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I'm currently getting stuck into writing the literature review for my PhD thesis. (Provisional literature review anyway, given that it's my first year.) In my field, there are two or three published systematic reviews of the subject matter I'm covering. I'm uncertain as to how to make use of these in the context of my literature review: if I were to review all the literature independently I'm effectively reproducing the existing systematic reviews, but if I simply report the systematic reviews I'm not demonstrating an in depth engagement with the literature.

How should I make use of these existing systematic reviews in my literature review, without either duplicating text or appearing to take short-cuts?

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Your systematic review (SR) need to fill a gap in knowledge that was not covered in the existing SRs.

By filling this gap, you will be building on, extending, and/or updating the existing SRs and the related literature.

Normally, the research question in your SR should therefore be novel and not duplicate of those in the existing SRs. This will produce different and novel findings.

In the discussion/synthesis of your SR, demonstrate how your findings fill the gap, and put your SR in the wider context: your narrow (and possibly wider) field, the exiting SRs, and other related studies.

Also see this question: A systematic review already exists in the literature. When is a newer one required?

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