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NRG 5005: Evidence Based Practice for Advanced Nursing Practice Guide: Identifying Articles

Literature Review Vs. Empirical Research

One of the BIGGEST mistakes many Oak Point Students make when looking for articles for the first time is choosing a literature review as her/his article when the professor has asked for a research study. 

  • Literature reviews are evaluations of materials/research that have already been published. A literature review's reference page can be used to locate the original research studies. If you can only find literature reviews on your topic, use the review to your advantage in finding research studies, but don’t mistake the review for a research study! Hint: most lit reviews have the word REVIEW in the title of the article.


  • Empirical (research) studies are reports of original research. One of the easiest ways of locating a research study is locating the stages of the scientific method used during the research. If you find an article that has an abstract broken into sections, such as: background, methods, results, and conclusion, this is most likely a research study, but read the abstract to verify that it is not a literature review.

Below is an example of a Literature Review: 


Below is an example of a Research Study:

(look for abstract keywords: background, subjects, participants, method, conclusion, etc.)

Qualitative Vs. Quantitative

What about identifying quantitative works verses qualitative works? Click on the PDF below for your viewing pleasure!


Identifying whether an article is evidence-based can be a bit tricky!


Ask yourself if the article you are reading falls into these categories. If so, they are evidence-based!

Studies can be descriptive (or observational), such as :

  • case reports (a detailed description of a single case) 

  • case series (descriptions of groups of patients with a disease

  • cohort studies defined populations which are followed in an attempt to determine distinguishing subgroup characteristics)

Studies can be evaluative (interventional), such as as:

  • randomized/controlled clinical trials (a clinical trial involving one or more test treatments, at least one control treatment, specified outcome measures for evaluating the studied intervention, and a bias-free method for assigning patients to the test treatment)