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Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Guide

Lit Review Structure

Literature Review Structure with 5 Divisions Introduction Statement of Objective Method Discussion Conclusion

Literature Reviews can be short and concise, or they can be comprehensive and extremely detailed.


Set up a framework for your reader, so everyone is starting from the same point as you begin your topic discussion and review. Set the stage.

  • Identify the problem.
  • Define special terms & clarify acronyms.
  • Briefly explain theories.
  • Justify the relevancy or importance of the topic, issue, condition.
  • Provide background information: geography, dates, names, events, etc.
  • Give a short history of the topic to place it in historical context.


  • State your purpose. Why review the literature?
  • Tell the reader what to expect from the review.
  • Make a claim.
  • State the question.


  • Identify a time frame to circumscribe the literature to be examined. 
            *last 10 years        *2015-2020        *1982-2019
  • Identify the language used in the literature to be examined.
            *English only        *English & Spanish
  • Identify formats the literature can take.
            *RCTs only        *quantitative studies only        *no editorials or social media, etc.
  • Identify population characteristics necessary in research studies:
            *Hispanics        * > 65 yrs        *female 
  • Identify the search tools to be employed.
            *List databases        *Google Scholar        *Bibliographies, etc.
  • Identify search TERMS.
            *keywords       *controlled vocabulary (MeSH, Subject Headings)       
            * synonyms -- plain language, formal terminology, technical terminology
  • Develop the search strategy using Boolean Operators (AND, OR)
  • Document each search (search terms, Boolean Operators, filters, number of results, date searched)
  • Analyze search results as representative of the Review Objective (answers the question)
  • Modify the search strategy if necessary. Document
  • Describe final search results.
            *surprises        *unique findings        *bothersome discoveries        *amount of literature on the topic, etc.

DISCUSSION:   (the heart of the Literature Review; spend the majority of time on this section)

  • Analyze the search results -- one result at a time. 
  • Summarize main findings.
  • Identify themes.
  • Address points of disagreement.
  • Note unexpected issues with the search or in the literature results themselves.
  • Discuss the quantity of high-quality literature on the topic (scarce, plentiful).
  • Assess the quality of the literature.
            *unscientific        *mostly opinion        *rigorous research        *biased, etc.


  • Summarize the main points in your findings.
  • Explain what the findings mean. Put the findings in context. How do the findings fit with previous knowledge?
  • Address implications of what was discovered (for practice, for the future, etc.)
  • Forecast future trends or new areas of exploration.
  • Make recommendations.
    (Do not bring new information into your conclusion. This section is the ultimate take-away message ... bottom line.)