Table from Systematic Review Guide(2022) Imperial College London Library Services [Accessed Aug 2022] 

A literature review provides a summary of the literature on a particular topic and is often used as background and context to your own experiment. it is down to the researcher to set the parameters for based on relevance to the area of research. To help start your literature review you can watch the ‘Search strategies’ video (25mins) available in the menu on the right or complete our literature review tutorial in Moodle.

systematic review, however, is a comprehensive literature review conducted to answer a specific research question. Authors of a systematic review aim to find, code, appraise, and synthesize all of the previous research on their question in an unbiased and well-documented manner.  To do this they will follow a strict set of steps to ensure a ‘systematic ‘ process.

There are a number of bodies that have guidelines for example, PRISMA has a minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Meta-analysis is the statistical combination of results from two or more studies. It allows researchers to combine the data from studies with similar data types and analyze them as a single, expanded dataset. Meta-analyses are a type of systematic review.

Helpful resources:

This article offers guidance on what type of systematic review to undertake based on your research question or area of focus:

What kind of systematic review should I conduct? A proposed typology and guidance for systematic reviewers in the medical and health sciences

To help with conducting systematic reviews look at Cochrane’s Interactive Learning. It is a modular programme that provides detailed instruction on the best practice in conducting and reporting systematic reviews including data extraction. Note that the first time you use the resource you will need to register using your Kent email – you will then be sent a confirmation email link to activate your account.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR)
CDSR is part of the Cochrane Library. It contains Cochrane Reviews which are peer-reviewed systematic reviews that have been prepared and supervised by a Cochrane Review Group according to the principles laid out in the Cochrane Handbook of Systematic Reviews of Interventions.

International prospective register of systematic reviews (PROSPERO)
PROSPERO is produced by the CRD (Centre for Reviews and Dissemination – University of York). The register is useful for highlighting prospective systematic reviews and enables comparison of reported review findings with the original protocol.

We can help you to develop your search skills to carry out either a literature or systematic review. Our Library Research Skills is availbel on Moodle or you can contact your librarian for one to one help.