Undertaking a systematic literature review can seem a bit daunting so breaking it down into separate stages is a good way to begin.  In this blog post we’re going to identify some background reading and show you how to find previous systematic literature reviews.

Useful background reading

Both MIRC and the Kings Norton Library have a number of books which offer guidance on how to conduct or approach a systematic literature review.  They can be identified by searching Library Search for systematic literature review and found on the shelves at 3.001.  Popular titles are:

  • Ridley, D. (2012) The literature review: A step-by-step guide. 2nd edn. London: Sage. (3.001 RID)
  • Booth, A., Papaioannou, D., and Sutton, A. (2012) Systematic approaches to a successful literature review. London: Sage.  (3.001 BOO)
  • Fink, A. (2014) Conducting research literature reviews: from the internet to paper. London: Sage. (3.001 FIN)
  • Hart, C. Doing a literature review: releasing the social science research imagination. London: Sage (3.001 HAR)

There are also some very good articles on the topic e.g.:

  • Tranfield, D., Denyer, D. and Smart, P. (2003) ‘Towards a Methodology for Developing Evidence-Informed Management Knowledge by Means of Systematic Review’. British Journal Of Management . 14(3), pp. 207-222. 10.1111/1467-8551.00375

Further articles and guides can be found by searching ABI/Inform, EBSCO Business Source Complete and Sage Research Methods.

Previous systematic literature reviews

Looking at previous systematic literature reviews is a really good way of understanding what is required and how the reviews should be structured and written up.  All non-restricted Masters and Doctoral theses can be found in our Masters Thesis Archive (MSc) and in CERES our institutional repository (DBA, PhD and MRes) .

In both of these you can find relevant theses by searching for “systematic literature review” in the search box – see below.


It is also worth trying “systematic review” as this may retrieve a few additional results.  You may decide that you wish to look at theses in your subject area but sometimes it can be helpful to look at theses on a different topic so that you concentrate on the structure and layout rather than the content.  The choice is yours!

Next steps…

Once you’ve had a look at these and found out what is required you’re ready to go onto the next stage.  This will be identifying your own search terms and how to construct your search strings in order to ensure that your literature review really is systematic.

Other blog posts you may find useful:

As always, if you have any questions on the systematic review or on any other area of your research, please do not hesitate to contact MIRC.