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Homepage / Systematic Literature Review – Where do I begin?

Systematic Literature Review – Where do I begin?


books open on a desk

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 the School of Management (SOM) Library and the Kings Norton Library have several books which offer guidance on how to conduct or approach a structured or systematic literature review.  Check out the reading list or use Library Search to identify books on the topic, shelf mark 3.001.  Popular titles are:

  • Doing a systematic review: A student’s guide – Boland, A., Cherry, G. M., & Dickson, R.
  • The literature review: A step-by-step guide – Ridley, D
  • Systematic approaches to a successful literature review – Booth, A., Papaioannou, D., & Sutton, A.
  • Conducting research literature reviews: From the internet to paper – Fink, A.
  • Doing a literature review: Releasing the social science research imagination – Hart, C.

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

  • Tranfield, D., Denyer, D., & Smart, P. (2003). Towards a methodology for developing evidence-informed management knowledge by means of systematic review. British Journal of Management, 14(3), 207-222.

Further articles and guides can be found by searching our databases, such as Scopus, Web of Science, ProQuest One Business (includes ABI/INFORM), EBSCO Business Source Complete and Sage Research Methods. There is also guidance on our website for writing your thesis and conducting a literature review which will take you through the steps of the systematic literature review.

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.  Non-restricted Masters and Doctoral theses can be found in our Masters Theses Archive (MSc) and in CERES our institutional repository (DBA, PhD and MRes).

In both you can find relevant theses by searching for “systematic literature review” in the search box. It is also worth trying “systematic review” as this may retrieve a few additional results.  It is also worth trying “systematic review” as this may retrieve a few additional results.

Search results in CERES

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 defining your research question, selecting your sources, identifying your own search terms and how to construct your search strings to ensure that your literature review really is systematic.

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 the Library.

Feature image from Pixabay

Ruth Knowles

Written By: Ruth Knowles

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