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Exercise & Nutrition Sciences: Literature Review

Web Resources

What is a literature review?

A literature review is a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of published information on a subject area. Conducting a literature review demands a careful examination of a body of literature that has been published that helps answer your research question (See PICO). Literature reviewed includes scholarly journals, scholarly books, authoritative databases, primary sources and grey literature.

A literature review attempts to answer the following:

  • What is known about the subject?
  • What is the chronology of knowledge about my subject?
  • Are there any gaps in the literature?
  • Is there a consensus/debate on issues?


  1. Create a clear research question/statement
  2. Define the scope of the review include limitations
    (i.e. gender, age, location, nationality...)
  3. Search existing literature including classic works on your topic and grey literature
  4. Evaluate results and the evidence
    (Avoid discounting information that contradicts your research)
  5. Track and organize references

Suggested Search Terms:


  • Athletic injuries OR Sports Injuries
  • Injured athletes
  • Psychology of injury
  • Recovery from sports
  • Recovery of Function
  • Rehabilitation
  • Reinjury
  • Return-to-play
  • Return to Sport

Performance & Training

  • Athletic Performance
  • Competitive Behavior
  • Competition
  • Physical Training
  • Physical Conditioning
  • Task Performance
  • Sport Psychology
  • Coach* OR Athletic Coaches
  • Self Efficacy


The PICO model can help you formulate a good clinical question. Sometimes it's referred to as PICO-T, containing an optional 5th factor. 

 P - Patient,  Population, or  Problem

 What are the most important characteristics of the   patient?

 How would you describe a group of patients similar to   yours?

 I - Intervention,  Exposure,  Prognostic Factor

 What main intervention, prognostic factor, or exposure   are you considering?

 What do you want to do for the patient (prescribe a  drug, order a test, etc.)?

 C - Comparison  What is the main alternative to compare with the   intervention? 
 O - Outcome  What do you hope to accomplish, measure, improve, or   affect?
 T - Time Factor,  Type of Study  (optional)

 How would you categorize this question?

 What would be the best study design to answer this   question? 

Seminal Works: Search Key Indexing/Citation Databases

TIPS – How to Locate Seminal Works

  • DO NOT: Limit by date range or you might overlook the seminal works
  • DO: Look at highly cited references (Seminal articles are frequently referred to “cited” in the research)

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