I know what a literature review is and was wondering what makes such a review systematic? What extra steps do people usually go through when they do a systematic literature review? how is it different from regular literature review? The field is software engineering if it matters.


The quintessence of the systematic review is that it's, well, systematic. That is to say, you have a system by which you do the review: a detailed protocol that you work by, just like when you run experiments. The protocol sets out how you will define your search terms, where you will search, what your criteria are for inclusion are, what your criteria for exclusion are, and so on.

The idea is that, just as with an experiment's protocol, it would allow someone else to reproduce your work: in this case, your trawl through the literature. It gives you and your reviewers and readers a basis for assessing how comprehensive your review is. It may include a detailed protocol for quantitative meta-analysis or qualitative synthesis.

Systematic reviews can be hugely varied in form and scope: I've got 3 books that each provide part of the answer to this question. Check your library (possibly in the medical / epidemiological section) - they should have at least one of these.

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    That's the answer I was going to write, only more extensive. One thing to note, though - just being "systematic" does not make a SLR good. It is perfectly possible to do a highly systematic but also terrible literature review. – xLeitix Dec 21 '14 at 3:38


A systematic review (also systematic literature review or structured literature review, SLR) is a literature review focused on a research question that tries to identify, appraise, select and synthesize all high quality research evidence relevant to that question.

One among many roughly equivalent definitions easily found on the web. Some place a higher emphasis on having precisely defined criteria for defining "high quality" and "relevant", so it might be worth doing a systematic review of these definitions and synthesizing a combined definition from them.

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