Literature Review

MY TOPIC: Racial and Health Disparities on Black Maternal Mortality
PICO: In African American pregnant women, do racial and health disparities lead to higher maternal mortality rates compared with pregnant Caucasian women?
Open to suggestion on Topic and PICO question.

Week 8 Assignment: PICO and Literature Review



A systematic process of reviewing the literature enables practitioners to assess the quality and quantity of available evidence addressing an important clinical question. Using pre-established eligibility criteria, evidence is systematically identified, evaluated, and synthesized to draw reliable and valid conclusions. Based on the findings of a systematic review, one may determine if the evidence supports a practice change. When the search is systematic, the threat of bias is reduced significantly.

Purpose: The purpose of this assignment is for you to start the process of developing a PICO question and basic literature search in response to a burning clinical question you may have. An advanced practitioner at any level should be able to perform a search that is systematic, thorough, transparent, and reproducible. These are the key elements that define a good systematic literature review.

Getting Started: In order to be systematic and thorough in finding literature, you must be knowledgeable and comfortable with performing searches using appropriate online databases. has a wealth of resources to assist you in your literature search, including online tutorials and in-person services. When meeting with a librarian, it is helpful to bring with you a clear description of your topic.] is our library contact for the School of Nursing. Many types of software exist [e.g., Zotero, Endnote, etc.]. Some allow you to only export the reference, while others allow you to export and save the pdf of the actual article. As you write your paper, the software may also help you insert references and citations automatically. Choose a management software that works for you. Zotero is citation management program that was developed by Mason and is available for free to its students and faculty.

Your Topic: Most of you may have a topic of interest that is specific to a population or health condition. Refine your topic by exploring the subject causally at first. As you read and understand the complexity of your clinical interest, your review topic should naturally become more specific. Ultimately, your systematic literature review will seek to answer an explicit question, posed using a PICO[T] format [P – population, I – intervention or issue of interest, C – comparison, O – outcome, optional: T – time].

Literature: Your literature review may include both primary [i.e., research reports] and secondary sources in its analysis. Secondary sources, such as systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and clinical practice guidelines/position papers are also great sources for background and can help you hone your search question. The Paper: The paper should adhere to APA format, including font, spacing, margins, title page, running head, page numbers, headings, citations, and references. You may write using first person [I, we, etc.] when discussing your search strategy if you prefer. All papers will be submitted to SafeAssign or similar plagiarism detection software.

The following is the suggested structure for your final paper.

  1. Title Page
  2. Background and problem identification– Provide background and significance of the problem being addressed. Background should also include how the key elements of the PICO[T] question are defined and operationalized. For significance, consider how this problem affects the patient, their family, and society [as appropriate]. Why is this important? How many people are affected? What is the financial impact? A focus on population health is encouraged—look to the Quad Aim or Healthy People 2020/2030 for ideas if you are struggling.
  3. Search Strategy – The search strategy should provide sufficient detail to ensure your search is reproducible. Provide your search terms and databases searched. If you end up excluding articles, write about what exclusion criteria you used.
  4. Appraisal: Provide a brief summary of the appraisal of the first five articles you find to be relevant. Write about the limitations of your search and how you would expand upon your search and appraisal to be more systematic if this was a larger assignment.
  5. References

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