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Political Studies Library Guide: Tamzyn Suleiman's guide to Systematic Reviews

Political Studies Library Guide

Why systematic reviews are important

  1. Summarizes research findings across a potentially large number of studies
    • increases the overall number of participants
    • strengthens conclusions drawn about research questions
    • shows consistencies in finding across multiple studies
  2. If there are discrepancies among studies or gaps in literature, a systematic review can indicate where additional  research is needed 

What is a systematic review?

A systematic review is, 

"a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review” (Cochrane Collaboration, 2003).

How is a systematic review different to a literature review?


Systematic Review Literature Review

“Systematic reviews are characterized by being methodical, comprehensive, transparent, and replicable” (Siddaway, Wood & Hedges, 2019).                                                                                                      


“A literature review synthesizes current knowledge pertaining to the research question. This synthesis is the foundation that, through the use of logical argumentation, allows the researcher to build a convincing thesis case.”(Machi & McEvoy, 2016).


  • a clearly stated set of objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies;
  • an explicit, reproducible methodology;
  • a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria;
  • an assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies, for example through the assessment of risk of bias; and
  • a systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies


  • provide a context for the research
  • identify seminal works and scholars in the field
  • acknowledge existing theories, points of view, hypotheses, etc. in the field of research
  • justify the research
  • clear up misconceptions about previous research
  • show where the research fits into the existing body of knowledge
  • highlight flaws in previous research
  • outline gaps in previous research
  • show that the work is adding to the understanding and knowledge of the field



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Tamzyn Suliaman
Research Commons, Level 6, Chancellor Oppenheimer Library
+27 21 406 6388
Subjects: Research


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Danielle Abrahamse
WH Bell Music Library
021 650 4051
Subjects: Dance, Music