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Education: guide to libraries and resources: Systematic literature searching

Subjects: Education


Review: An article that summarises a number of different primary studies and may draw conclusions about the effectiveness of a particular intervention. A review may or may not be systematic.
Systematic review (systematic overview): A review of the evidence on a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select and critically appraise relevant primary research, and to extract and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review. Statistical methods (meta-analysis) may or may not be used.
Meta-analysis: The use of statistical techniques to combine the results of studies addressing the same question into a summary measure.

from: Undertaking systematic reviews of research on effectiveness: CRD's guidance for those carrying out or commissioning reviews. CRD Report 4 (2nd edition). March 2001.

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Systematic review

A systematic review is a summary of research that uses explicit methods to perform a thorough literature search and critical appraisal of individual studies to identify the valid and applicable evidence.

It is often applied in the healthcare context, but is also sometimes used in educational and social policy research.

A systematic review is a research method, just as interviews or surveys are research methods. The key difference is whether you are collecting and analysing your own primary data, or performing a review of already published research and grey literature.

Recommended resources

An excellent guide to systematic reviews is provided by our healthcare librarians

Recommended resources

For systematic reviewing in the field of education, EPPI-Centre is the place to start:

The EPPI-Centre is based in the Department of Social Science, UCL Institute of Education.

Examples of systematic reviews in education

Education Librarian

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Catherine Scutt
Bodleian Education Library
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Systematic review software

It is common practice to use Excel to manage systematic reviews.

The EPPI Centre have created specific software for systematic reviewing which individuals can subscribe to (the cost is not prohibitive).

There is also free alternative: Rayyan

Covidence is an alternative online software you can pay for: Covidence