A Systematic Literature Review (SLR) is a type of research method used in the field of academia to gather, analyse, and synthesise a large body of literature on a specific topic. Consequently, the goal of an SLR is to present a thorough, thorough, and current review of the current status of research on a specific topic. Additionally, the SLR process entails formulating a research topic, creating a systematic search strategy, and using defined criteria to critically assess the calibre and applicability of the studies identified. Thus, gaps in the existing literature, trends, and conclusions concerning the subject of the inquiry are all determined by the results of the systematic literature review.

Moreover, the SLR is considered a rigorous and transparent method for synthesising evidence. Also, it is often used to inform policy or practice. Additionally, students often get stuck while using this research method. Thus, this guide will help you comprehend SLR better.

Systematic Literature Review

What is the Purpose of a Systematic Literature Review?

  • A systematic review of literature aims to provide a comprehensive, rigorous and up-to-date synthesis of the existing literature on a specific topic or research question. Moreover, this method is designed to minimise bias and increase the validity and reliability of the findings.
  • The first step in conducting an SLR is to define the research question or topic to be reviewed. This is followed by developing a systematic search strategy, which involves using multiple databases and sources to identify relevant studies. Thus, once the studies have been identified, they are subjected to a rigorous quality assessment using explicit criteria, such as the study design, sample size, and potential sources of bias. However, only studies that meet the predetermined criteria are included in the final synthesis.
  • The results of a systematic literature review can be used to identify gaps in the existing literature, identify trends and patterns in the findings, and draw conclusions about the topic under investigation. Additionally, the findings of the SLR can also inform policy and practice, providing a comprehensive and evidence-based foundation for decision-making.
  • SLRs are often utilised in a wide range of fields, including healthcare, education, and social sciences. They are beneficial in areas where there is a large and growing body of literature and where the evidence is complex and multi-disciplinary. Additionally, the SLR provides a robust and transparent method for synthesising the existing evidence and is considered a critical tool for advancing knowledge and informing decision-making.
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What Are the Pros and Cons of a Systematic Review of Literature?

Some advantages of a systematic literature review are:

Well-defined Research Question

SLRs start with a straightforward, concise research question that guides the entire review process.

Rigorous Search Strategy

SLRs use a comprehensive and rigorous search strategy to identify relevant studies. This includes using multiple databases, keywords, and other sources to ensure that all relevant literature is included. Additionally, students often need help understanding the formatting of an SLR. Thus, they seek assistance with our experts' systematic literature review methodology section.

Criteria for Inclusion/Exclusion

SLRs define explicit inclusion and exclusion criteria for studies. Thus this ensures that only high-quality, relevant studies are included in the review.

Quality Assessment

Systematic literature review critically evaluates the standard of the studies incorporated in the review, often using standardised quality assessment tools.

Data Extraction and Synthesis

In order to present a thorough overview of the current state of research on the subject, SLRs pull pertinent data from the papers included in the review and synthesise the findings.

Clear Presentation of Results

The systematic literature review presents the review results clearly and concisely, often using tables, figures, and narrative summaries to highlight key findings.

Critical Appraisal

SLRs critically appraise the studies included in the review, considering factors such as sample size, study design and potential sources of bias.

Some of the disadvantages of an SLR are:

Time-consuming

A systematic literature review is time-consuming, requiring a thorough search of multiple databases and a critical appraisal of the identified studies.

Resource-intensive

SLR is resource-intensive, requiring specialised skills, access to databases and resources, and significant time and effort to complete.

Difficulty in Identifying All Relevant Studies

A systematic literature review can be challenging in identifying all relevant studies, mainly if the research question is broad or there is a large volume of literature available.

Lack of Flexibility

SLR is a prescriptive process that can limit the flexibility and creativity of the researcher in exploring the literature and identifying new insights.

Overall, a Systematic literature review is a rigorous and transparent method for reviewing the literature, but it also requires significant time and resources to complete. Thus, it is a practical approach for synthesising existing research and providing a comprehensive understanding of the state of research on a specific topic.

What are the Common Types of Systematic Literature Reviews?

There are multiple types of systematic literature reviews. Now, let’s look at the most common ones below -

Effectiveness Reviews

This type of SLR precisely assesses the effectiveness of interventions, treatments, or programs in a particular field of study. Thus, they aim to recognise the pros and cons of the available evidence. This includes the impact of the intervention on a specific outcome and determining the level of evidence for the effectiveness of the intervention.

Diagnostic Test Accuracy Reviews

This refers to the systematic evaluation and assessment of the performance of diagnostic tests. These reviews typically involve the analysis of multiple studies conducted to assess the reliability of a specific diagnostic test. Furthermore, the accuracy of a diagnostic test is a measure of its potential to correctly recognise individuals with a specific condition or disease.

Methodology Systematic Reviews

A systematic literature review methodology can be conducted to examine any methodological problems with the planning, execution, or analysis of research investigations.

Experiential (Qualitative) Reviews

Experiential (qualitative) reviews are subjective evaluations of products or services. This is based on personal experiences and feelings rather than quantitative measurements or objective facts. Additionally, they are often written by customers or users who have used the product or service and aim to provide a detailed, in-depth description of what it is like to use the product and how it performs.

Psychometric Reviews

Psychometric reviews refer to the scientific evaluation of psychological tests and assessments. These tests and assessments measure a person's abilities, aptitudes, skills, personality, and other psychological traits. Thus, a psychometric review is an in-depth analysis of the properties of a test, such as its reliability, validity, and fairness.

What is PRISMA?

PRISMA is a collection of instructions and a checklist that offers a uniform and open method of publishing systematic reviews and meta-analyses. The PRISMA systematic review standards also seek to enhance the quality and completeness of reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses, enabling readers to evaluate the approaches and outcomes of these investigations critically.

The PRISMA directory consists of 27 items that cover different aspects of a systematic review. This includes study questions, inclusion and exclusion criteria, search strategies, data extraction and synthesis, study selection, risk of bias assessment, and dissemination of findings. Thus, by following the PRISMA systematic review guidelines and using the PRISMA checklist, authors can ensure that their systematic review provides a comprehensive and transparent description of the methods and results, which can enhance the validity and reliability of their findings.

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