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Nursing: Literature Review

Why Use Literature Reviews

Any research begins with a question.  Literature reviews are an important place to start your research because:

  • The give an overview/summary of the research that has been done in a specific field
  • They point out key points of current knowledge
  • List seminal articles of the key researchers in the field.

Different Styles of Literature Reviews

Keep in mind that there is more than one way to do literature review. Here are two common examples you will see in CINAHL

1. Papers that inclue a literature review section just after the introduction. These are articles that include a literature review to bring the reader up to speed on past research and then usually introduce their own work.

Changing Essay Writing in Undergraduate Nursing Education Through Action Research

2.    Papers that are entirely literature review from start to finish. These are articles that examine the past literature and bring the reader up to date on a particular concept or topic.

General nurses' experiences of end-of-life care in the acute hospital setting: a literature review

Finding Grey Literature

Grey Literature

Grey literature is not found in "traditional publishing cycles". Grey literature is produced by universities, government agencies and non profits to name a few.

Finding the Hard to Find: searching for Grey Literature (2006) by Dean Giustini UBC Biomedical Librarian

Grey Literature for the Health Sciences. UBC Library

Grey Matters (CADTH)


Tips for Searching for Reviews in Databases


  • choose Review or Systematic Review as Publication Type
  • Type in Literature Review as a keyword

Academic Search Premier and HealthSource Nursing

  • search Literature Reviews in the Subject Terms field on the search page


  • EBM- Cochrane databases include the most reviews, systematic reviews, and reviews of effects.
  • open the limits tab and select review or stytematic review after you have done your inital search

Medline Full Text

  • from the Advanced Search page, choose Review Article box
  • You can also choose Nursing Journals from the Subsets box.
  • choose Classical Article in the Publication Type  limit box to access articles which are identified as a classic/seminal article for your topic.
  • Try these tips separatley if you are getting no results

In all these databases:

  • for quantitative studies try the keyword meta-analysis and for qualitative studies try meta-synthesis
  • add literature review* as a search term along with your subject
  • try searching the term literature in the title field

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