A literature review is a "comprehensive study and interpretation of literature that addresses a specific topic" (Aveyard, 2010).
Literature reviews are generally conducted in one of two ways:
1) As a preliminary review before a larger study in order to critically evaluate the current literature and justify why further study and research is required.
2) As a project in itself that provides a comprehensive survey of the works published in a particular discipline or area of research over a specified period of time.
The current status of the knowledge or research about a topic, question or experienceA literature review is an opportunity to tell your story by carving a space for your topic and research question in relation to previous studies. In reporting your critical perspective on the relevant literature and identifying a gap that your research will attempt to address, it situates and establishes the importance of your topic or question within the broader academic community in your discipline or field of study:
According to Walsh and Downe (2005), the systematic review "is a robust way of comparing quantitative research and proceeds according to well-determined steps, which include statistical analysis of the pooled results of studies. This statistical analysis is more accurately called meta-analysis, although this phrase has become interchangeable with systematic review" (pp. 204-205):
A systematic review:
A traditional or narrative review summarizes different primary studies from which conclusions may be drawn into a holistic interpretation supplemented by the author's own experience, theories, and/or models:
Whereas a meta-analysis is a way of testing a hypothesis, a meta-synthesis attempts to integrate results from a number of different but inter-related qualitative studies. This technique interprets rather than aggregates, in contrast to meta-analysis of quantitative studies: