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Literature Review Types

Find information below about the two most common types of literature reviews at Conestoga College. Note that faculty may have different expectations.

1. Systematic Reviews (Meta Analysis, Meta Synthesis, or Both)

Health Sciences

Meta Analysis: Quantitative assessment that analyzes data from multiple studies using a systematic method to produce an average result.

Meta Synthesis: Qualitative assessment that identifies, evaluates, and synthesizes all key research on a topic to come to new conclusions/insights.

Attempts to review all high quality research on a topic. Low quality studies are not included because they can introduce statistical "noise" and skew results.

Argumentative thesis on a clinical topic developed from a clear research question (a PICO question for quantitative assessment and a PS question for qualitative assessment).

  1. Introduction (the research question, rationale, background, and thesis)
  2. Methods (inclusion/exclusion criteria for the studies synthesized and a systematic search strategy that is detailed and reproducible)
  3. Results (outcome results of synthesis of the included studies)
  4. Discussion or conclusion (summary of the findings and implications of the results for practice)

  • Contributes to evidence-based medicine
  • Reduces bias
  • Can help improve estimates, settle conflicting views, and lead to new insights/hypotheses

2. Narrative / Traditional Literature Reviews

All Disciplines

  • Synthesizes research by looking for similarities, differences, trends, and gaps
  • Evaluates methods

Provides an overview of select relevant works on a topic.

Argumentative thesis that critically analyzes the quality and significance of existing research on a general topic.

  1. Introduction (the rationale, background, and thesis)
  2. Evaluation of the methods used in existing research
  3. Synthesis of common themes (one theme per paragraph)
  4. Conclusion (Re-state thesis, summarize key findings, and a call for action

  • Helps the researcher see how their ideas fit into the larger academic conversation on the topic
  • Helps the researcher identify research gaps by providing a broad overview of the topic
  • Can be used to develop background information and context for a primary research paper