• Introduction - set the scene (relevant background information, such as why it is important to your discipline, scale of problem, relevant policy and so on)
  • Methods - How did you locate the literature? (databases searched, inclusion and exclusion criteria, criteria used to judge papers, key terms used) Remember - Justify, don’t just describe
  • Findings - this is the hard bit - there is no standard way to structure this
    • Here markers are looking for synthesis - you need to pull together results and compare and contrast
    • Your literature review summary table will really help here
    • Avoid describing each piece of literature in a list - discuss studies in groups and themes to help you structure (such as intervention type, method, outcomes and so on)
    • Critique - you should then discuss the strengths and limitations of the studies
    • You might start this section by saying something like:
      • For the purposes of this section of the review, research will be discussed thematically by research approach. Of the 15 studies reviewed, seven adopted a qualitative methodology…(you could then go on to compare and contrast findings of these 7 studies and strengths and limitations)
      • Once you have discussed each of these categories, compared findings, and considered strengths and limitations, you can provide an overall summary to tie up the section.
An example:

The results of the studies reviewed suggest that exercise can have beneficial effects on alleviating anxiety symptoms. The vast majority of studies reviewed employed robust research designs, with seven studies using RCTs. Given the power of RCTs for identifying causal effects, the evidence for the beneficial effects of  exercise on anxiety can be considered strong. However, several limitations should be noted. Firstly, some studies have been hampered by weak anxiety measures and high attrition rates. Secondly, as some studies have failed to consider follow-ups, the sustainability of the effects of exercise on anxiety is not fully understood. Finally, the lack of qualitative studies prevents an understanding of the mechanisms that explain how exercise reduces patients’ experiences of anxiety.

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PILOT - Writing a critical review by Steve Draper, Glasgow University, Dr Jane McKay, GCU modified by Marion Kelt, Glasgow Caledonian University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Based on a work at