field. Most publications do not make the research tradition in which they are embedded specific ( n = 36, 41%, e.g. [ 72 , 73 , 74 ]). Of those that make explicit an underlying research paradigm, resilience engineering is the most prominent ( n = 19, 22%, e.g. [ 60 , 75 , 76 ]). This finding is also in line with the prominence of ‘absorption’ or the rapid response to shocks discussed earlier. Figure 7 highlights that resilience engineering is applied throughout most health subsystems, but is especially prominent in secondary care (hospitals), e.g. [ 30 , 56 , 77 ]. Community resilience and organisational resilience are following ( n = 12 and n = 10 respectively). Community resilience approaches find application in both local and regional public health organisations [ 65 , 78 ], in analyses of the formal and informal community actors or workforce [ 41 , 63 ] as well as in the study of the health system as a whole [ 37 , 79 ]. Organisational resilience is applied to the different levels of public health organisations (local / regional) [ 31 , 80 ] as well as secondary care (hospitals) [ 66 , 70 , 81 ]. The social-ecological systems roots of resilience find the least application, both in the health system [ 51 ] as well as within hospitals [ 47 ], confirming our findings of the limited application of transformation in the health resilience literature.
Literature on health resilience organised by location in the health subsystem (resilience of what?) and resilience paradigm ( n = 87)
Approach to developing and building resilience
Even broader than the different categories and capacities that constitute resilience are the approaches that are used or analysed to improve or manage resilience in health systems. Most prominently described is the need for surge capacity to respond to a rapid shock such as a natural disaster or an epidemic ( n = 18, 21%) (e.g., [ 45 , 79 , 82 ], followed by resilience capacity, as a generic umbrella term ( n = 12, 14%, e.g. [ 28 , 37 ]), trust ( n = 8, 9% [ 83 ]) and leadership ( n = 7, 8% [ 84 ]). Other concepts that are broadly used in resilience management or resilience engineering receive surprisingly little attention, such as robustness [ 85 ], redundancy [ 71 ], flexibility [ 57 ] or agility [ 34 ] (all below five mentions).
Figure 8 shows the clear divide of the studied approaches to resilience by the different resilience paradigms, also illustrated by the dendrogram, showing the hierarchical relationships between the different uses of the concepts in the discourse. While resilience engineering emphasises the need for concepts and terms such as ‘coordination’, ‘robustness’, ‘flexibility’, ‘teams’ and different ‘capacities’, the discourse in the literature that is rooted in community resilience stresses ‘collaboration’, ‘trust’, ‘training’, and ‘leadership’. Both resilience engineering and community resilience-oriented approaches acknowledge the need for ‘information’ and ‘surge capacity’. Social capital-oriented literature is focusing primarily on the role of ‘networks’, while the organisational and social-ecological systems resilience literatures stress the need for ‘diversity’.
Heatmap and dendogram of the approaches to build and manage resilience for the different resilience paradigms. (socio-ecological systems—social-ecological resilience; ORG—organisational resilience; SoCap—Social Capital; COMM—community resilience; RE—resilience engineering). Mapping only for papers that mention both resilience paradigm and approach
(b) Describing how resilience is conceptualised in the health domain based on reviews
We included a total of n = 30 articles in the review of reviews, included in Table 1 ( n = 17 up to June 2021, matching the date of the empirical studies analysed in (a), plus a further n = 23 reviews published after June 2021 up to June 2023). These included systematic reviews ( n = 11), scoping reviews and other or non-systematic. Not surprisingly, most of the reviews were published more recently: 2022 ( n = 10), 2021 ( n = 5), 2020 ( n = 4). Most of them identify what constitutes ‘resilience’ in health systems, but only few refer to conceptualisations in non-health domains such as engineering and other sciences for example, Biddle et al. 2020 [ 1 ] and Hess et al. (2012) [ 86 ]. Many of the earlier reviews refer to the definition of resilience by Kruk et al. (2017), which includes being adaptive, self-regulating, diverse, aware, and integrated [ 87 ]. These characteristics draw on socio-ecological systems paradigms but this allusion is not explicitly mentioned in the reviews using them as a conceptual framework. In later reviews, authors mostly appealed to the domains of resilience identified by Blanchet et al. (2017) [ 88 ], which includes the concept of transformation, but that aspect is not in fact widely used (e.g. [ 1 ]).
Most of the reviews refer to multiple levels or locations at which resilience can be addressed and assessed, and the importance of including stakeholders from service providers to governments to patients themselves in design and planning processes in order to build resilience. The Resilience in Healthcare group [ 113 ] in particular notes that patients are part of resilient responses, and draw from their analysis of multiple levels where ‘resilience characteristics’ can be found– ‘individual, team, management and organizational’. Other approaches take up the healthcare system components via the WHO, thus using a modular approach to the system as a whole (eg. Bayntun et al. 2012 [ 90 ]).
In terms of resilience aspects or phases, about half the reviews prior to 2021 draw out ‘preparedness’ as a notion covered by their included studies. Hess et al. 2012 [ 86 ] take up ‘adaptive capacity’, specifically in relation to climate change; and ‘adaptation’ is further covered by Zhong [ 91 ], Chamberland-Rowe et al. 2019 [ 95 ], Haldane et al. 2021 [ 79 ], while Turenne 2019 [ 25 ], Foroughi et al., [ 105 , 107 ], Thu [ 109 ], Fridel et al. 2020 [ 98 ], Fleming [ 110 ] and Ismail [ 112 ], also make explicit mention of ‘transformation’ in addition to adaptation. Transformation and preparedness is also covered in the scoping review by Nuzzo et al. 2019 [ 94 ]. However, despite more recent reviews mentioning and identifying the concept of transformation in the studies they reviewed, they note that its application and use is less present in empirical work.
The key messages that stand out from these reviews is the lack of a common definition of resilience [ 25 , 94 , 98 ], and the scarce or underdeveloped use of learning and transformation as concepts operationalised in the empirical literature, which is also in line with our findings from the empirical literature. Furthermore, Nuzzo et al. 2019 point out the lack of implementation frameworks to translate resilience capacities into something that health system actors can employ in response to crises [ 94 ]. However, the more recent reviews have started to focus on the importance of operationalising resilience in practice (e.g. [ 2 , 3 ]). Despite the turn toward community resilience (learning, empowerment) and socio-ecological resilience (self-organization, transformation) concepts being recognized as important—in contrast to the more linear, engineering resilience approaches—this theoretical turn has not (yet) resulted in the adoption of those concepts in practice.
Health systems operate at the intersection of technical and social, and possibly social-environmental, systems. Figure 9 shows that they are complex systems, ranging from community services to highly specialised experts in hospitals and requiring local, regional, and national coordination. Moreover, they are embedded in the broader social-environmental, socio-economic, governance and infrastructural context (see Fig. 9 ). These systems shape and influence the shocks and stresses that the health system may be exposed to (black boxes in Fig. 9 ), but also determine its capacity to rapidly respond.
The health system as an adaptive complex system, and its interdependencies to other systems, grey boxes indicate shocks or stresses to health system
This breadth of applications and resilience challenges, as well as focal areas and time horizons considered is reflected in the health resilience literature: we found a wide variety of resilience approaches and schools, published in various health journals as well as in journals from neighbouring disciplines, most notably emergency management & computer science. Not surprisingly, applications that focus on physical infrastructure or built environment focus on resilience engineering, and bring approaches for improved planning, management, and operations of these infrastructures. For community, governance, or dealing with socio-ecological change, however, other concepts are vital that focus on self-organisation, learning, empowerment, and transformation. Because of the nature of the health system as a complex adaptive system of systems, the challenge to resilience in health is integrating these different facets and paradigms of resilience, because they all are vital to the health system.
In our study, we trace the roots of these resilience approaches to build and review the underlying schools of thought or paradigms and approaches to resilience. This produces a unique map, distinguished from previous reviews, placing concepts in alignment with the different subsystems of the health system to which they are applied. Further, by including both an analysis of empirical studies and review of reviews, we were able to validate our own preliminary findings: first, the empirical studies analyses served to identify what non-health domain concepts were present and in which patterns; and the reviews served to identify what resilience concepts were already being discussed in the literature. Putting the two together helped us formulate our conclusions and identify gaps in theoretical concepts from other domains present in the literature. Generally, our review shows that the field is fragmented, especially in terms of approaches and ‘schools of thought’ from non-health domains appealed to in the literature, as well as in terms of the health systems settings in which these are used. In the following paragraphs, we address the implications of these results.
First note that the intersection of health and resilience clearly has gained importance in the academic discourse with most papers published since 2018 (Fig. 4 ). This is a continued trend that confirms the findings of the review by Biddle et al. (2020) [ 1 ]. What our analysis further highlights is that most studies focus on either the resilience of health systems generally (and thereby responding to an external shock or stress), or on resilience within hospitals and thereby to the inherent uncertainty, volatility, and dynamics that are typical for the health system. Less attention has been given to community-based care, whether formal or informal, although the shift towards community did explicitly take place in reports on studies that focussed on responses to the Ebola outbreaks.
Second, conventionally, the resilience literature distinguishes three main capacities or outcomes: absorption, adaptation and transformation [ 1 , 64 ]. However, our findings show that many of the empirical studies in health– especially those rooted in the risk, safety, and emergency management domain—focus on prevention and control as well as preparedness as key capacities and outcomes. While traditionally, these outcomes are considered as a part of risk management rather than resilience, the health resilience literature integrates both realms under the umbrella of resilience. The most used resilience aspect is ‘absorption’ or ‘rapidly bouncing back’ (Fig. 6 ), followed by preparedness and adaptation. What has previously received less attention (both in our empirical studies and in the reviews) is ‘transformation’, although this was pertinent in Ebola related studies. Outside of these studies, most focussed on preparedness and absorption, while it may be that COVID-19 has prompted a shift towards adaptation. However, the three combined aspects of absorbing, adapting and recovering seldom appear together, despite the resilience literature stressing the need to refer to all three.
Thirdly, of the various resilience paradigms influencing empirical work, ‘resilience engineering’ is the most prominent one mentioned, which is in line with the prominence of ‘absorption’ or ‘rapid response’ also highlighted. These concepts are closely linked as resilience engineering focuses on a single state of equilibrium or stability to which a resilient system rapidly returns after a shock. Despite being mentioned in most health subsystems in our included sample, it is especially prominent in hospital settings (Fig. 7 ). ‘Community resilience’ approaches find applications primarily in local and regional public health organisations, in studies of the health system as a whole (unspecified) and, not surprisingly, in formal and informal community actors. ‘Organisational resilience’ is applied to the different levels of public health organisations (local / regional) as well as secondary care (hospitals). The ‘social-ecological systems roots of resilience (relating to ‘transformation’ and multiple equilibria) find the least application, both in the health system as well as in hospitals.
Fourth, the different theoretical and conceptual roots also have implications for the approaches that are considered to build or improve resilience. While resilience engineering emphasises the need for coordination, robustness, flexibility, teams and different capacities, the literature that is rooted in community resilience stresses collaboration, trust, training, and leadership. Both resilience engineering and community resilience-oriented approaches acknowledge the need for information and surge capacity, as noted in the reviews we reviewed. Social capital-oriented literature is focusing primarily on the role of networks, while the organisational and social-ecological systems resilience literature stress the need for diversity.
As such, our findings show that the contemporary definitions of health systems resilience, along with the approaches to measure or build resilience, have not yet explicitly addressed important conceptual dilemmas or tensions apparent in the health resilience literature.
These conceptual dilemmas are related to:
Paradigm & school: as health systems resilience is situated at the intersection of engineering, social, organisational, community, and socio-ecological systems resilience, bridges between the different schools of thought need to be found that allow for an integration of approaches and operationalisations. This concerns especially the question of a single equilibrium (restorative; bouncing back) versus multiple equilibria and transformational change.
Temporality: intricately connected to the question of paradigm is the temporality considered. We find that the health resilience literature considers a wide variety of time horizons, even though there is a dominance of shorter time spans. The single equilibria approaches consider a relatively narrow frame to absorb and respond to a shock or stress. This is in contrast with the community and socio-ecological systems based approaches that stress the need to build trust, change, adapt and transform the health system. Without a clear definition of time horizons, measuring resilience becomes a conundrum, as different time horizons will lead to different results.
Normativity: resilience is both used as a descriptive concept, to objectively measure how long it takes a system to recover performance (absorption), and as a normative concept, connected to terms such as inclusion, distributive justice, or sustainability. Especially the question of how values are or should be embedded into different resilience definitions and measurements remains open, making the underlying choices opaque and implicit. The lack of a clear discussion around the values that are conveyed through resilience, such as whose resilience is measured (and over what time horizon) has severe repercussions on our ability to measure resilience.
Building resilience: connected to the lack of a clear stance on what constitutes resilience, or how it can be measured, is the broad variation of approaches that are introduced to improve resilience. While within engineering-oriented approaches, there is an emphasis on robustness, redundancy, and surge capacity, qualities such as trust, distributive justice, or adaptive capacity are stressed in the social-oriented resilience approaches. However, because the health system is an interconnected system-of-systems, what is needed is a toolkit of resilience building approaches that addresses different facets of resilience across different parts of the health system. Further, it is not known how the different approaches of building resilience would propagate and influence resilience in other areas of the health system.
These fundamental theoretical and conceptual dilemmas lead to a fragmentation of resilience concepts across the different realms of the health system (see Fig. 9 ) and make it difficult to develop a comprehensive definition of health systems resilience.
Our search was conducted for empirical articles up to June 2021, and for reviews up to June 2023. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the continued interest in health system resilience, we are likely to be missing more recent articles that have covered the field further. Articles included in the descriptive statistics were tagged manually (for ‘threat’, ‘resilience concept’ and ‘part of the health system’) upon reading the title and abstract. We note that reading only titles and abstracts for half of our study is a potential limitation to our analysis. For example, it may be that the full text of these n = 87 articles would have resulted in different tags (for example, while the abstract may have referred to COVID-19 in its abstract, the full paper itself may have focussed on health system resilience more generally, without reference to a specific threat). Similarly, many articles were labelled as ‘no specific threat’, while in the full text itself, reference might have been made to specific threats such as Ebola or a natural disaster. To mitigate this type of error, where there was ambiguity in the abstract, the full text was read by one author so that the appropriate label was found for the article in question. Therefore, for the purposes of this portion of our results, where our aim was to understand the most salient and dominant theories, paradigms, approaches and threats relating to resilience, the need for full-text review was on a case-by-case basis and not required for the full set of articles. By contrast, for our second set of results, full-text review was conducted on the included reviews, since our intention was to give an overview of the discourses in the field addressed in existing reviews. Finally, we note that our databases were limited to those via Pubmed, and a wider search (e.g. including EMBASE) could have identified further studies to be included in our review, and to the English language, also limiting the global publications that could have contributed to our findings.
While there are valuable lessons to learn about health system resilience through existing empirical work and reviews, the literature does not yet address important conceptual dilemmas relating to the underlying research paradigm or school, temporality, normativity, and building resilience. These fundamental theoretical and conceptual dilemmas and lead to a fragmentation of resilience concepts across the different realms of the health system make it difficult to develop a comprehensive definition or application of health systems resilience.
The health system is characterised by connections within and between the complex and adaptive sub-systems, ranging from community actors to local, regional, or national public health organisations to secondary care. Without a comprehensive definition and framework that captures these interdependencies, operationalising, measuring and improving resilience becomes challenging. We suggest that the different parts of the health systems should be conceptualized as networked subsystems. This will allow researcher to study resilience at the intersection of the different realms, and to understand how resilience propagates through different parts of the health system.
Availability of data and materials
All data included in the analysis in this study are available within the manuscript itself as supplementary files.
Biddle L, Wahedi K, Bozorgmehr K. Health system resilience: a literature review of empirical research. Health Policy Plan. 2020;35(8):1084–109.
Article PubMed PubMed Central Google Scholar
Forsgren L, Tediosi F, Blanchet K, Saulnier DD. Health systems resilience in practice: a scoping review to identify strategies for building resilience. BMC Health Serv Res. 2022;22(1):1173.
Khalil M, Ravaghi H, Samhouri D, Abo J, Ali A, Sakr H, et al. What is ‘hospital resilience’? A scoping review on conceptualization, operationalization, and evaluation. Front Public Health. 2022;10:1009400.
Wiig S, O’Hara JK. Resilient and responsive healthcare services and systems: challenges and opportunities in a changing world. BMC Health Serv Res. 2021;21:1–5.
Article Google Scholar
Lei Y, Wang J, Yue Y, Zhou H, Yin W. Rethinking the relationships of vulnerability, resilience, and adaptation from a disaster risk perspective. Nat Hazards. 2014;70:609–27.
Comes T, Meesters K, Torjesen S. Making sense of crises: the implications of information asymmetries for resilience and social justice in disaster-ridden communities. Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure. 2019;4(3):124–36.
Bonnano G. Loss, trauma and human resilience: Conceptual and empirical connections and separateness. Am Psychol. 2004;59(1):20–8.
Holling CS. Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annu Rev Ecol Syst. 1973;4(1):1–23.
Adger WN. Vulnerability. Glob Environ Change. 2006;16(3):268–81.
Folke C. Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social–ecological systems analyses. Glob Environ Change. 2006;16(3):253–67.
Walker B, Holling CS, Carpenter SR, Kinzig A. Resilience, adaptability and transformability in social–ecological systems. Ecol Soc. 2004;9(2):5.
Holling CS. Surprise for science, resilience for ecosystems, and incentives for people. Ecol Appl. 1996;6(3):733–5.
Bruneau M, Chang SE, Eguchi RT, Lee GC, O’Rourke TD, Reinhorn AM, et al. A framework to quantitatively assess and enhance the seismic resilience of communities. Earthq Spectra. 2003;19(4):733–52.
Hollnagel E, Woods DD, Leveson N. Resilience engineering: Concepts and precepts. Ltd.: Ashgate Publishing; 2006.
Thacker S, Barr S, Pant R, Hall JW, Alderson D. Geographic hotspots of critical national infrastructure. Risk Anal. 2017;37(12):2490–505.
Article PubMed Google Scholar
Comes T, Warnier M, Feil W, Van de Walle B. Critical airport infrastructure disaster resilience: A framework and simulation model for rapid adaptation. J Manag Eng. 2020;36(5):04020059.
Aerts JC, Botzen WW, Emanuel K, Lin N, De Moel H, Michel-Kerjan EO. Evaluating flood resilience strategies for coastal megacities. Science. 2014;344(6183):473–5.
Adger WN. Social capital, collective action, and adaptation to climate change. Econ Geography. 2003;79:4. ABI/INFORM Global pg. 387.
Aldrich DP, Meyer MA. Social capital and community resilience. Am Behav Sci. 2015;59(2):254–69.
Norris FH, Stevens SP, Pfefferbaum B, Wyche KF, Pfefferbaum RL. Community resilience as a metaphor, theory, set of capacities, and strategy for disaster readiness. Am J Community Psychol. 2008;41:127–50.
Burnard K, Bhamra R. Organisational resilience: development of a conceptual framework for organisational responses. Int J Prod Res. 2011;49(18):5581–99.
Gibson CA, Tarrant M. A’conceptual models’ approach to organisational resilience. Aust J Emerg Manag. 2010;25(2):6–12.
Manyena B, Machingura F, O'Keefe P. Disaster Resilience Integrated Framework for Transformation (DRIFT): A new approach to theorising and operationalising resilience. World Dev. 2019;123:104587.
Patriarca R, Bergström J, Di Gravio G, Costantino F. Resilience engineering: Current status of the research and future challenges. Saf Sci. 2018;102:79–100.
Turenne CP, Gautier L, Degroote S, Guillard E, Chabrol F, Ridde V. Conceptual analysis of health systems resilience: A scoping review. Soc Sci Med. 1982;2019(232):168–80.
Comes T, Alexander D, Boin A, Eckert C, Elmqvist T, Fochesato M, et al. Strategic crisis management in the European Union. 2022.
Meerow S, Newell JP. Urban resilience for whom, what, when, where, and why? Urban Geogr. 2019;40(3):309–29.
Alameddine M, Fouad FM, Diaconu K, Jamal Z, Lough G, Witter S, et al. Resilience capacities of health systems: Accommodating the needs of Palestinian refugees from Syria. Soc Sci Med. 1982;2019(220):22–30.
Ammar W, Kdouh O, Hammoud R, Hamadeh R, Harb H, Ammar Z, et al. Health system resilience: Lebanon and the Syrian refugee crisis. J Glob Health. 2016;6(2):020704.
Chuang S, Ou JC, Hollnagel E, Hou SK. Measurement of resilience potential - development of a resilience assessment grid for emergency departments. PLoS ONE. 2020;15(9):e0239472.
Article CAS PubMed PubMed Central Google Scholar
Gao L, Wu Q, Li Y, Ding D, Hao Y, Cui Y, et al. How Prepared Are Hospitals’ Emergency Management Capacity? Factors Influencing Efficiency of Disaster Rescue. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2018;12(2):176–83.
Ben Abdelaziz A, Berkane S, Ben Salem K, Dahdi SA, Mlouki I, Benzarti S, et al. Lessons learned from the fight against COVID-19 in the Great Maghreb. Five lessons for better resilience. Tunis Med. 2020;98(10):657–63.
PubMed Google Scholar
Chua AQ, Tan MMJ, Verma M, Han EKL, Hsu LY, Cook AR, et al. Health system resilience in managing the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons from Singapore. BMJ Glob Health. 2020;5(9):e003317. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32938609/ . Cited 9AD Jan 1.
Clay-Williams R, Rapport F, Braithwaite J. The Australian health system response to COVID-19 from a resilient health care perspective: what have we learned? Public Health Res Pract. 2020;30(4):3042025 Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33294901/ . Cited 12AD Jan 1.
Keskinkiliç B, Shaikh I, Tekin A, Ursu P, Mardinoglu A, Mese EA. A resilient health system in response to coronavirus disease 2019: Experiences of Turkey. Front Public Health. 2020;8:577021.
Lapão LV, Silva A, Pereira N, Vasconcelos P, Conceição C. Ebola impact on African health systems entails a quest for more international and local resilience: the case of African Portuguese speaking countries. Pan Afr Med J. 2015;22:15.
Meyer D, Kirk Sell T, Schoch-Spana M, Shearer MP, Chandler H, Thomas E, et al. Lessons from the domestic Ebola response: Improving health care system resilience to high consequence infectious diseases. Am J Infect Control. 2018;46(5):533–7.
Ling EJ, Larson E, Macauley RJ, Kodl Y, VanDeBogert B, Baawo S, et al. Beyond the crisis: did the Ebola epidemic improve resilience of Liberia’s health system? Health Policy Plan. 2017;32:iii40-7.
Barker KM, Ling EJ, Fallah M, VanDeBogert B, Kodl Y, Macauley RJ, et al. Community engagement for health system resilience: evidence from Liberia’s Ebola epidemic. Health Policy Plan. 2020;35(4):416–23.
Siekmans K, Sohani S, Boima T, Koffa F, Basil L, Laaziz S. Community-based health care is an essential component of a resilient health system: evidence from Ebola outbreak in Liberia. BMC Public Health. 2017;17(1):84.
Miller NP, Milsom P, Johnson G, Bedford J, Kapeu AS, Diallo AO, et al. Community health workers during the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. J Glob Health. 2018;8(2):020601.
Acosta JD, Burgette L, Chandra A, Eisenman DP, Gonzalez I, Varda D, et al. How community and public health partnerships contribute to disaster recovery and resilience. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2018;12(5):635–43.
Toner ES, McGinty M, Schoch-Spana M, Rose DA, Watson M, Echols E, et al. A community checklist for health sector resilience informed by Hurricane Sandy. Health Secur. 2017;15(1):53–69.
Fitter DL, Delson DB, Guillaume FD, Schaad AW, Moffett DB, Poncelet JL, et al. Applying a new framework for public health systems recovery following emergencies and disasters: the example of Haiti following a major earthquake and cholera outbreak. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2017;97(4):4–11.
Fukuma S, Ahmed S, Goto R, Inui TS, Atun R, Fukuhara S. Fukushima after the Great East Japan Earthquake: lessons for developing responsive and resilient health systems. J Glob Health. 2017;7(1):010501.
Martin-Moreno JM, Anttila A, von Karsa L, Alfonso-Sanchez JL, Gorgojo L. Cancer screening and health system resilience: keys to protecting and bolstering preventive services during a financial crisis. Eur J Cancer. 2012;48(14):2212–8.
Thomas S, Keegan C, Barry S, Layte R, Jowett M, Normand C. A framework for assessing health system resilience in an economic crisis: Ireland as a test case. BMC Health Serv Res. 2013;13:450.
Massuda A, Hone T, Leles FAG, de Castro MC, Atun R. The Brazilian health system at crossroads: progress, crisis and resilience. BMJ Glob Health. 2018;3(4):e000829.
Kagwanja N, Waithaka D, Nzinga J, Tsofa B, Boga M, Leli H, et al. Shocks, stress and everyday health system resilience: experiences from the Kenyan coast. Health Policy Plan. 2020;35(5):522–35.
Jamal Z, Alameddine M, Diaconu K, Lough G, Witter S, Ager A, et al. Health system resilience in the face of crisis: analysing the challenges, strategies and capacities for UNRWA in Syria. Health Policy Plan. 2020;35(1):26–35.
Wallace R, Wallace D, Ahern J, Galea S. A failure of resilience: estimating response of New York City’s public health ecosystem to sudden disaster. Health Place. 2007;13(2):545–50.
Russo G, Levi ML, Seabra Soares de Britto E Alves MT, Carneiro Alves de Oliveira BL, de Souza Britto Ferreira de Carvalho RH, Andrietta LS, et al. How the ‘plates’ of a health system can shift, change and adjust during economic recessions: A qualitative interview study of public and private health providers in Brazil’s São Paulo and Maranhão states. PloS One. 2020;15(10):e0241017.
Atallah DG, Djalali A, Fredricks K, Arlington L, Bussio M, Nelson BD. Developing Equitable Primary Health Care in Conflict-Affected Settings: Expert Perspectives From the Frontlines. Qual Health Res. 2018;28(1):98–111.
Cole J. Antimicrobial resistance, infection control and planning for pandemics: the importance of knowledge transfer in healthcare resilience and emergency planning. J Bus Contin Emerg Plan. 2012;6(2):122–35.
Anderson JE, Ross AJ, Back J, Duncan M, Snell P, Hopper A, et al. Beyond ‘find and fix’: improving quality and safety through resilient healthcare systems. Int J Qual Health Care J Int Soc Qual Health Care. 2020;32(3):204–11.
Article CAS Google Scholar
Hicks C, Petrosoniak A. The Human Factor: Optimizing Trauma Team Performance in Dynamic Clinical Environments. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2018;36(1):1–17.
Motevali Haghighi S, Torabi SA. A novel mixed sustainability-resilience framework for evaluating hospital information systems. Int J Med Inf. 2018;118:16–28.
Acosta J, Howard S, Chandra A, Varda D, Sprong S, Uscher-Pines L. Contributions of health care coalitions to preparedness and resilience: perspectives from hospital preparedness program and health care preparedness coalitions. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2015;9(6):690–7.
Shukor AR, Klazinga NS, Kringos DS. Primary care in an unstable security, humanitarian, economic and political context: the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. BMC Health Serv Res. 2017;17(1):592.
Runkle JD, Zhang H, Karmaus W, Martin AB, Svendsen ER. Prediction of unmet primary care needs for the medically vulnerable post-disaster: an interrupted time-series analysis of health system responses. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012;9(10):3384–97.
Khan Y, O’Sullivan T, Brown A, Tracey S, Gibson J, Généreux M, et al. Public health emergency preparedness: a framework to promote resilience. BMC Public Health. 2018;18(1):1344.
Therrien MC, Normandin JM, Denis JL. Bridging complexity theory and resilience to develop surge capacity in health systems. J Health Organ Manag. 2017;31(1):96–109.
Alonge O, Sonkarlay S, Gwaikolo W, Fahim C, Cooper JL, Peters DH. Understanding the role of community resilience in addressing the Ebola virus disease epidemic in Liberia: a qualitative study (community resilience in Liberia). Glob Health Action. 2019;12(1):1662682.
Saulnier DD, Blanchet K, Canila C, Muñoz DC, Dal Zennaro L, de Savigny D, et al. A health systems resilience research agenda: moving from concept to practice. BMJ Glob Health. 2021;6(8):e006779.
Shoaf KI, Kelley MM, O’Keefe K, Arrington KD, Prelip ML. Enhancing emergency preparedness and response systems: correlates of collaboration between local health departments and school districts. Public Health Rep Wash DC. 1974;2014(129):107–13.
Jeffs L, Tregunno D, MacMillan K, Espin S. Building clinical and organizational resilience to reconcile safety threats, tensions and trade-offs: insights from theory and evidence. Healthc Q Tor Ont. 2009;12:75–80.
Khan Y, Brown AD, Gagliardi AR, O’Sullivan T, Lacarte S, Henry B, et al. Are we prepared? The development of performance indicators for public health emergency preparedness using a modified Delphi approach. PLoS One. 2019;14(12):e0226489.
Steiner G, Zenk L, Schernhammer E. Preparing for the Next Wave of COVID-19: Resilience in the Face of a Spreading Pandemic. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(11):4098 Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32521811/ . Cited 6AD Jan 1.
Zachariah R, Dar Berger S, Thekkur P, Khogali M, Davtyan K, Kumar AMV, et al. Investing in Operational Research Capacity Building for Front-Line Health Workers Strengthens Countries’ Resilience to Tackling the COVID-19 Pandemic. Trop Med Infect Dis. 2020;5(3):118 Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32708821/ . Cited 7AD Jan 1.
Kaptan K. An organizational metamodel for hospital emergency departments. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2014;8(5):436–44.
Barten DG, Veltmeijer MTW, Peters NALR. Emergency department ceiling collapse: response to an internal emergency. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2019;13(4):829–30.
Ebi KL, Berry P, Hayes K, Boyer C, Sellers S, Enright PM, et al. Stress testing the capacity of health systems to manage climate change-related shocks and stresses. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(11):2370 Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30373158/ . Cited 10AD Jan 1.
Robone S, Rice N, Smith PC. Health systems’ responsiveness and its characteristics: a cross-country comparative analysis. Health Serv Res. 2011;46(6):2079–100.
Øyri SF, Braut GS, Macrae C, Wiig S. Investigating hospital supervision: a case study of regulatory inspectors’ roles as potential co-creators of resilience. J Patient Saf. 2021;17(2):122–30.
Rosso CB, Saurin TA. The joint use of resilience engineering and lean production for work system design: A study in healthcare. Appl Ergon. 2018;71:45–56.
Odhiambo J, Jeffery C, Lako R, Devkota B, Valadez JJ. Measuring health system resilience in a highly fragile nation during protracted conflict: South Sudan 2011–15. Health Policy Plan. 2020;35(3):313–22.
Smith D, Paturas JL, Tomassoni A, Albanese J. Resource allocation: an approach for enhancing hospital resiliency. J Bus Contin Emerg Plan. 2011;5(2):140–9.
Schoch-Spana M, Sell TK, Morhard R. Local health department capacity for community engagement and its implications for disaster resilience. Biosecur Bioterror. 2013;11(2):118–29.
Haldane V, De Foo C, Abdalla SM, Jung AS, Tan M, Wu S, et al. Health systems resilience in managing the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons from 28 countries. Nat Med. 2021;27(6):964–80 Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34002090/ . Cited 5AD Jan 1.
Article CAS PubMed Google Scholar
Nyikuri M, Tsofa B, Barasa E, Okoth P, Molyneux S. Crises and Resilience at the Frontline-Public Health Facility Managers under Devolution in a Sub-County on the Kenyan Coast. PLoS One. 2015;10(12):e0144768.
Britton CR, Hayman G, Stroud N. Awareness of Human Factors in the operating theatres during the COVID-19 pandemic. J Perioper Pract. 2021;31(1):44–50.
Cleary V, Balasegaram S, McCloskey B, Keeling D, Turbitt D. Pandemic (H1N1) 2009: setting up a multi-agency regional response centre–a toolkit for other public health emergencies. J Bus Contin Emerg Plan. 2010;4(2):154–64.
Ozawa S, Paina L, Qiu M. Exploring pathways for building trust in vaccination and strengthening health system resilience. BMC Health Serv Res. 2016;16:639.
Dhatt R, Theobald S, Buzuzi S, Ros B, Vong S, Muraya K, et al. The role of women’s leadership and gender equity in leadership and health system strengthening. Glob Health Epidemiol Genomics. 2017;2:e8.
Geelen-Baass BN, Johnstone JM. Building resiliency: ensuring business continuity is on the health care agenda. Aust Health Rev Publ Aust Hosp Assoc. 2008;32(1):161–73.
Hess JJ, McDowell JZ, Luber G. Integrating climate change adaptation into public health practice: using adaptive management to increase adaptive capacity and build resilience. Environ Health Perspect. 2012;120(2):171–9.
Kruk ME, Ling EJ, Bitton A, Cammett M, Cavanaugh K, Chopra M, et al. Building resilient health systems: a proposal for a resilience index. BMJ. 2017;357:2323.
Blanchet K, Nam SL, Ramalingam B, Pozo-Martin F. Governance and capacity to manage resilience of health systems: towards a new conceptual framework. Int J Health Policy Manag. 2017;6(8):431–5. https://doi.org/10.15171/ijhpm.2017.36 .
Bayntun C. A Health system approach to all-hazards disaster management: A systematic review. PLoS Curr. 2012. https://doi.org/10.1371/50081cad5861d .
Bayntun C, Rockenschaub G, Murray V. Developing a health system approach to disaster management: A qualitative analysis of the core literature to complement the WHO Toolkit for assessing health-system capacity for crisis management. PLoS Curr. 2012;4:e5028b6037259a.
PubMed PubMed Central Google Scholar
Zhong S, Clark M, Hou XY, Zang YL, Fitzgerald G. Development of hospital disaster resilience: conceptual framework and potential measurement. Emerg Med J EMJ. 2014;31(11):930–8.
Curtis S, Fair A, Wistow J, Val DV, Oven K. Impact of extreme weather events and climate change for health and social care systems. Environ Health. 16(S1). 2017. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-017-0324-3 .
McDarby G, Reynolds L, Zibwowa Z, et al. The global pool of simulation exercise materials in health emergency preparedness and response: a scoping review with a health system perspective. BMJ Global Health. 2019;4:e001687.
Nuzzo JB, Meyer D, Snyder M, Ravi SJ, Lapascu A, Souleles J, et al. What makes health systems resilient against infectious disease outbreaks and natural hazards? Results from a scoping review. BMC Public Health. 2019;19(1):1310.
Chamberland-Rowe C, Chiocchio F, Bourgeault IL. Harnessing instability as an opportunity for health system strengthening: A review of health system resilience. Healthc Manage Forum. 2019;32(3):128–35.
Ayanore MA, Amuna N, Aviisah M, Awolu A, Kipo-Sunyehzi DD, Mogre V, Ofori-Asenso R, Gmanyami JM, Kugbey N, Gyapong M. Towards resilient health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review of the english language literature on health workforce, surveillance, and health governance issues for health systems strengthening. Ann Glob Health. 2019;85(1):113. https://doi.org/10.5334/aogh.2514 .
Haldane V, Zhang Z, Abbas RF, Dodd W, Lau LL, Kidd MR, Rouleau K, Zou G, Chao Z, Upshur RE, Walley J. National primary care responses to COVID-19: a rapid review of the literature. BMJ open. 2020;10(12):e041622.
Fridell M, Edwin S, von Schreeb J, Saulnier DD. Health System Resilience: What Are We Talking About? A Scoping Review Mapping Characteristics and Keywords. Int J Health Policy Manag. 2020;9(1):6–16.
Meyer D, Bishai D, Ravi SJ, Rashid H, Mahmood SS, Toner E, Nuzzo JB. A checklist to improve health system resilience to infectious disease outbreaks and natural hazards. BMJ global health. 2020;5(8):e002429.
Grimm PY, Oliver S, Merten S, Han WW, Wyss K. Enhancing the understanding of resilience in health systems of low-and middle-income countries: a qualitative evidence synthesis. Int J Health Policy Manag. 2022;11(7):899.
Luke J, Franklin R, Aitken P, Dyson J. Safer hospital infrastructure assessments for socio-natural disaster–a scoping review. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2021;36(5):627–35.
Salehi AM, Khazaei S, Masumi M, Shavandi F, Kavand M, Jenabi E, Khatiban M. Reinforcement and maintenance of human resources for health systems during long-term crises: a systematic review of systematic reviews. Emerg Med Int. 2021;2021.
Hasan MZ, Neill R, Das P, Venugopal V, Arora D, Bishai D, Jain N, Gupta S. Integrated health service delivery during COVID-19: a scoping review of published evidence from low-income and lower-middle-income countries. BMJ global health. 2021;6(6):e005667.
Sutherns T, Olivier J. Mapping the multiple health system responsiveness mechanisms in one local health system: a scoping review of the Western Cape provincial health system of South Africa. Int J Health Policy Manag. 2022;11(1):67.
Foroughi Z, Ebrahimi P, Aryankhesal A, Maleki M, Yazdani S. Toward a theory-led meta-framework for implementing health system resilience analysis studies: a systematic review and critical interpretive synthesis. BMC Public Health. 2022;22(1):287.
Barasa E, Mbau R, Gilson L. What is resilience and how can it be nurtured? A systematic review of empirical literature on organizational resilience. Int J Health Policy Manag. 2018;7(6):491.
Foroughi Z, Ebrahimi P, Aryankhesal A, Maleki M, Yazdani S. Hospitals during economic crisis: a systematic review based on resilience system capacities framework. BMC Health Serv Res. 2022;22(1):977.
Falope O, Nyaku MK, O’Rourke C, Hermany LV, Plavchak B, Mauskopf J, Hartley L, Kruk ME. Resilience learning from the COVID-19 pandemic and its relevance for routine immunization programs. Expert Rev Vaccines. 2022;21(11):1621–36.
Thu KM, Bernays S, Abimbola S. A literature review exploring how health systems respond to acute shocks in fragile and conflict-affected countries. Confl Health. 2022;16(1):60.
Fleming P, O’Donoghue C, Almirall-Sanchez A, Mockler D, Keegan C, Cylus J, et al. Metrics and indicators used to assess health system resilience in response to shocks to health systems in high income countries-A systematic review. Health Policy Amst Neth. 2022;126(12):1195–205.
McDarby G, Seifeldin R, Zhang Y, Mustafa S, Petrova M, Schmets G, Porignon D, Dalil S, Saikat S. A synthesis of concepts of resilience to inform operationalization of health systems resilience in recovery from disruptive public health events including COVID-19. Front Public Health. 2023;11:1105537.
Ismail SA, Lam ST, Bell S, Fouad FM, Blanchet K, Borghi J. Strengthening vaccination delivery system resilience in the context of protracted humanitarian crisis: a realist-informed systematic review. BMC Health Serv Res. 2022;22(1):1277.
Aase K, Guise V, Billett S, Sollid SJM, Njå O, Røise O, et al. Resilience in healthcare (RiH): a longitudinal research programme protocol. BMJ Open. 2020;10(10):e038779.
Thomas S, Sagan A, Larkin J, Cylus J, Figueras J, Karanikolos M. Strengthening health systems resilience: key concepts and strategies. 2020.
Authors and affiliations.
Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, Jaffalaan 5, 2628 BX, Delft, The Netherlands
Samantha Copeland, Saba Hinrichs-Krapels, Federica Fecondo, Esteban Ralon Santizo & Tina Comes
Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Burg. Oudlaan 50, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
You can also search for this author in PubMed Google Scholar
SHK, SC and TC conceptualised the study. SHK, SC, TC and FF piloted the search strings and FF and SHK executed the search. SHK, SC, TC and FF screened the titles and abstracts to decide on the articles included for analysis within the Rayyan platform. TC, SHK and ERS cleaned and analysed the data extracted from the Rayyan platform. SHK, SC, TC, and RB analysed and read the included studies and wrote the manuscript.
Correspondence to Saba Hinrichs-Krapels .
Ethics approval and consent to participate, consent for publication, competing interests.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Additional file 1., additional file 2., additional file 3., rights and permissions.
Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ . The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/ ) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Reprints and Permissions
About this article
Cite this article.
Copeland, S., Hinrichs-Krapels, S., Fecondo, F. et al. A resilience view on health system resilience: a scoping review of empirical studies and reviews. BMC Health Serv Res 23 , 1297 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-023-10022-8
Received : 31 January 2023
Accepted : 11 September 2023
Published : 24 November 2023
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-023-10022-8
Share this article
Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:
Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.
Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative
- Health systems
- Resilience engineering
- Socio-ecological resilience
- Community resilience
BMC Health Services Research
Uses of andersen health services utilization framework to determine healthcare utilization for mental health among migrants -a scoping review.
- 1 National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences, Taiwan
The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon.
Migration is a worldwide occurrence that carries significant implications for healthcare systems, and it entails challenges to mental healthcare. Andersen Behavioral Model is widely used by the researchers to determine healthcare service utilization among many populations, including migrants. Our study aimed to explore the ways of using the Andersen Health System Utilization Framework in the literature to discover migrants’ mental healthcare utilization. This scoping review was based on Arksey and O’Malley’s framework. A comprehensive search was performed across five electronic databases. A total of 12 articles from January 1992 to July 2023 identified various versions of the Andersen Behavioral Model to provide an overview of mental health services utilization among migrants. The most used was the version from 1995, placing emphasis on individual characteristics and health behaviors rather than contextual characteristics and health outcomes. The analysis identified four significant trends in the literature. First, there is a predominant focus on individual characteristics over contextual factors. Second, researchers tend to integrate multiple versions of the Andersen Behavioral Model, and the most used was the version from 1995. Third, additional factors specific to migrant populations are incorporated into the model, but the categorization is sometimes unclear. Finally, the majority of studies used a quantitative approach and were based in North America, suggesting a focus on the significance of mental health in migrant communities in that context. The lack of a tailored framework specific to migrants and their mental healthcare utilization may be a contributing risk factor, therefore, findings from this review represent useful insights for organizations and policy administrators when formulating such services. Future research should consider health outcomes, such as consumer satisfaction as proposed by the Andersen Behavioral Model, along with contextual factors, as they are equally important in this issue. In summary, our scoping review calls for further research using the Andersen Behavioral Model to study mental healthcare utilization among migrants. Notable findings include the adaptation of the model to migrant populations, a focus on individual characteristics, a need for more diverse research methods, and the proposal of a new conceptual model to guide research and policy development.
Keywords: migrants, Mental healthcare utilization, Andersen Health System Utilization Framework, Scoping review, public healh
Received: 29 Aug 2023; Accepted: 22 Nov 2023.
Copyright: © 2023 Zuzanna Krzyż, Fidel Antunez Martinez and Lin. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
* Correspondence: Prof. Hung-Ru Lin, National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences, Taipei City, 11219, Taipei County, Taiwan