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An Intro to Literature Reviews for Clinical Research Training

Before diving into primary research, a responsible researcher will examine, evaluate, and synthesize what has already been published on the subject by writing a literature review. This article provides a succinct overview of the relevant findings on a given topic and helps researchers identify relevant frameworks for their upcoming project.

Although many researchers are eager to launch new clinical trials after completing their training, it is imperative to conduct a literature review first. Understanding literature reviews will help you maximize originality, relevance, and impact in your future research career.

What Is the Purpose of Literature Reviews After Clinical Research Training?

All phases of the research process require a comprehensive understanding of the current literature, so it is essential for future researchers to understand the value of literature reviews after clinical research training. Literature reviews will help you:

  • Identify new ideas
  • Understand context
  • Decide which research methodologies to use
  • Avoid duplicate research
  • Adhere to professional standards

Conducting a literature review also helps clinical researchers set actionable goals, adequately prepare for the study, and present relevant findings. 

Understanding the findings from prior research can help you set more accurate hypotheses

The Types of Literature Reviews You’ll Encounter 

There are many ways to conduct a literature review. One of the most popular types is a meta-analysis, which combines data from a variety of research studies. 

A systematic review, by contrast, assesses all research studies on a particular topic using specific criteria. This type of literature review requires a highly structured method of finding and organizing relevant sources.

After completing your clinical research diploma, you will also encounter a variety of different study types that are found in literature reviews, including:

  • Randomized controlled trials
  • Case-control studies
  • Cohort studies
  • Case reports and series
  • Cross-sectional studies

    Different types of clinical study designs help uncover different types of information

    Locating & Organizing the Literature

    The first step of conducting a literature review is determining which sources you are going to cite. There are three main resources that researchers can use to find the appropriate studies for their review:

    • Human resources: librarians, colleagues
    • Search tools: research databases, search engines
    • Existing literature: related articles

    By making use of these resources, you will efficiently find the information you need. But where do you begin? 

    Consulting a medical librarian is generally a good place to start, as they can help you create an effective research strategy. From there, you can use databases, search engines, and related sources to narrow in on your research interests.

    Once you have gathered the relevant information, the next step is to organize it. To understand the bigger picture, you will often analyze more sources than you actually need for your literature review. To condense the information you have gathered, define which parts (such as methods, participants, settings, and outcomes) are most important. Then, create a strategy for organizing these materials.

    Digital tools can help researchers record and organize information

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