How to do (or not to do) a critical literature review


  • Jill Jesson Policy Studies & Services Management, Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK
  • Fiona Lacey Pharmacy Practice Group, Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK


Critical literature review, postgraduate studies, systematic review, literature search


More and more students are required to perform a critical literature review as part of their undergraduate or postgraduate studies. Whilst most of the latest research methods textbooks advise how to do a literature search, very few cover the literature review. This paper covers two types of review: a critical literature review and a systematic review.


Brugha, R., & Varvasovsky, Z. (2000). Stakeholder analysis: A review. Health Policy Planning, 15(3), 239–246.

Burtonwood, A., Hinchcliffe, A., & Tinkler, G. (1998). A prescription for quality: A role for the clinical pharmacist in general practice. Pharmaceutical Journal, 261, 678–680.

Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ (CTT) Collaboration (2005). Efficacy and safety of cholesterol-lowering treatment: Prospec- tive meta-analysis of data from 90,056 participants in 14 randomised trials of statins. Lancet, 366(9493), 1267–1278.

Davies, P. (2003). The magenta book chapter 2. Systematic reviews for policy evaluation, Fink, A. (2005). Conducting research literature reviews, from the

internet to paper, 2nd ed. London: Sage.

Goldstein, R., Hulme, H., & Willits, J. (1997). Reviewing repeat prescribing—general practitioners and community pharmacists working together. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 6, 60–66.

Granas, A. G., & Bates, I. (1997). The effect of pharmaceutical review of repeat prescriptions in general practice. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 7, 264–275.

Hart, C. (1998). Doing a literature review. London: Sage.

Hart, C. (2001). Doing a literature search. London: Sage.

Jankowitz, A. D. (1995). Business research projects. London: Chapman Hill. In Saunders M., Lewis P., & Thornhill A. (2000) Research methods in business studies. Harlow: Prentice Hall.

Jesson, J., & Bissell, P. (2006). Public health and pharmacy—a critical review. Critical Public Health, 9 (1), in press.

Khan, K. S., Kunz, R., Kleijnen, J., & Antes, G. (2003). Systematic reviews to support evidence-based medicine. In Petti (Ed.), Meta- analysis, decision analysis and cost effectiveness analysis. Methods in quantitative synthesis in medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Khan, S. K., Popay, J., & Kleijnen, J. (2001). Undertaking systematic reviews on research and effectiveness. New York: CRD.


Krska, J., Cromarty, J. A., Arris, F., Jamieson, D., & Handsford, D. (2000). Providing pharmaceutical care using a systematic approach. Pharmaceutical Journal, 265, 650–660.

Li Wan Po, A. (1997). A practical guide to undertaking a systematic review. Pharmaceutical Journal, 258, 518–520.

Macinko, J. A., & Starfield, B. (2002). Annotated bibliography on equity in health. International Journal For Equity in Health, 1 (1),

Mackie, C. A., Lawson, D. H., Campbell, A., Maclaren, A. G., & Waight, R. A. (1999). A randomised controlled trail of medication review in patients receiving polypharmacy in general practice. Pharmaceutical Journal, 265, R7.

National Prescribing Centre and NHSE. (1998). Prescribing support: A resource document and guide for the new NHS. Liverpool: National Prescribing centre.

Sykes, D., Westwood, P., & Gillingham, J. (1996). Development of a review programme for repeat prescription medicines. Pharma- ceutical Journal, 256, 458–460.

Wilson, K. A., & Jesson, J. (2003). Dispensing activity in a community pharmacy-based repeat dispensing pilot project. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 11, 225–232.

Wilson, K. A., Jesson, J., Langley, C. A., Clarke, L., & Hatfield, K. (2005). MPharm programmes: Where are we now? A report for the pharmacy practice research trust. London: RPSGB. research.

Zermansky, A. G., Petty, D. R., Raynor, D. K., Freemantle, N., Vail, N., & Lowe, C. J. (2001). Randomised controlled trial of clinical medication review by a pharmacist of elderly patients receiving repeat prescriptions in general practice. British Medical Journal, 323, 1340–1343.



Research Article