Systematic Literature Review (SLR)

What is a systematic literature review (SLR)? Is it different from a literature review?

Systematic Literature Review (SLR)

Let’s start with a very positive notion! It is much easier to write a systematic literature review (SLR) than an empirical paper! It is because there is no requirement for ethical clarifications and data collection in a systematic review. Hence, it will save your time and money as well.

However, a systematic literature review (SLR) remains always in the dark as many masters and Ph.D. scholars do not get clear instructions from the research lectures in their universities. Hence, here, we would be clarifying systematic review more easily, ever.

In writing a systematic literature review (SLR), firstly, you will have to formulate a straightforward question! Based on this question, you would identify, select and critically evaluate specifically relevant published primary or secondary research papers/studies so that you can extract and analyze results (i.e., data) from those studies. Finally, you can include the results in your systematic review.

You should know SLR is not primary research, which generally includes collecting data from research subjects and requires ethical approval. However, SLR is secondary research, which includes collecting relevant data in other researchers’ papers available in various sources, i.e., publishers.

A systematic literature review (SLR) is different from a literature review. In this respect, a literature review allows you to create a greater summary of the literature in the fields relating to your topic. Hence, a literature review is a general synthesis of what has been done previously, highlighting what previous research tells about your topic and thus helps you to identify gaps in the topic or field.

However, a systematic literature review starts with a purposeful selection of data sources, which would be included in the research study—for example, identifying data sources to be included in the review, such as journal articles, book chapters, blogs, policy documents, etc. Here, you will have to use criteria that will include or exclude your systematic literature review (SLR). You can include only journal articles or only book chapters, or policy articles. Even you can combine all of them. Still, you have to make a justification why you are doing (including or excluding) so?

Moreover, you will have to specify what types of research papers and their data to be included in your systematic review, for example, quantitative or qualitative, or mixed. Furthermore, you will also have to specify the terms to search for information from online sources. Moreover, you will also have to make specifications on what language you are using. Is it only English or something else?

In your systematic literature review (SLR), a coding guide is essential because it will help you detect which research paper’s information will be helpful for your SLR. But it would help if you mentioned why you have excluded one or more pieces and how the ones you have included meet the selection criteria.

In your SLR analysis phase, categorize your findings and look for commonalities and areas of differences because it would help you identify the themes to be mentioned in your report.

Your systematic literature review (SLR) final stage is to explain your findings and bring them back to your research question, which you initially develop! Here, here you have to articulate what your results tell about the topic or question. Thus, you would be able to identify gaps in the research (if any) or contradictions (if any) in your findings. Therefore, you will also be able to make recommendations. Furthermore, you will also be able to justify why it is important for further research.

Thus, a researcher would understand what you have done and how you have done it. Additionally, the sense that you have made of the findings relating to your topic or research, which you initially created for investigation.

Steps in preparing systematic literature review (SLR)

Systematic Literature Review



Dr. Md. Asadul Islam, Lecturer

Swinburne University of Technology (Sarawak Campus)

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