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Help guide to literature review writing

What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is an analytical summary of the research literature on a specific topic. It involves literature searching and critical appraisal of individual studies before writing the review.

It is usually written as part of a thesis or a research article that is being submitted to a journal for publication, and provides a rationale for your research in terms of what has gone before, a justification of its value and significance. 

Why write a Literature Review?

Writing a literature review is a great way of sharing your knowledge with other professionals.

The Literature Review Process

Types of Literature Reviews

Traditional or narrative literature review

  • Critiques and summarizes a body of literature
  • Draws conclusions about the topic
  • Identifies gaps or inconsistencies in a body of knowledge
  • Requires a sufficiently focused research question
  • To view two examples of narrative literature reviews click here and here.

Systematic literature review

  • More rigorous and well-defined approach
  • Comprehensive
  • Published and unpublished studies relating to a particular subject area
  • Details the time frame within which the literature was selected
  • Details the methods used to evaluate and synthesize findings of the studies in question
  • To view an example of a systematic literature review click here


  • A systematic review that has been statistically analysed
  • Takes findings from several studies on the same subject and analyses them using standardized statistical procedures
  • Integrates findings from a large body of quantitative findings to enhance under-standing (study=unit of analysis)
  • Draws conclusions and detect patterns and relationships
  • To view an example of a meta analysis click here

(Source - University of Toledo)


The contents of this help guide are intended for NT Health staff for information purposes only. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of publication, it is the users sole responsibility to decide on the appropriateness, accuracy, currency, reliability and correctness of the content found.


It is good practice to keep a record of your search results, methodology and strategy.

Citation Managers - tracks sources and formats bibliographies as well as downloads citations from library catalogs and databases.

Citation Generators - formats your source in your chosen referencing style.

See our Referencing help guide.