What is a literature review?
A literature review is an exploration and evaluation of the current, relevant literature on your research topic. It is a summary and synthesis of the existing literature on the topic without contributing new knowledge to research on the topic. Literature reviews often appear as part of a scholarly paper but also as separate publications. The literature you decide to include in your review may come from a variety of sources, including scholarly articles, books, dissertations, and conference proceedings among others.
Choosing a Topic
Before you begin your research you need a topic. To get topic ideas you can browse topics within your textbook, discussion items on professional society websites, or interesting journal articles. Below are some resource you can use to identify current topics within Health Informatics.
When searching for a topic on an association or society website, you may want to start your search by looking at the "news" or "media" page of the website. This will give you an idea of what topics or issues are important to the association/society, as well as topics they may have recently published about.
Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association: JAMIA
Health Informatics Journal
Journal of Healthcare Informatics Research
Health Data Management
Keywords and Subject Headings
Keyword searching is how you typically search web search engines. Think of important words or phrases related to your research topic and type them into the database to get results.
Subject Headings are predefined controlled vocabulary words used to describe the content of each item in a database. Subject headings act as descriptors, allowing you to find relevant items on the same topic.
Source: MIT Libraries
Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT
Boolean searching is based on connecting keywords and Boolean operators together to either narrow or broaden your set of results. The three basic boolean operators are AND, OR, and NOT. You can use Boolean operators to focus a search, when your topic contains multiple search terms.
Search Logic: Nesting
Databases follow commands you type in and return results based on those commands. Be aware of the logical order in which words are connected when using Boolean operators. Databases recognize AND as the primary operatore, and will connect concepts together with AND unless told otherwise. If you are using a combination of And and OR operators in a search, it is important that you enclose the words being combined with OR in parentheses.
Once you have narrowed down your topic and identified keywords, you are ready to begin searching for relevant literature. You can begin your search either in Discovery Search or in the Library Databases. Below is a list of library databases, related to health Informatics, that you may find useful.
Need Help Using a Database? If you need help using a database, or constructing a search, contact a librarian for assistance.
Library doesn't have access? If you find an article or book that you are interested in and the library does not have access to the content. You can request the resource through Interlibrary Loan.
Searching the literature for information to include in a literature review is a process requiring multiple searches and methods of utilizing different resources to retrieve information.
Scholarly, or peer-reviewed, articles have been through a rigorous editing and vetting process by subject matter experts in a given field written for a specific audience and nearly always include an abstract, literature review, methods, results or findings, discussion, conclusion, and references with no advertising and have a purpose to educate and communicate research findings, e.g.:
Health Informatics Journal, International Journal of Health Information Management, etc.
Popular source articles have not been through as rigorous of an editing and vetting process; may not always be written, edited, or vetted by subject matter experts; are written for a general audience and easier to read; include advertising; and have a purpose to convey news or entertain, e.g.:
The New York Times, Newsweek, National Geographic, etc.
Trade resources are aimed at professionals in a particular field and often report news and trends in the field, e.g.:
Association journals, websites, newsletters, product reviews, interviews with industry leaders, job listings, etc.
Primary and Secondary Sources
When searching for information for inclusion in a literature review, consider evaluating sources' authority, purpose, relevance, date, source of publication, and references.
Source of Publication
After searching for sources and before writing a literature review, it is important to consider the most effective way to meaningfully present the literature. What is the best order to present your sources? What are the most important topics that have emerged in the literature that you should include?
Literature reviews may be organized in different ways, including by chronology, theme, or methodology:
A chronological literature review is organized according to when the articles being discussed were written; however, a chronological literature review also may organize sources in chronological order by theme. Subsections in this type of review may be organized around time periods or time periods within a theme being discussed.
A thematic literature review is organized around a theme, topic, or issue present in the literature. Thematic literature reviews may have a chronological component however, such as the development of a theme, topic, or issue over time. Subsections in this type of review may be organized around the subtopics on that theme, topic, or issue being discussed.
A methodological literature review is organized around the methods of the researchers and authors whose work is being discussed. If the literature review focuses on methods, the types of literature included will be affected (e.g., randomized controlled trials, systematic reviews, etc.) and reflect the way in which the literature is discussed.
There may be additional sections of a literature review, including sections introducing or providing background information to help the audience understand the situation; a chronological progression of literature or ideas relevant to the topic of the review; the criteria and methods by which you selected sources, including why certain source types were included; and any questions to be answered or ideas for future research.
When writing a literature review, consider the overall organization of your paper in the introduction, body, and conclusion:
Conclusion or Recommendations