Nursing Research. Literature Review Step by Step

Introduction and Brief Definition of Literature Review

Literature review constitutes an essential part of medical education research. Defined by Maggio, Sewell, and Artino as a comprehensive summary of what is known on the specific topic, it forms the basis for all the phases of further research. After clearly identifying its objectives and algorithm, authors can enhance the quality of their manuscripts. This paper will briefly analyze the purpose of the literature review in nursing and outline the specific steps necessary for its proper completion.

Purpose of a Literature Review

The critical role of the literature review is to record and collect relevant evidence according to the available theoretical and scientific knowledge. As supported by Maggio et al., this type of academic article aims at minimizing instances of duplicative research, providing context, indicating innovation, and confirming professional and ethical standards. Conducting a high-quality literature review allows researchers to set precise goals, adequately prepare for the novel study, select suitable methods, and critically reflect on the obtained results (Maggio et al., 2016). Failure to meet the aforementioned criteria frequently results in the methodologically weak study, which lacks substantial support from the ground theory.

Steps Needed to Conduct Properly

While the specific steps essential for the conduction of the literature review differ depending on the topic of the research, the following four guidelines remain universal in all healthcare industries. According to Smith and Noble, first, authors should formulate accurate inclusion criteria for the summary, including but not limited to participants’ age, conditions, research designs, social groups. Second, it is vital to vindicate the data and types of sources in databases. The third step refers to the development of proper search terms and keywords. The final aspect of the literature review is dedicated to the generation of search skills, such as Boolean operators (Smith & Noble, 2016). After the selection of articles, researchers evaluate the studies while summarizing the compile findings, interpreting clustered information, and specifying the current knowledge base.


Ultimately, the process of writing a high-quality literature review requires extensive research skills, concentration, and critical thinking. Once all the preparatory steps are successfully completed, researchers should organize the obtained data into three sections: introduction, empirical literature, and summary. The key to an effective data-based review lies in the usage of scholarly language, cohesiveness, and conciseness. Thorough analysis, evidence-based interpretation, and relevant examples also increase the reliability of the synthetic summary.


Maggio, L. A., Sewell, J. L., & Artino, A. R. (2016). The literature review: A foundation for high-quality medical education research. Journal of Graduate Medical Education, 8(3), 297–303. doi:10.4300/JGME-D-16-00175.1

Smith J., & Noble, H. (2016). Reviewing the literature. Evidence-Based Nursing, 19(1), 2-3. doi:10.1136/eb-2015-102252