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Writing in the Health Sciences: Literature Review

What is a Literature Review?

"A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period.

A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant.

Source: Literature Reviews – The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (

How to Write a Literature Review (Video)

Helpful Links

Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review - This PLoS One article itemizes the steps in the lit review process.

Drafting the Literature ReviewTexas Tech University Health Sciences Center's LibGuide for drafting and structuring a literature review.

Literature Reviews: Handout created by the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


"Literature reviews can be written as both full-length articles that present the “state of the art” on a topic, or as introductions to new original research studies.

The Stand-Alone Literature Review:

When a literature review stands alone, it is reviewing what is known about the topic, analyzed for trends, controversial issues, and what still needs to be studied to better understand the topic at hand. A stand-alone literature review can be as short as a few pages or may be more extensive with long bibliographies for in-depth reviews. 


The Literature Review as a Section:

Literature reviews can be used as part of dissertations, theses, research reports, and scholarly journal articles. They generally discuss what has been done before and how the research being introduced in this document fills a gap in the field's knowledge and why it is an important.  


Source: Home - Writing a Literature Review - LibGuides at Wichita State University

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