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Physician Assistants: (PA/MPH) - Literature Review

PA MPH Dual Degree

Joint PA/MPH
Following resources help support students in the GW joint Physician Assistant – Master of Science in Health Sciences (MSHS)/Master of Public Health (MPH) Program

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What is a Literature Review?

What is a literature review?

A literature review is a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of published information on a subject area. Conducting a literature review demands a careful examination of a body of literature that has been published that helps answer your research question (See PICO). Literature reviewed includes scholarly journals, scholarly books, authoritative databases, primary sources and grey literature.

A literature review attempts to answer the following:

  • What is known about the subject?
  • What is the chronology of knowledge about my subject?
  • Are there any gaps in the literature?
  • Is there a consensus/debate on issues?

TIPS:

  1. Create a clear research question/statement
  2. Define the scope of the review include limitations
    (i.e. gender, age, location, nationality...)
  3. Search existing literature including classic works on your topic and grey literature
  4. Evaluate, analyze and synthesize results of previous studies on your topic
    (Avoid discounting information that contradicts your research)
  5. Track and organize references

Remember: A literature review is NOT an annotated bibliography

Key Indexing/Citation Databases

TIP #1: SEED ARTICLE
Begin your research with a "seed article" - an article that strongly supports your research topic.  Then use a citation database to follow the studies published by finding articles which have cited that article, either because they support it or because they disagree with it.

TIP #2: SNOWBALLING
Snowballing is the process where researchers will begin with a select number of articles they have identified relevant/strongly supports their topic and then search each articles' references reviewing the studies cited to determine if they are relevant to your research.

BONUS POINTS: This process also helps identify key highly cited authors within a topic to help establish the "experts" in the field.

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