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BIOL 120

Literature Review

From Perdue University's Perdue Owl: 

"A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research (scholarship) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably."

Types of Research Articles

From the University of San Francisco Gleeson Library 

Primary Research Articles

Primary research articles report on a single study. In the health sciences, primary research articles generally describe the following aspects of the study:

  • The study's hypothesis or research question
  • The number of participants in the study, generally referred to as the "n"
    • Some articles will include information on how participants were recruited or identified, as well as additional information about participants' sex, age, or race/ethnicity
  • A "methods" or "methodology" section that describes how the study was performed and what the researchers did
  • Results and Conclusion section

Secondary Research Articles

Review articles are the most common type of secondary research article in the health sciences. A review article is a summary of previously published research on a topic. Authors who are writing a review article will search databases for previously completed research and summarize or synthesize those articles,  as opposed to recruiting participants and performing a new research study.

Specific types of review articles include:

  • Systematic Reviews
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Narrative Reviews
  • Integrative Reviews
  • Literature Reviews

Review articles often report on the following:

  • The hypothesis, research question, or review topic
  • Databases searched-- authors should clearly describe where and how they searched for the research included in their reviews
  • Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis should provide detailed information on the databases searched and the search strategy the authors used.Selection criteria-- the researchers should describe how they decided which articles to include
  • A critical appraisal or evaluation of the quality of the articles included (most frequently included in systematic reviews and meta-analysis)
  • Discussion, results, and conclusions


From J.A. Davis Library

Evaluating Information


  • Evidence
  • Do the facts hold up? 
  • Can you verify - names, numbers, places, documents?
  • Source
  • Who made this? It is trustworthy?
  • Trace who has touched the information - authors, publishers, funders, aggregators, social media users
  • Context
  • What's the big picture?
  • Is the whole story presented?  What are the other forces surrounding it - current events, cultural trends, political goals, financial pressures?
  • Audience
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Look for attempts to appeal to specific groups or types of people - image choices, presentation techniques, language, content
  • Purpose
  • Why was this made?
  • Look for clues to the motivation - publisher's mission, persuasive language or images, moneymaking tactics, stated or unstated agendas, calls to action
  • Execution
  • How is the information presented?
  • Consider how the way it's made affects the impact - style, grammar, tone, image choices, placement/layout