Skip to Main Content
Library Guides

Systematic Reviews

Systematic literature review


Sometimes when undertaking a literature review, you may be required to take a systematic approach. This approach may require you to use elements of a 'systematic review', demonstrating that you have approached your review logically and with a set out plan. Some parts of this guide, therefore, may be useful, but others may not be required.

A systematic literature search is often less rigorous in comparison to a full systematic review and less time intensive - usually completed within a couple of months. The scope is also usually much narrower and less evidence exhaustive than a systematic review where you would be expected to find all published and unpublished material.

It is important to recognise the difference between a systematic review and a systematic literature review. The terms can often be used interchangeably. It is advisable to speak to the tutor that set the task if you are uncertain the level of detail you may require.

Common characteristics

  • Set as part of an assignment or end of year dissertation or research project, usually taking between one and three months to complete.
  • Requires the use of multiple sources of information, such as multiple online databases, but there is some selectivity in the resources and databases used and excluded.
  • Does not often include grey or unpublished literature, drawing mainly on subscribed library resources.
  • Uses both qualitative, quantitative and mix methods primary research material.
  • Some limited justification for the inclusion and exclusion of search results, but not extensive.
  • Some basic recording of search results, usually in a table or series of tables, depending on databases searched.
  • Search results often form the basis of a narrative based discussion.