What is a Literature Review?

It is becoming increasingly important for registered nurses to assume a leadership role in a changing health care system.



Assignments 2 & 3

Value: 40% each
Submit assignment via link in the Assessment section of the course home page
Due Date : Negotiable (suggested completion after Units 4 and 8)


It is becoming increasingly important for registered nurses to assume a leadership role in a changing health care system. Hence, registered nurses must be able to assess and act to fulfill their own learning needs in order to work to their full scope of practice. To complete this assignment, consider an issue or trend in nursing or health care and choose one of the options from the bulleted list below. Your papers must be scholarly in presentation, reflective of course content, and although they may be related to one another, they must not be duplications.

The following is a brief description of each type of paper/project. Please refer to the assignment expectations assessment section below for a detailed description of each type of paper/project.
Note: There is a 10 page limit for all written papers excluding title and reference pages. (with the exception of the professional portfolio):

Paper/Project Options:

  • Position Paper: presents an arguable position on an issue with the goal of convincing the audience that this position is valid. The position paper is related to course content; be clear as to difference between a position paper, discussion paper, and an issue paper
  • Discussion Paper: discusses a situation or dilemma representing a variety of views; consists of a reasoned defense of the recommendations. The discussion paper is related to course content; for example one could frame a question and then proceed with discussion of the answer.
  • Issue Paper: presents a balanced view of a situation or dilemma in which both sides of the situation are clearly articulated. The issue paper is related to course content that follows the framework from your textbook – Framing and Analyzing the Issue.
  • Literature Review:is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers; the purpose is to convey to what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, including the strengths and weaknesses. The literature review is related to course content.
  • Website Critique:: is a formalized, critical appraisal of a website; the goal is to turn critical reading into a systematic evaluation in order to deepen insight into that website. This is an analysis of several (5-7) interesting Web sites that relate to a particular issue and or take a position on that issue. Critique the verifiability of information in each web site including the authority of the Web site. Compare and contrast how the issue is presented, and provide an executive summary of each Web site.
  • Professional Portfolio: is a convenient system to tell the story of one’s career. It might include: original documents (e.g. resume/curriculum vitae, professional association memberships, license/board results), supporting materials (e.g. letters of recommendation, publications, presentations, certifications, job descriptions, evaluations), and collateral pieces (e.g. thank you letters, articles and books you have read). This is a beginning professional portfolio. Portfolio should not exceed a 15 page limit including title page and any appendices (this page limit is an exception to the 10 pages as stated above).

Assignments Expectations


What is a Position Paper


A position paper presents an arguable opinion about an issue. The goal of a position paper is to convince the audience that your opinion is valid and worth listening to. Ideas that you are considering need to be carefully examined in choosing a topic, developing your argument, and organizing your paper. It is very important to ensure that you are addressing all sides of the issue and presenting it in a manner that is easy for your audience to understand. Your job is to take one side of the argument and persuade your audience that you have well-founded knowledge of the topic being presented. It is important to support your argument with evidence to ensure the validity of your claims, as well as to address the counterclaims to show that you are well informed about both sides.

Writing a Position Paper

Issue Criteria

To take a side on a subject, you should first establish the arguability of a topic that interests you. Ask yourself the following questions to ensure that you will be able to present a strong argument:

  • Is it a real issue, with genuine controversy and uncertainty?
  • Can you distinctly identify two positions?
  • Are you personally interested in advocating one of these positions?
  • Is the issue narrow enough to be manageable?

Analyzing an Issue and Developing an Argument

Once your topic is selected, you should do some research on the subject matter. While you may already have an opinion on your topic and an idea about which side of the argument you want to take, you need to ensure that your position is well supported. Listing out the pro and con sides of the topic will help you examine your ability to support your counterclaims, along with a list of supporting evidence for both sides. Supporting evidence includes the following:

  • Factual knowledge – Information that is verifiable and agreed upon by almost everyone.
  • Statistical Inferences – Interpretation and examples of an accumulation of facts.
  • Informed Opinion – Opinion developed through research and/or expertise of the claim.
  • Personal Testimony – Personal experience related by a knowledgeable party.

In considering your audience, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your topic interesting?
  • Can you manage the material within the specifications set by the tutor?
  • Does your topic assert something specific and propose a plan of action?
  • Do you have enough material to support an opinion?


Your introduction should lead up to a thesis that organizes the rest of your paper. There are three advantages to leading with the thesis:

  • The audience knows where you stand.
  • The thesis is located in the two strongest places, first and last.
  • It is the most common form of academic argument used.

Generic Sample Outline for a Position Paper


  • Introduce the topic
  • Provide background on the topic
  • Assert the thesis [your view on the issue]

Counter Argument

  • Summarize the counterclaims
  • Provide supporting information for counterclaims
  • Refute the counterclaims
  • Give evidence for argument

Your Argument

  • Assert point #1 of your claims
  • Give your opinion
  • Provide support
  • Assert point #2 of your claims
  • Give your opinion
  • Provide support
  • Assert point #3 of your claims
  • Give your opinion
  • Provide support


  • Restate your argument
  • Provide a plan of action

[Reference: University of Hawaii-West O’ahu. (1998). Writing a position paper. UHWO Writing Center]


What is a Discussion Paper


A discussion paper is a formal discourse or exposition on a topic in which there is an exchange of views culled from the literature. A discussion paper differs from a position paper in that a discussion paper consists of the reasoned defense of your recommendations. In order to offer your own recommendations on an issue, you must present a variety of opinions or recommendations based on the literature. Your goal in writing a discussion paper is to formulate and share your own opinions so that your recommendations are a natural extension of your paper.


Writing a Discussion Paper


There are a variety of things a discussion paper can aim to accomplish. Many features of good discussion writing invite comparison and contrast of specific authors, clinical practice, or different interpretations of a nursing issue, such as telehealth. Discussing the significance of both what is common and what is different will prompt you and the reader to new insights.

A good discussion paper is modest, and makes a small point, but it makes that point clearly and succinctly, and it offers good reasons in support of it. In other words, your paper must offer recommendations. It can’t consist in the mere report of your opinions, nor in a mere report of the opinions of the authors you discuss.

A discussion paper usually begins by putting some thesis or argument on the table for consideration. Then it goes on to do one or two of the following:

  • Criticize that argument; or show that certain arguments for the thesis are no good
  • Defend the argument or thesis against someone else’s criticism
  • Offer reasons to believe the thesis
  • Offer counter-examples to the thesis
  • Contrast the strengths and weaknesses of two opposing views about the thesis
  • Give examples which help explain the thesis, or which help to make the thesis more plausible
  • Argue that certain authors are committed to the thesis by their other views, though they do not come out and explicitly endorse the thesis
  • Discuss what consequences the thesis would have, if it were true
  • Revise the thesis, in the light of some objection

Your paper has to show some independent thinking. Try to come up with your own arguments, or your own way of elaborating or criticizing or defending some issue we looked at in this course. Merely summarizing what others have said won’t be enough.


Proposed Outline of a Discussion Paper





  • Briefly highlight the most salient points of your topic
  • State your main thesis on the topic for discussion




  • Provide background information from the literature on your general topic area


Definition And Scope


  • Provide a definition of your topic Outline the scope of the topic-does this affect all of Canada, or just your province or your health care region? Explain.
  • How do nurses or the health care system factor into the topic?


Benefits And Challenges


  • Describe the benefits to nurses or the health care system
  • Describe the challenges that nurses [or other health care providers] face in this topic
  • What does the literature say about the benefits and challenges?


Impact And Implications


  • What is the impact on nurses or the health care system?
  • How will this affect human resource management?
  • What other implications do you foresee; what does the literature say about implications?




  • What do you think needs to be done next?
  • Who do you think should be involved?
  • What are the recommendations from the literature?
  • Would you agree or disagree with the literature and why?




  • Restate your thesis
  • Provide a summary of your recommendations

People very often attempt to accomplish too much in a discussion paper. The usual result of this is a paper that’s hard to read, and which is full of inadequately defended and poorly explained claims. So don’t be over-ambitious. Don’t try to establish any earth-shattering conclusions in your paper.

[Reference: Pryor, J. (2004). Guidelines on writing a philosphy paper. Princeton University.]


What is an Issue Paper?


An issue paper differs from a position paper or a discussion paper in that an issue paper consists of a balanced view of a situation or dilemma in which both sides of the situation are clearly articulated. Because authors will often disagree about the kinds of solutions that should be implemented in remedying the situation or dilemma, you are expected to provide an overview of the various points of view found in the literature regarding how this issue should be resolved. Based on your literature review, you will be expected to discuss how you believe this issue should be resolved and provide your own rationale.


Writing an Issue Paper



Searching The Literature


In writing an issue paper you will be expected to search for a variety of literature resources. Relying on your course textbooks or the material in your study guide is not sufficient. You will be expected to search through the Athabasca University Online Library database (you may also use the online Library from another University if you have access), and you may also use the Internet to search through any of the online scholarly databases. In addition, there are many links to articles and online databases in this resources site which you may use.


Defining the Issue


Once you have a sound understanding of your topic, you will need to clearly define the issue. Recall that an issue has two sides so your definition of the issue should include a balanced view.

For example: The electronic patient record has many advantages such as a time saver, clarity, and accessibility, but it also comes with the challenges associated with security, increased financial costs, and implementation problems. Your issue statement might be: Even though there are significant benefits to an electronic record, not every health region has the financial resources to implement the proper security protocols necessary to ensure patient privacy.


Framework of Your Issue Paper





  • Introduce your issue
  • Identify both sides of the issue
  • Provide an issue definition
  • Discuss the significance of the issue for nursing


Body of Paper


  • Describe your own opinions and beliefs about this issue
  • Analysis of the issue is completed through discussion of appropriate frameworks
  • Barriers to resolution are identified
  • Possible resolution strategies are explored




  • Briefly summarize your findings and give directions for future research, or recommendations for further study

[Reference: Pryor, J. (2004). Guidelines on writing a philosphy paper. Princeton University.]


What is a Literature Review?


A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers.

In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (e.g., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries.


Writing a Literature Review


A literature review is a piece of discursive prose, not a list describing or summarizing one piece of literature after another. It’s usually a bad sign to see every paragraph beginning with the name of a researcher. Instead, organize the literature review into sections that present themes or identify trends, including relevant theory. You are not trying to list all the material published, but to synthesize and evaluate it according to the guiding concept of your thesis or research question.

  • to identify gaps in the literature
  • to avoid reinventing the wheel (at the very least this will save time and it can stop you from making the same mistakes as others)
  • to carry on from where others have already reached (reviewing the field allows you to build on the platform of existing knowledge and ideas)
  • to identify other people working in the same fields (a researcher network is a valuable resource)
  • to increase your breadth of knowledge of your subject area
  • to identify seminal works in your area
  • to provide the intellectual context for your own work, enabling you to position your project relative to other work
  • to identify opposing views
  • to put your work into perspective
  • to demonstrate that you can access previous work in an area
  • to identify information and ideas that may be relevant to your project
  • to identify methods that could be relevant to your project


Framework for a Literature Review





  • Define the topic, or issue to provide context for reviewing the literature.
  • Identify trends, conflicts, or gaps in the literature.
  • Describe your thesis and reason for reviewing the literature;
  • Explain the criteria used in analyzing and comparing literature, and state the scope of the review.


Body of Paper


  • Group research studies and other types of literature according to a central theme or topic. For example:
    • current mainstream versus alternative theoretical or ideological viewpoints, including differing theoretical assumptions, or other conflicts;
    • definitions in use;
    • current research studies;
    • current discoveries about the topic;
    • principal questions that are being asked;
    • general conclusions that are being drawn;
    • methodologies and methods in use;


Discussion of Findings


  • Organize your findings according to your thesis
  • What were the most important points you learned?
  • What is your position based on the findings of your review?




  • Summarize your major findings and identify gaps in the literature, maintaining the focus established in the introduction.
  • Conclude by providing some insight into the relationship between the central topic of the literature review and the nursing profession.




The aim of these papers is for you to show that you understand the material and that you’re able to think critically about it. To do this, your paper does have to show some independent thinking.

But you should try to come up with your own arguments, or your own way of elaborating or criticizing or defending some issue we looked at in this course. Merely summarizing what the literature has said won’t be enough.

[Reference: Hopkins, G. (1999). How to write a literature review. School of Health Sciences, University of Otago, New Zealand.]


What is a Website Critique?


A critique is a formalized, critical appraisal of a website. It is also a personal response to that site, but it is more than just saying you liked the site or you thought a site was great. Your goal in writing a critique is to turn your critical reading into a systematic evaluation in order to deepen your reader’s (and your own) insight of that website.

When writing a critique of a website, you are expected to analyze and evaluate, not just summarize. A summary merely reports what is or is not in a website; that is, it answers only the question, “What did the website contain?” A critique, on the other hand, analyzes, interprets, and evaluates the website, answering the questions how, why, and how well?

A critique does not necessarily have to criticize the piece in a negative sense. Your reaction to the site may be largely positive, negative, or a combination of the two. It is important to explain why you respond to the site in a certain way. Therefore, you have an obligation, both to the reader and yourself, to clarify your opinions.

Defend your point of view/argument by raising specific issues or aspects of the argument. Explain how the section you might use from the site supports your argument. Your personal response to your assessment should not be the expression of an unsupported or irrelevant personal opinion. Your interpretations and your conclusions must be based on evidence from the site and follow from the ideas you have dealt with in the paper.


Framing Your Critique





Introduces the nursing or health care issue or trend. Introduces the websites and presents a brief executive summaryof each web site. Clearly articulates the thesis.


Analysis of the Website


Analyzes each web site according to the authorship of the site using the following guide from Johns Hopkins University, Sheridan Libraries.

Analyzes each web site according the verifiability or accuracy of the information found within the site using the following guide from Johns Hopkins University, Sheridan Libraries.

Compares and contrasts how the information is presented in each site using the following questions as a guide.

  • Does the content effectively offer sufficient information related to the issue? In what way?
  • Does the content appear to be complete, is well organized, and is easy to understand? How?
  • Is the content free of bias, or can the bias be easily detected? In what way?
  • Does the information appear to be accurate based on user’s previous knowledge of subject? Explain.
  • Is the information consistent with similar information in other sources? Which ones and in what way?


How Do the Sites Stand Up to the Overall Analysis?


Now it is your turn to respond to the critique itself. In other words, what is your general interpretation of your findings? With which parts of the sites do you agree? With which do you disagree? Discuss your reasons for agreement and disagreement, and tie these reasons to your findings from your analysis. Discuss how the authors of the sites might improve their site and explain your reasons for these improvements.




State your conclusions about the overall validity of the information found, and your assessment of the choices you made in selecting the web sites. Remind the reader about the thesis and how well you believe your selections augmented or detracted from your thesis.




Behrens, L. (Ed.). (1994). Writing and reading across the curriculum (p. 73-74). New York: Harper Collins.

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