Literature and systematic reviews

Literature reviews

All research, whatever the discipline, needs to be situated in relation to what has already been done in the field.

Reviewing the literature helps you:

  • find out what is already known about a topic in order to locate gaps and justify the research being undertaken
  • locate the work of important theorists whose ideas will inform the research
  • identify useful methodologies, methods and documentary sources

It is important to be systematic in your approach. This includes developing a plan for your search, and keeping records of the searches you carry out.

Systematic reviews

Systematic review is a type of literature review. Unlike other forms of review, where authors can include any articles they consider appropriate, a systematic review aims to remove the reviewer's biases by following a clearly defined, transparent process.

There are a number of steps in the process, and each needs to be documented effectively to ensure the process can be replicated by others in the future.