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FEBE - Engineering Management Libguide: Systematic Literature Review

Guide to useful library resources for Engineering Management Students

Getting Started on your Systematic Review

Doing a Systematic Review Steps


  1. Plan - This is the project planning stage. You and your team will need to develop a good research question, determine the type of review you will conduct (systematic, scoping, rapid, etc.), and establish the inclusion and exclusion criteria
  2. Identify - a comprehensive search of the literature is undertaken to ensure all studies that meet the predetermined criteria are identified. Each research question is different, so the number and types of databases you'll search - as well as other online publication venues.
  3. Evaluate - In this step, retrieved articles are screened and sorted using the predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria. The risk of bias for each included study is also assessed around this time. 
  4. Collect - Each included study is coded and the quantitative or qualitative data contained in these studies is then synthesized. You'll have to either find or develop a coding strategy or form that meets your needs. 
  5. Explain - The synthesized results are articulated and contextualized. What do the results mean? How have they answered your research question?
  6. Summarize - The final report provides a complete description of the methods and results in a clear, transparent fashion. 

Source: Foster, Margaret J., and Sarah T. Jewell. Assembling the Pieces of a Systematic Review: A Guide for Librarians. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017.

Types of Reviews

Type of Review






Literature/Narrative Review

Generic term: published materials that provide examination of recent or current literature. Can cover wide range of subjects at various levels of completeness and comprehensiveness. May include research findings.

May or may not include comprehensive searching.


May or may not include quality assessment.

Typically narrative.

Analysis may be chronological, conceptual, thematic, etc.

Rapid Review

Assessment of what is already known about a policy or practice issue, by using systematic review methods to search and critically appraise existing research.

Completeness of searching determined by time constraints.

Time-limited formal quality assessment.

Typically narrative and tabular.

Quantities of literature and overall quality/direction of effect of literature.

Scoping Review

Preliminary assessment of potential size and scope of available research literature. Aims to identify nature and extent of research evidence (usually including ongoing research).

Completeness of searching determined by time/scope constraints. May include research in progress.

No formal quality assessment.

Typically tabular with some narrative commentary.

Characterizes quantity and quality of literature, perhaps by study design and other key features. Attempts to specify a viable review.

Systematic Review

Seeks to systematically search for, appraise and synthesis research evidence, often adhering to guidelines on the conduct of a review.

Aims for exhaustive, comprehensive searching.

Quality assessment may determine inclusion/exclusion.

Typically narrative with tabular accompaniment.

What is known; recommendations for practice. What remains unknown; uncertainty around findings, recommendations for future research.


Technique that statistically combines the results of quantitative studies to provide a more precise effect of the results.

Aims for exhaustive searching. May use funnel plot to assess completeness.

Quality assessment may determine inclusion/exclusion and/or sensitivity analyses.

Graphical and tabular with narrative commentary.

Numerical analysis of measures of effect assuming absence of heterogeneity.