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Review Articles (Health Sciences)

Identifies the difference between a systematic review and a literature review. Connects to tools for research, writing, and publishing.

Why structure a review?

A literature review section in a paper has to do a lot of work. It has to take the reader on a journey. They start not knowing anything about your topic. They end understanding the topic, the importance and relevance of this topic to the world overall and to them personally, and ready to read your brilliant research paper. It can be useful to think about how to structure your review so your reader can have a logical journey. The frames below are commonly used in scientific literature reviews and one may work for you. There are also other frameworks for structuring reviews; if these do not feel authentic to you, examine published research papers or consult guidebooks on creating reviews to see more example frameworks.

Three review structures and sample published reviews

Argumentative Frame. In this frame, you develop an argument and then suggest a solution-- your project.

Descriptive frame. In this frame, you describe the problem and sub-topics that are related to the main problem, and how they have been investigated previously. You may highlight areas that have not been well-described/well-researched. Your research continues the investigations, and helps to fill in gaps.

Historical Frame. In this frame you provide a history of a concept or idea, then show how your project fits into the gradually more sophisticated investigations of this problem.

Use the evidence table and chosen structure

Once you've filled out your evidence table and selected a frame, you can start writing. As you write, refer back to your evidence table. For example, if I chose the historical frame, I might start by looking at the oldest paper on my table and working my way forward in time. Or, if I were using the argumentative frame, I could use my table to identify the various methodologies that have been used to investigate my topic, to create an argument that this has not been studied enough using a specific method. If I was using the descriptive frame, I could use my evidence table to determine the most commonly-used mobile apps and the factors that people examine when considering using a mobile app, to lay a descriptive framework to introduce why my app will be used more frequently.

While writing, you may identify further gaps in knowledge or questions. It is always acceptable to search databases again to look for more specific information after you have started writing.