Migraine Term of the Day: Literature Review

Patient Expert & Health Professional
Medically Reviewed

Writer’s note: Some of you have expressed an interest in learning more of the medical terminology that comes up when discussing Migraine disease and other headache disorders. So I’ve joined Teri in posting a “term of the day” on a regular basis.

When you’re looking at migraine and headache information, whether it’s from your doctor, a book, or an online article, you most likely come across medical terms that can be confusing. Sometimes, it’s easy enough to substitute another word or a short phrase for the medical term. At other times, substituting just doesn’t convey quite the same meaning or takes more than a few words.

"Literature review" is one of those terms. It’s an important term for patients with Migraine to understand, especially for when trying to make sense of research.


Unlike a clinical trial, a literature review does not recruit participants to test a treatment or compare treatments. Instead, researchers take a second look at earlier studies. A literature review consolidates known information about a given topic. This unique research design offers learning opportunities not available from clinical trials.

A literature review can

  • confirm results, call results into question, or shed light on the relative strength of each individual study
  • offer valuable insight that leads to new areas of inquiry in future studies
  • clarify the relative strength or weakness of scientific support for the treatment or concept being reviewed

Here’s an example of how it’s used in a sentence:

“It should come as a relief that, according to a 2013 literature review in Headache, people with Migraine of any type are not at increased risk for cognitive decline.”

This tells us important things about the study:

  • There were no participants.
  • Multiple, previously-conducted studies were examined.
  • The conclusions are based on the combined data from all included studies.

See more helpful articles:

Migraine Treatments: The Basics of Clinical Studies

Clinical Trials: FAQ

Migraine Medical Terms Glossary Index