Judith Garrard defines a literature review as "an analysis of scientific materials about a specific topic that requires the reviewer to carefully read each of the studies to evaluate the study purpose, determine the appropriateness and quality of the scientific methods, examine the analysis of the questions and answers posed by the authors, summarize the findings across the studies, and write an objective synthesis of the findings." (pp. 4-5) Garrard, J. (2017). Health Sciences Literature Review Made Easy. 5th Ed. Burlington, Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
The following flow diagram breaks the process down into individual steps:
The search strategy described in the Database Search Example should give a good set of relevant articles. However, even the best-designed database search will rarely return all of the relevant research on a topic. Citation searching uses key articles to look for related literature that may not have been captured in database searches. The boxes below describe two of the more common methods of citation searching.
Forward citation searching, also known as cited reference searching, is used when looking for newer research that has cited a key article. It also shows how frequently an article has been cited, one indicator of the article's importance or influence. For example, the original article in the image below was published in 2016. We can find other articles of interest for our research by seeing who has quoted the original 2016 article.
See the video tutorial below.
This video tutorial illustrates how to do forward citation searching using Google Scholar through the library homepage.
This video demonstrates how to use an electronic article database to do a literature review search. While it uses SPORTDiscus, the techniques shown can be used in almost any of the library databases.
Backward citation searching, also known as "reference mining" involves reviewing the reference lists of important articles we find in the process of research. For example, the newer article on the right cites a number of articles of interest that we may want to include in our review.
EndNote can be helpful as part of the process of organizing and reviewing journal articles. These tutorials show how to set up EndNote to do this.
1. EndNote Web for Literature Reviews - Demonstrates how to set up EndNote and use it for literature reviews.
Note: This tutorial assumes you know how to export references from an EBSCOhost database into EndNote. If you're not sure how to do this, review Direct Export to EndNote Web or Manually Exporting references to EndNote Web. If you're using another database for research, see the tutorials on exporting reference to EndNote Web on this page.
2. Database Exports/Imports. Each database provider uses a slightly different way of moving references into EndNote.
See the EndNote Guide for more information on using various EndNote functions.