Background: In the past decade numerous changes in research methodology pertaining to reviews of the literature have occurred. These changes necessitate authors of review articles to be familiar with current standards in the publication process.
Methods: Narrative overview of the literature synthesizing the findings of literature retrieved from searches of computerized databases, hand searches, and authoritative texts.
Discussion: An overview of the use of three types of reviews of the literature is resented. Step by step instructions for how to conduct and write a narrative overview utilizing a ‘best-evidence synthesis’ approach are discussed, starting with appropriate preparatory work and ending with how to create proper illustrations. Several resources for creating reviews of the literature are presented and a narrative overview critical appraisal worksheet is included. A bibliography of other useful reading is presented in an appendix.
Conclusion: Narrative overviews can be a valuable contribution to the literature if prepared properly. New and experienced authors wishing to write a narrative overview should find this article useful in constructing such a paper and carrying out the research process. It is hoped that this article will stimulate scholarly dialog amongst colleagues about this research design and other complex literature review methods.
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