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Review of literature is one of the most important steps in the research process. It is an account of what is already known about a particular phenomenon. The main purpose of literature review is to convey to the readers about the work already done and the knowledge and ideas that have been already established on a particular topic of research.

Literature review is a laborious task, but it is essential if the research process is to be successful.


“A Literature Review is a body of text that aims to review the critical point of knowledge on a particular topic of research”


Literature Review is defined as a broad ,comprehensive , in depth, systematic and critical review of scholarly publication, unpublished printed or audio visual materials and personal communications.

S.K. Sharma


According to Polit and Hungler,

It refers to the activities involved in searching for information on a topic and developing a comprehensive picture of the state as knowledge on that topic.

According to Nancy burns and Groove,

The review of literature is a summary of current knowledge about a particular practice problem and includes what is known and not known about the problem.

Purposes of Literature Review

To determine what is already known about the topic that you want to study.

Define ethical implications.

It helps to build on previous knowledge in the research process.

That help to plan the research methodology, design selection of tool, sample and plan for statistical analysis.

Identify data sources that other researchers have used.

Learn how others have defined and measured key concepts.


7. Place each in context of its contribution to the understanding of subject under review.

8. Describe the relationship of each study to the other research studies under consideration.

9. Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication of effort

10. The researcher may be able to capitalize on the success as well as the errors of other investigators.

11. Define concepts.

12. Identify pitfalls and weaknesses.

13. Assess modern equipments.

14.Describe modified procedure..

15. The research studies have recommendation for future research which can be taken for new research.

16. Place one’s original work in context of existing literature.

17. See what has and has not been investigated.

18. Identify new ways to interpret and shed light on any gaps in previous research.


Determine what is known and not known about a subject, concepts of problem.

Discovery of unanswered questions about subjects, concepts or problems.

Determination of any gaps or inconsistencies in a body of knowledge.

Describe the strength and weakness of designs/methods of inquiry and instruments used in earlier research work.

Development of hypothesis to be tested in a research study.

It also helps in development of research instruments.

Discover conceptual traditions used to examine problems.

Determine the need for replication of well designed study or refinements of a study.

9. Generation of useful research questions or projects/ activities for the discipline.

10. Identification of suitable design and data collection methods for a research study.

11. Promotes development of protocols and policies related to nursing practice (administration, education, research and service.)

12. Assistance in interpreting study findings and in developing implications and recommendations.

13. Determination of a need to replicate a prior study in different study settings or different sample designs or sizes or different study populations.

  • Research Findings.
  • Theory
  • Methodology
  • Opinions and View points.
  • Anecdotes and Clinical Descriptions.
computer assisted literature search
Computer Assisted literature search
  • CINAHL database(Cumulative index to nursing & allied health literature)
  • RN Dex top100
  • Mediline(medical literature online)
  • HAPI(health & psychosocial instruments database)
  • Eric(Education resources information centre database)
  • Psycinfo(psychology information)
  • Dissertation abstracts online.
identify the focus questions
Identify the focus questions
  • Can the question be searched?
  • Is the review needed?
  • What approach will review take?
  • What expertise is needed?
  • Is the review question feasibly answered within the constraints of time and availability of resources.
locating the literature sources
Locating the literature sources
  • Card catalogue
  • Computerised approach
  • Printed indexes
  • Abstract
  • Computer assisted literature searches
  • Microforms
read the review
Read the review
  • Read the articles in an integrated fashion.
  • Investigate the literature with overall trends &details.
  • Read the literature several times and extract out the best .
  • Conceptualise the literature by going through the literature thoroughly and deep studying.
  • Result of these studies should not be immediately incorporated before screening with the researcher.
analyze the review
Analyze the review
  • The first is to sort tile articles by findings, all of those significantly positive findings, all of those with significantly negative findings and all of those with a finding with no significant difference.
  • The second method is to combine significant tests and develop all average effective size.
  • The third method is to choose a subgroup of studies based on criteria of this task or the previous task.
  • Bibliographical Citations.
  • Recording Information.
      • Summary table
      • Index Cards’
      • Photocopying
write the review
Write the review
  • The rules of paraphrasing must be followed.
  • Should cadres with an objective, well organised summary of the current state of knowledge on a topic.
  • Should neither be a series of quotes nor a series of abstracts.
  • The central tasks are to summarize and to critically evaluate the evidence so as to reveal the current state of knowledge on a topic.
  • The review should point out both consistencies and contradictions in literature.
  • Although important studies should be described in some detail.
evaluating the review of literature
Evaluating the Review of Literature

Were the methods used to identify references appropriate?

How many existing references were retrieved?

Is the information retrieved accurate?

Is the review readable? Does it synthesize the available information?

Are assumptions and potential biases addressed?

Are discrepancies in findings among studies discussed?

Are both conceptual and theoretical issues addressed?

critiquing the literature review
Critiquing the literature review
  • Is the literature review comprehensible?
  • Is tile literature review concise?
  • Are all sources relevant to the study topic?
  • Are all sources critically appraised?
  • Are both classic and current sources included?
  • Are paraphrases or quotes used most often?
  • Are both supporting and opposing theory and research presented?
  • Are most of the references primary sources?
Bibliography card
  • Research design
  • Variables
  • Setting
  • Population
  • Sampling
  • Data collection procedure
  • Statistical test
  • Finding
  • Recommendation
  • Strength and weakness