Write a Nursing Literature Review: Present-day state of research

Nursing Literature ReviewAre you busy collecting literature for your scientific work?  With the content from this article, you can present the current state of research on your topic so convincingly that your term paper, bachelor thesis, or master thesis is given a rock-solid foundation.

What is a Nursing Literature Review and why write it?
A literature review includes the current state of research on a very specific nursing topic you are exploring in your scientific work. It provides an overview of the current (knowledge) state of research. This includes both fundamental works by authors and scientists who have coined a topic or a term. It also includes recently published relevant work on this topic. When writing a literature review, the terms current research status or status quo of research are often used synonymously.

In the overall context of your scientific work, whether it is a term paper, bachelor thesis, or master thesis, your literature review either offers a starting point for the classification of your results or is itself the central method of your work. In any case, a literature review is indispensable for scientific work.

How do you Write a Nursing Literature Review?

In most term papers, you will not be developing great investigations such as expert interviews, surveys, experiments, prototypes, or anything else that you often do in theses. Then the literature review becomes your primary method.

It should be said here that – depending on the discipline – the method can also be limited to your literature review in theses. In this case, it is recommended that you stick to a systematic literature review, which is a recognized research method. It is used in many disciplines to review the current state of research and to identify open questions, problems, or the consensus on a specific topic.

This article, however, provides instructions for a “normal” literature review.

Three Elementary Steps to Writing a Nursing Literature Review

·        Step 1: Adequate preparing

How good a literature review turns out, in the end, depends on a large percentage of your preparatory work. In this case, it is the literature research. The more authors, sources, and text modules you have available, the easier it will be for you to write several pages on a clearly defined topic.

Start with online research: Instead of going to the library first, hunt your keywords and most important terms through online searches as well as all the relevant databases in your subject, such as ScienceDirect or SpringerLink. Don’t limit yourself to one or two databases, but make a complete list that you can use for all your future scientific work. If you are unsure where to find such databases, ask your supervisor for a few recommendations about which databases are best for your subject. Remember, you can also hire an expert to help you in any part of your nursing literature review or thesis.

Don’t lose focus: As helpful as it is to hoard as much literature as possible on your topic, you should not lose track of it. Create a tidy folder structure on your PC or your cloud storage in which you can sort your literature by topic. You can also create different folders on your computer to sort out your work by topics or manageable blocks.

Read your sources carefully: Remember, you have to read all of the sources too. Don’t make the mistake of reading all sources from beginning to end. Of course, there are some key research articles that you should read in full to fully understand your topic. But reading 30-40 articles or books in full is unfortunately not entirely economical. In your PDFs, you can easily use the search function (CTRL + F) and only read the relevant sections on the terms that are most important to you.

 Collect relevant content: You collect the most important text passages in one document. You can also create several so that it doesn’t get confusing. Here again a document for each important term (as with the literature folders). It is important to note the relevant authors and page number. You always need the authors, the page numbers only if you want to quote directly.

If you have now read through all the sources and have bulging documents with text passages in front of you, you can proceed to write down your paper.

  • Step 2: Writing

Go from “general” to “specific”: A very simple principle provides the structure when writing a literature review: Build it up like a funnel. You will go from general research on your topic or the terms to very specific work that is related to your very special research question. You can also divide the entire funnel into sub-chapters with headings for the special terms.

Important terms at the beginning: First you clarify the most important terms at the beginning using the literature and give appropriate definitions. You will find definitions of your terms in many articles and books. Choose a definition that you think is most appropriate and cite the appropriate original source. Also explain where these terms or the research area originated and which authors created basic works.

Current research in the middle: Now you can get a little more up-to-date and list works and authors who have dealt with your topic and what their most important findings were. These are usually in the abstract and the conclusion of the corresponding research article (if you want to save some time). Set up the order in such a way that the content you present follows the logical structure of your term paper. Besides, it should lead to your research question or your theoretical background.

Current and super-relevant authors at the end: The final sources of your literature review should deal with a research question almost identical to your own. And not be older than 5-7 years. If you also want to deepen a certain aspect of the research in a further chapter (Theoretical Background / Theoretical Framework), the content of the last paragraph of your Literature Review should lead there.

Step 3:Choose a balanced mix of sources

For both the research and the final selection of your literature, you should choose a balanced mixture of older basic works and brand new publications (unless you are writing a history term paper). In most cases, your instructor will give a range of years of publication for the sources. If not given, stick to a range of ten years.

Throw in a few direct quotes here and there. This works whenever it seems difficult to reproduce the text passage in your own words. However, do not include too much of direct quotations from your sources.


  • Writing a literature review forms the basis of good academic work
  • It can serve as a stand-alone method (e.g. as a Systematic Literature Review)
  • As a rule, the literature review is accompanied by another method (e.g. surveys, interviews, prototypes, etc., especially in theses)
  • Do complete research (step # 1)
  • Go from “general” to “specific” (step # 2)
  • Balance your sources and style choices (Step # 3)

Do you need any help in writing your nursing literature review? Do not hesitate to ask for help HERE

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