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Physician Assistant Capstone Project (New Version)

Welcome to the New Physician Assistant (PA) Capstone Guide

What is a Literature Review?

  • In brief, a literature review is "a comprehensive survey of the works published in a particular field of study or line of research, usually over a specific period of time, in the form of an in-depth, critical bibliographic essay or annotated list in which attention is drawn to the most significant works" (Reitz JM, 2004).

A literature review synthesizes information

  • Synthesize, don't just summarize: often times, a literature review is not just a summary, but it is a synthesis, meaning that it is a "re-organization, or reshuffling, of that information" (Hale, nd) with the purpose of, in this case, evaluating the sources and advising the reader on an answer to a clinical question.
  • Additional resources:
    • Review Papers Library Guide: you  can read more about different types of literature reviews an how they fit into the context of Evidence Based Medicine on this guide.
    • EBM Resources: you can read more about how syntheses fit into the context of Evidence Based Medicine on the following guide, specifically in the sections about the "Processing of Evidence" and "6S Hierarchy Pyramid of Evidence". 

Why read and write literature reviews?

  • ‚ÄčIf you have limited time to read the most recent articles, you can read a literature review someone else has already written.
  • It's a good overview. If you're writing an academic paper.  It can be a great stepping stone to getting started
  • The content you learn from literature reviews and include in your paper provide a solid background for your paper's investigation and rationale.

What You Have Been Asked to Do

  • One purpose of this assignment is to gain and understanding (by doing) of how medical research is performed and eventually translated into the standard of care you deliver in your every day practice.
  • You are not being asked to write a systematic review which, would be the ideal form of a synthesis.
  • You are, however, being asked to write a synthesis based on a substantial enough (as determined by your capstone faculty advisor) number of primary studies to address a clinical question.

How the Library Can Help

  • Topic Selection: We can help you determine if there is enough published primary literature on your topic in order for you to write a substantive review (i.e., checking multiple databases to make sure you're not missing something). You may find yourself revising your topic when you start seeing what is and is not out there in the literature). 
  • Introduction and Background: we can direct you to the large variety of resources you need, including some general reference sources like encyclopedias, textbooks, monographs, seminal articles and peer-reviewed articles so that you can describe the condition you are writing about to your readers, explain the history of medical knowledge about the condition, and set the stage for the aspect of the condition that you will be exploring with your literature review.
  • Methodology: we can show you how to document and explain your search strategy including which search engines/ databases you used, your keywords, subject headings, sub-headings, and other controlled vocabulary.  You will also need to explain your inclusion/exclusion criteria and why you chose the type of literature (RCT, case report, literature review, book chapter, systematic review, meta-analysis, etc…) that you ultimately used in your paper.
  • AMA Citation Style: point you to resources to properly format your in-text citations, reference list, and appendix in the AMA (American Medical Association) Citation Style.

Topic Selection

  • We can help you determine if there is enough published primary literature on your topic in order for you to write a substantive review (i.e., checking multiple databases to make sure you're not missing something).
  • You may find yourself revising your topic when you start seeing what is and is not out there in the literature). 
  • Research is an iterative process. Your final search strategy will definitely be different the than your first one. 
  • Please keep the following in mind:
    • We can help you complete a comprehensive search (i.e. which resources to search (PubMed/MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, Cochrane, Trip, Accessss, ClinicalKey, journals, professional association websites, etc...) and what search strategies to use (keywords, phrases, specialized search terms, filters, limits, etc...)
    • We cannot approve your topic.  It is up to your course coordinator and content advisors to tell you is the topic is appropriate (i.e., has enough literature to write about, and is relevant in scope)

Background Section

  • We can help you find "authoritative" references to include in your paper. in their papers. While point-of-care tools and study aids provide reliable definitions and information about symptoms, diagnoses, treatment options and more, they are not "formal" enough to be used in your academic assignments.
    • Study aids or test review material like USMLE study guides and PANCE Pearls might present information in a way that is easy to understand, absorb, or even memorize, but they should not be used as reference information in the background sections of your paper.
    • Point-of-care reference tools like like UpToDate, DynaMed, Epocrates, and Medscape are meant to be used in the moment, while practicing medicine.
  • Additional resources:

Methodology Section

  • The methodology section should be the easiest part of the paper you write.  It should mention which resources you used to find your literature, your search terms, and how you screened your results. The way you screened your results could be as simple as limiting yourself to articles that, for example, were in English and published in the last five years. 
  • You may, however, have also chosen to eliminate articles upon reading their abstracts. fFr example, you may have determined that the quality of the research was not good or that the study only touched on part of what you were discussing, (i.e. compared one of your interventions to another intervention that you are not considering in your paper).
  • This section does not have to be very long. Keep it brief and concise.

AMA Citation Style

  • To  some extent, we can help you to understand how to use the AMA Citation Style when writing your paper.
  • Please keep the following in mind:
    • We can: point you to the AMA Citation Style Manual which is available online as an E-book; give you some insight into how to format your reference lists and in-text citations where the AMA Citation Manual is not ver clear (see the tabs about Reference Lists and In-Text Citations); show you how to use tools (called citation managers) that will automatically format your in-text citations and reference lists for you
    • We cannot: individually look at your paper and determine if your citations are correct. This is something that the writing center (see below) can do for you.
  • Additinal Resources:
    • AMA Citation Style Tips and Tricks Library Guide: here you can find some helpful information about citing online and print journals, as well as websites. This guide is currently under construction.
    • Citation Managers Comparison Library Guide: if you are interested in using a Citation Manager (software that will automatically format the in-text citations and list of references for you), we have a guide that explains these tools and compares your options (EndNote, Mendeley, RefWorks, and Zotero.
Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Medical Library
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