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Conducting a Literature Review


TIP: always find out from your advisor or instructor if your study area includes original research in a literature review. 

Recognizing the common parts of research articles, you will learn to read/skim and discern relevance to your project quickly. All research articles:

  • express a problem (hypothesis),
  • state who is involved (the studied and the studier),
  • cover the methods used to carry out the study (methodology, research instrument),
  • discuss the results and often the next steps for research.


TIP: for more information on accessing Systematic Reviews, consult the Systematic Reviews page on this guide.

SRs are highly structured evidence syntheses focused on narrow questions or perspectives. They aim to provide measurable answers concerning treatment, policy or intervention in clinical, public policy and educational settings.

Systematic reviews are undertaken by a research team, not an individual.  The team approach facilitates rapid reviewing and reduces bias.



Are a subset of systematic reviews, a statistical technique for combining the findings from quantitative studies to come up with new statistical conclusions.

  • Not all systematic reviews include meta-analysis, but all meta-analyses are found in systematic reviews.
  • Systematic Reviews with meta-analysis are statistically more robust than the analysis of a single study, as they look at more subjects, have subject diversity and have more effects and results to consider.
  • All included studies must be sufficiently similar for a meta-analysis to be valid.


While not peer-reviewed as student works, dissertations are are often considered scholarly and are an important form of scholarly communication.

There are several reasons, with instructor or advisor permission to include them in a literature review.

TIP: Even if not permitted as references in your project, use the bibliographies and reference lists to lead you to other content on your topic.

  • They may reveal emerging trends and voices in a field of study.
  • Due to their length cover more than an article on a topic.
  • May be the only work on an uncommon or niche topic.
  • They often have up-to-date and thorough literature reviews.
  • Large reference lists of important sources on the field of study or the specific topic.
  • Published articles often do not contain all the research data from the original dissertation on which it is based.
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