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Research, Writing and Publishing: Review Scholarly Literature

Why Review Scholarly Literature?

Guidance for Literature Reviews in the Health Sciences

Narrative Review Handbooks and Manuals

Narrative Review Best Practices

Guidance for Systematic Reviews

Systematic Review Handbooks and Manuals

Systematic Review and Evidence Synthesis Guides

Determine Your Research Question

Refine your research topic to an answerable question that is innovative, clearly defined, and focused on problem resolution. Your question should include distinct concepts for analysis and not be too broad or too narrow in scope. Learn more about frameworks that help refine evidence-based clinical questions in "Formulating Answerable Questions: Question Negotiation in Evidence-based Practice.”

Evidence-based frameworks can help map your medical research question. Segment the topic into concepts, and then assign associated terms to each concept. Combine each concept into a literature search strategy for database entry.

PICO (Population/Patient, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome) is a popular framework for research in medicine.

PICO Example : What are the effects of low sodium diet on preeclampsia and hypertensive disorders in pregnant women?

Population/Patient: pregnant women

Intervention/Indicator: low sodium diet

Comparison/Control: routine care or minimal interventions

Outcome: preeclampsia, hypertensive disorders

Learn more about PICO and other models for framing the research question in related disciplines in “Formulating the Evidence Based Practice Question: A Review of the Frameworks.”

Once you have established an answerable research question, determine your question’s research need. Does your question address a "gap" within the literature? Does it address a larger societal impact or importance? If not, you may have to formulate a new or modified question.

To assess your topic’s research need, conduct a preliminary literature search in at least one appropriate database. Based on search results, refine your topic by either addressing a related unanswered question, choosing another population, or shifting to another topic altogether.

To master formulating a clinical question using PICO, as well as review how to search for and appraise evidence to answer the question, visit the Maguire Medical Library's PICO: Form a Focused Clinical Question subject guide.

Conduct a Preliminary Literature Review

A literature review is an overview that may range from an informal survey of the literature to a comprehensive review published for clinical decision support.  

Select a Database

Consider your topic’s discipline (medicine, nursing, biology, public health, interdisciplinary, etc.), typical publication format (journals, books, conference proceedings, images, etc.), as well as the publication years and indexed journals included in each database. 

Subject-specific Databases for the Health Sciences

Interdisciplinary Databases on Multiple Subjects

Find more subject-specific and interdisciplinary databases

Learn Advanced Literature Searching Techniques

Type of Research Articles

Published medical literature is divided into primary and secondary research.
Primary Examples
  • Original Scientific Research Articles
  • Case Reports
Secondary Examples
  • Narrative Reviews
  • Rapid Reviews
  • Systematic Reviews
  • Meta-analyses
To decide which type of article is appropriate, consider your resources (e.g., time, funding, research support, etc.).

Manage Your References

Reference management tools can help you keep track of, share and organize articles, books, and other references as you conduct research for your paper or other publication. These tools also give you the ability to format your references according to the style required by the publisher.

The FSU College of Medicine supports the reference management tool EndNote for its students, staff and faculty.


Covidence is a systematic review management tool, but it can be used for any type of literature review. Covidence users can collect references from multiple databases and invite team members to screen titles, abstracts, and full text articles for a literature review. 

Annotated Bibliographies

An annotated bibliography is a list of proposed references and evaluative summaries on a specific topic, usually created as a precursor to preparing a presentation or writing a paper.

Reading and evaluating reference sources, such as journal articles, will help you choose which references to include in your annotated bibliography. Ideally, the chosen references will fully address your topic.

To create the bibliography, provide a description of approximately 150 words on the content of each reference. The goal is to give your readers enough information of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources you have cited.

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