Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Michigan State University

Health Sciences Research Skills

Purpose of a Literature Review

A literature review:

  • Helps you to discover the research that has been conducted on a topic already & identifies gaps in current knowledge
  • Increases the breadth of your knowledge in your area of research
  • Helps you identify seminal works in your area
  • Allows you to provide the intellectual context for your work & position your research with other, related research
  • Provides you with opposing viewpoints
  • Helps you to discover research methods that may be applicable to your work
Greenfield, T., 2002. Research methods for postgraduates. Oxford University Press.
Although written with a broad audience in mind, the quote above from Greenfield is just as applicable to the health sciences. Answering a clinical question with implications for patient care should be based on evidence and that evidence can be found by doing a literature search.
The comprehensiveness of that search may vary depending on your needs but there are skills associated with it that will be useful in a myriad of contexts from point-of-care to academic medicine. This guide will demonstrate many of those skills but being able to effectively search the literature comes with time and practice. No search is ever perfect the first time it is run and the ability to learn from failed searches is vital.
Below are links to two articles that discuss the basic steps of a lit review and the many different types of review publications available.

How to Read a Scientific Paper

One major component to doing a literature search is being able to analyze the articles you have found. There are several good resources for understanding the most efficient and effective way to read a scientific paper.

Michigan State University