Literature Reviews in the Health and Life Sciences: Home
Books from the Catalog
Not to be confused with a book review, a literature review surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources (e.g. dissertations, conference proceedings) relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, providing a description, summary, and critical evaluation of each work. The purpose is to offer an overview of significant literature published on a topic.
Similar to primary research, development of the literature review requires four stages:
- Problem formulation—which topic or field is being examined and what are its component issues?
- Literature search—finding materials relevant to the subject being explored
- Data evaluation—determining which literature makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the topic
- Analysis and interpretation—discussing the findings and conclusions of pertinent literature
Literature reviews should comprise the following elements:
- An overview of the subject, issue or theory under consideration, along with the objectives of the literature review
- Division of works under review into categories (e.g. those in support of a particular position, those against, and those offering alternative theses entirely)
- Explanation of how each work is similar to and how it varies from the others
- Conclusions as to which pieces are best considered in their argument, are most convincing of their opinions, and make the greatest contribution to the understanding and development of their area of research
In assessing each piece, consideration should be given to:
- Provenance—What are the author's credentials? Are the author's arguments supported by evidence (e.g. primary historical material, case studies, narratives, statistics, recent scientific findings)?
- Objectivity—Is the author's perspective even-handed or prejudicial? Is contrary data considered or is certain pertinent information ignored to prove the author's point?
- Persuasiveness—Which of the author's theses are most/least convincing?
- Value—Are the author's arguments and conclusions convincing? Does the work ultimately contribute in any significant way to an understanding of the subject?
3. Definition and Use/Purpose
A literature review may constitute an essential chapter of a thesis or dissertation, or may be a self-contained review of writings on a subject. In either case, its purpose is to:
- Place each work in the context of its contribution to the understanding of the subject under review
- Describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration
- Identify new ways to interpret, and shed light on any gaps in, previous research
- Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies
- Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication of effort
- Point the way forward for further research
- Place one's original work (in the case of theses or dissertations) in the context of existing literature
The literature review itself, however, does not present new primary
An annotated example of a literature review may be found at:
Find published, peer-reviewed literature reviews in your field by searching the Ebsco Host, JStore, or Scopus Databases. Search "Literature Review" (title) and "Your area of interest."
Librarian Contact Info
J. Willard Marriott Library
Head of Faculty Services,
Representative, Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC), and
Adjunct Assistant Professor in Kinesiology
295 South 1500 East #2110 R
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0860
Other Useful Guides
Bibliometrics and Impact Factor
by Lorelei Rutledge Last Updated Jan 21, 2024 364 views this year
Sex and Gender Differences Health Research (S&GDR)
by Mary McFarland Last Updated Sep 14, 2023 27 views this year