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HMSOM Medical Elective: Developing Search Skills

Narrative Literature Review

Formatting a Narrative Literature Review

Narrative Literature Review

Narrative or traditional literature reviews can take many shapes and forms. They do not need to follow any specific guideline or standard. 

A narrative literature review can be a first step to building on other research in the field. After all, if it's a topic that you're interested in, you need to know what's already been done, right?

Your Narrative Literature Review Should Have...

  • A clearly defined topic
  • A search for relevant literature
  • A logical organization structure
  • An interpretation and discussion of the selected relevant literature


A common structure for narrative literature reviews is IMRaD, or:

  • Introduction
    • What is your topic?
    • What are you interested in finding out?
    • Why did you select this topic?
  • Methods
    • How did you look for the literature?
    • Where did you look?
    • What search terms did you use?
    • What kind of literature did you find?
  • Results
    • Did the literature you found change your opinion on the topic?
    • Did you find out something new?
    • What were the key concepts?
  • and Discussion
    • Evaluate and summarize the major concepts
    • Connect the major concepts to future research potential

While the structure above may be sufficient for your topic, you may also consider using the similar but more robust structure IAMRDC, or:

  • Introduction
  • Aim
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion

Review Types & Methodologies


Kysh, Lynn (2013): Difference between a systematic review and a literature review. [figshare]. Available at: