Review Approaches

Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) is the most used set of guidelines for the reporting of systematic reviews.

For reviews of quantitative studies, this account of a systematic quantitative literature review is valuable.

In terms of learning how to do a systematic review, apart from paint by the numbers advice sheets, the best approach is to learn from those who have done systematic reviews. That is, you learn from people who have done them, perhaps lots of them. This will mean reading, a lot of it to get a feel for how it is done. The only problem with reports of systematic reviews, despite the act that good ones explain pretty much all that was done, what you don't see is that messy state/space that they were in at the beginning and that you will be in at the beginning of your research.

It's OK for it to be messy. What a systematic review does is tidy a lot of different research reports into something that can be read as a whole, something less messy and something much better than simply lumping all the papers together and saying "well there is the pile, go for it, make sense for it yourself.

This is why it is so important that you think aloud in your notebooks. Write down your puzzles, confusions and all the ideas that waft in and out of your mind as you read different papers.

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