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Systematic literature reviews for education and social sciences

A guide to conducting a systematic literature review in the Education discipline

Different types of literature review

Different types of literature reviews

Narrative or Traditional literature reviews

Narrative or Traditional literature reviews critique and summarise a body of literature about the thesis topic.  The literature is researched from the relevant databases and is generally very selective in the material used. The criteria for literature selection for a narrative review is not always made open to the reader. These reviews are very useful in gathering and synthesising the literature located. The principle purpose of a narrative review is the give the author and reader a comprehensive overview of the topic and to highlight significant areas of research, narrative reviews can help to identify gaps in the research and help to refine and define research questions. Where a narrative approach differs from a systematic approach is in the notation of search methods criteria for selection,this can leave narrative reviews open to suggestions of bias. 

Scoping Reviews

A scoping review is quite similar to a Systematic literature review. The key difference being that there are no restrictions on the materials resourced. The purpose of the scoping review is to find ALL the materials on the topic. When undertaking a scoping review it is important to systematise your search strategies to ensure you can replicate your searches and to attend to any gaps that appear in results. 

When reading and sorting the results, again apply some of the measures used in a systematic review so that your search results are sorted by key themes and well organised. 

Systematic Quantitative Literature Review

Catherine Pickering, academic staff member of Griffith University has been instrumental in developing and promoting the Systematic Quantitative Literature Review.

Pickering Systematic Quantitative literature review 

The Pickering method web page is a thorough guide to the systematic literature review process and contains links to videos and examples of:

  • How to set up a systematic quantitative literature review 
  • How to develop review criteria categories
  • How to record criteria data with spreadsheets
  • How to undertake analysis of the literature

Creators of this guide acknowledge the influence of Catherine Pickering's method. 

Cochrane Reviews

Cochrane Reviews

Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognised as the highest standard in evidence-based health care. They investigate the effects of interventions for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. They also assess the accuracy of a diagnostic test for a given condition in a specific patient group and setting.

Campbell Collaboration

Campbell Collaboration The Campbell Collaboration is an international research network that produces systematic reviews of the effects of social interventions in Crime & Justice, Education, International Development, and Social Welfare.