How to Write a Review of Literature for Nursing Research

A review of literature is a type of academic writing that summarizes and evaluates the existing research on a specific topic. It helps to identify the current state of knowledge, the gaps and controversies, and the implications and directions for future research. A review of literature is an essential component of any nursing research project, as it provides the theoretical and empirical foundation for the research question, the methodology, and the analysis. In this article, we will explain the purpose, types, and steps of writing a review of literature for nursing research, and provide some tips and examples to guide you.

What is the purpose of a review of literature for nursing research?

The purpose of a review of literature for nursing research is to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity and expertise with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Synthesize and critique the relevant and reliable sources that address your research question
  • Identify the key concepts, theories, models, frameworks, and methods that inform your research
  • Highlight the strengths and weaknesses, the similarities and differences, and the agreements and disagreements among the sources
  • Reveal the gaps, inconsistencies, and limitations in the existing research, and justify the need and significance of your research
  • Establish the research objectives, questions, or hypotheses that guide your research
  • Provide a clear and coherent structure and direction for your research

What are the types of review of literature for nursing research?

There are different types of reviews of literature for nursing research, depending on the scope, depth, and focus of the review. Some of the common types are:

  • Narrative review: A narrative review provides a descriptive and qualitative overview of the literature on a broad topic, without a specific research question or a systematic search strategy. It is usually based on the author’s personal knowledge and experience, and may not be comprehensive or objective. A narrative review is useful for introducing a topic or providing a background for a research project, but it is not considered a rigorous or reliable form of review.
  • Systematic review: A systematic review provides a comprehensive and quantitative summary of the literature on a specific and focused research question, using a predefined and transparent search strategy, selection criteria, and quality appraisal. It aims to identify, synthesize, and analyze all the relevant and high-quality evidence that answers the research question, and to report the findings using statistical methods, such as meta-analysis. A systematic review is considered the gold standard of review, as it minimizes bias and error, and provides a high level of evidence and confidence for decision making.
  • Scoping review: A scoping review provides a broad and exploratory overview of the literature on a complex or emerging topic, without a specific research question or a quality appraisal. It aims to map the key concepts, sources, and types of evidence, and to identify the main themes, issues, and gaps in the literature. A scoping review is useful for clarifying and refining a research question, or for identifying the need and feasibility of a systematic review.
  • Rapid review: A rapid review provides a timely and concise summary of the literature on an urgent or emerging topic, using a simplified and accelerated version of a systematic review. It aims to provide a quick and relevant evidence base for decision making, by applying some shortcuts or limitations, such as restricting the search sources, the publication dates, the languages, the study designs, or the quality appraisal. A rapid review is useful for informing policy or practice in a short time frame, but it may compromise the comprehensiveness and reliability of the review.

What are the steps of writing a review of literature for nursing research?

The steps of writing a review of literature for nursing research are:

  • Define the research question: The first step is to define the research question that guides the review. The research question should be clear, specific, and focused, and should reflect the purpose and scope of the review. You can use the PICO framework (Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome) to formulate your research question, especially for systematic reviews.
  • Search for relevant literature: The second step is to search for relevant literature that addresses your research question. You should use a systematic and comprehensive search strategy, and consult various sources of information, such as databases, journals, books, reports, websites, etc. You should also use appropriate keywords, synonyms, and Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to refine your search. You should record and document your search process and results, and update your search as needed.
  • Select and evaluate sources: The third step is to select and evaluate sources that meet your inclusion and exclusion criteria. You should screen the sources based on their titles, abstracts, and full texts, and exclude those that are irrelevant, duplicate, or low quality. You should also assess the quality and validity of the sources, using standardized tools or checklists, such as the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) or the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) tools. You should report the number and reasons for the sources that you included and excluded, using a flow diagram, such as the PRISMA diagram.
  • Extract and synthesize data: The fourth step is to extract and synthesize data from the sources that you selected and evaluated. You should extract relevant and important information from each source, such as the author, the title, the year, the aim, the design, the sample, the intervention, the outcome, the results, the conclusion, etc. You should also synthesize the data from different sources, and compare and contrast their similarities and differences, their strengths and weaknesses, and their agreements and disagreements. You should use tables, charts, graphs, or diagrams to organize and present the data.
  • Analyze and interpret findings: The fifth step is to analyze and interpret the findings from the data that you extracted and synthesized. You should identify the main themes, patterns, trends, and gaps in the literature, and discuss how they relate to your research question, objectives, or hypotheses. You should also evaluate the quality, quantity, and consistency of the evidence, and assess the level of certainty or uncertainty, the agreement or disagreement, and the implications or recommendations for your research.
  • Write and structure the review: The sixth step is to write and structure the review, using a clear and coherent format and style. The review should include the following sections: introduction, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. The introduction should introduce the topic and the research question, provide some background and context, and state the purpose and scope of the review. The methods should describe the search strategy, the selection criteria, the quality appraisal, and the data extraction and synthesis. The results should present the main findings and themes from the data, using tables, charts, graphs, or diagrams. The discussion should interpret and explain the findings, compare and contrast them with other studies, identify the limitations and gaps, and suggest the implications and directions for future research. The conclusion should summarize the main points, answer the research question, and provide some recommendations or suggestions for practice, policy, or education.
  • Revise and edit the review: The final step is to revise and edit the review, checking for the accuracy, completeness, and consistency of the content, the structure, and the language. You should proofread your review carefully and attentively, and identify and fix any errors or mistakes in your spelling, grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, or tone. You should also use a citation style, such as APA, MLA, or Harvard, to cite and reference your sources, and avoid plagiarism and academic dishonesty. You can also ask someone else, such as a peer, a tutor, or a supervisor, to read your review and give you some feedback, comments, or suggestions.

Tips and examples for writing a review of literature for nursing research

Here are some tips and examples to help you write a review of literature for nursing research:

  • Use the first person: A review of literature is a type of academic writing, but it is also a personal and reflective process, so you can use the pronoun “I” to express your thoughts, feelings, and opinions. For example, “I searched for…”, “I selected…”, or “I found that…”
  • Use descriptive and analytical language: A review of literature is a descriptive and analytical summary of the literature, so you should use language that describes and analyzes the sources and shows the connections and relationships among them. For example, “The authors reported that…”, “The study showed that…”, or “The results indicated that…”
  • Use transitional and signposting words: A review of literature is a clear and coherent presentation of the literature, so you should use transitional and signposting words to link and organize your ideas, and to guide the reader through your review. For example, “Firstly, secondly, finally…”, “However, moreover, therefore…”, or “In conclusion, in summary, in addition…”
  • Use examples and evidence: A review of literature is a credible and convincing evaluation of the literature, so you should use examples and evidence to support your claims and arguments and to show your learning and development. For example, “According to Smith (2020),…”, “For instance, when I…”, or “As a result, I…”

Here are some examples of reviews of literature for nursing research, based on different topics and types of review:

  • Review of literature on a clinical topic: (A systematic review of the effectiveness of nurse-led interventions for smoking cessation.)
  • Review of literature on a theoretical topic: Example 2 (A narrative review of the application of the self-care deficit nursing theory in nursing practice.)
  • Review of literature on a methodological topic: