Literature Reviews

NRO staff cannot conduct a literature review for you. Our Research Associate will conduct one-off article searches for faculty only. If you need to conduct a comprehensive review, please contact our Nursing librarian Alix Hayden ( for guidance on your search strategy.

A background literature reviews, such as those in proposals or the introduction sections of journal articles, serve as an argument for conducting a study and includes a purposive sampling of the literature towards that end. Knowledge synthesis is an umbrella term for the many methodologies for conducting a rigorous and comprehensive literature reviews, including systematic reviews and meta-analysis, meta-ethnography, realist reviews, for example. These reviews require a team of people and often take 8-18 months to conduct.

Narrative literature reviews are considered traditional non-systematic literature reviews. Narrative synthesis is a specific method used in knowledge synthesis projects.

Critical appraisal is the assessment of the methodological quality of individual studies, whereas critical reflection is the critique of a body of literature, including challenging the assumptions underpin studies.

There are multiple forms of checklists that we encounter in research. Checklists for assessing methodological quality of individual studies (critical appraisal) are meant to support authors in evaluating risk of bias and the appropriateness of study choices (e.g., JBI or CASP suite of tools, MMAT). Checklist for reporting quality (e.g., PRISMA, STROBE, COREQ, CONSORT) are meant to assist authors to include important information when writing their study findings or protocol and should not be used for assessing study quality.

Please set up a meeting with the Scientific Writer to discuss your potential topic and ensure that your review question matches the methodology (type of knowledge synthesis) that is right for your project.