Skip to main content

Public Health: Literature and Systematic Reviews

What is a Literature Review?

A Literature Review Is Not:

  • just a summary of sources
  • a grouping of broad, unrelated sources
  • a compilation of everything that has been written on a particular topic
  • literature criticism (think English) or a book review

So, what is it then?

A literature review is an integrated analysis-- not just a summary-- of scholarly writings that are related directly to your research question.  That is, it represents the literature that provides background information on your topic and shows a correspondence 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.

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.

What is a Systematic Review?

What is a Systematic Review?

According to the Guide to Community Preventitive Services, a systematic review for health sciences evaluates scientific studies to:

  • Identify relevant studies
  • Assess the quality of the studies
  • Summarize the evidence
  • Make recommendations for interventions

Why are Systematic Reviews important?

Systematic Reviews are important because they:

  • Summarize evidence about the effectiveness about specific interventions for addressing a problem
  • Provide a generalization of findings
  • Identify research gaps
  • Identify and reduce biases for how conclusions are reached