The Ohio State Universities | University Libraries | Resource Guides


Definition & Resources

A literature review should:

  1. provide a critical evaluative overview of existing research that is significant regarding the chosen topic.
  2. synthesize by showing the relationships between prior research- What are the connections?
  3. inform the reader about what has been discovered in the research to avoid duplication.
  4. identify gaps and inconsistencies in the literature (scholarly or peer-reviewed).

A literature review should not be:

  1. an annotated bibliography.
  2. original research.
  3. an argument for research.

What is empirical research?

Empirical studies are those based on actual and objective observation or experimentation. Articles that describe empirical research studies are published in scholarly or academic journals. Most empirical studies are found in peer-reviewed  or refereed academic journals and contain the following sections:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodolgy
  • Results
  • Conslusion or discussion
  • References

Systematic Review

What is a systematic review?

A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question.  It  uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing more reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made.  The key characteristics of a systematic review are:

  • a clearly stated set of objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies;
  • an explicit, reproducible methodology;
  • a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria;
  • an assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies, for example through the assessment of risk of bias; and
  • a systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies.