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Literature Review vs. Systematic Literature Review

The review of the previous bodies of literature is important to lay the foundation of new research on a pillar of well-proven facts and theories. The gaps and unanswered questions in the already published articles suggest new ideas and points for further investigation. The review of the previous literature can be done in several ways, such as integrative reviews, systematic quantitative literature reviews, scoping reviews, meta-analyses, and systematic literature reviews. All these reviews are similar in their long-term goals, laying the foundation of research on the already proven facts and figures.

1.1 Literature review:

It is the study and survey of scholarly knowledge on a topic of interest. It aims to compile all existing data on a topic and identify gaps, debates and trends in research. The purpose of reviewing the published literature is to understand the latest research trends relevant to a particular topic and present all information in a written report. Apart from all, it is the best method that helps researchers increase their knowledge in a specific field. 

1.2 Systematic literature review:   

According to a PhD dissertation help firm, like literature review (LR), a systematic literature review (SLR) is also state of the art in gathering all the relevant information on a topic of interest. But the latter is a little more systematic and rigorous method of data collection than the other ones. Other methods of reviewing literature are least concerned with methods, search strategy, and inclusion and exclusion criteria the reviewer used. But search strategy, number of hits, inclusion, and exclusion criteria are among the essentials of SLR. It also focuses on the research methods and theories applied to similar studies in the past to help researchers find research gaps.   

1.3 Similarities between LR and SLR:

The basic concept of conducting reviews is the same in all types of reviews. Likewise, LR and SLR have similarities in their functionalities. Both aim to search, screen, evaluate, and synthesise information by acknowledging the source. They both work well in identifying research gaps and exploring controversial facts and unanswered questions. Thus, LR and SLR are two methods of review that differ in their level of research, but on longer goals, they both aim to compile all the previously published relevant scholarly work together.  

1.4 List of differences between LR and SLR 

LR and SLR are two popular methods of searching and evaluating the already published data. These methods aim to clear readers’ understanding of the topic by compiling high scattered data in one place. Still, they differ in many ways. The most notable differences between these two methods of reviewing the literature are mentioned below:

  1. SLR is the high-level overview of scholarly literature that focuses on research questions. It searches, selects and appraises pieces of evidence relevant to questions to be answered. Contrary to this, LR uses informal or subjective methods to qualitatively select and analyse information and summarise evidence on a topic.    
  2. The main goal of the literature review is to provide an overview or summary of a topic. But the SLR specifically focuses on collecting evidence for research questions by eliminating biasness.  
  3. Three or more authors are required for publishing SLR, while an individual author can conduct LR.
  4. SLR is a lengthy process that often takes years to complete (18 months). In contrast, you can complete LR within a few weeks or months.
  5. The number of databases involved in LR studies is limited compared to the databases necessary for conducting SLR.    
  6. SLR is a more rigorous form of LR that works to collect evidence by avoiding biasness.  

In addition to all these differences mentioned above, LR and SLR also have prominent differences between their respective procedures. The following section will describe procedures for conducting a literature review and systematic literature review:

1.5 Procedure for conducting Literature Review

As described above, LR is relatively an easy process. It offers flexibility to the researchers in terms of research question formulation, collaboration, data screening, and analysis. You can start LR by forming even generic research questions. Moreover, you do not need to set inclusion and exclusion criteria or mention the search result number in simple LR. The following are five simple steps that one can use to conduct a good literature review for the research or thesis:

Step 1: Select a narrow topic

Step 2: Specify the key terms to start your search

Step 3: Screen the quality of the information in the selected scholarly articles

Step 4: Extract the highly relevant information to use it as evidence in your LR.

Step 5:  Add your analysis in the light of the evidence and complete LR  

1.6 Procedure for conducting Systematic Literature Review

SLR is a rigorous and transparent method of gathering information on a particular topic. It starts by setting the inclusion and exclusion criteria that help researchers decide which piece of literature he/she must add to a study. It is transparent as it suggests that researchers note down the number of hits, search strategy, and specific keywords they searched in different databases. The detailed procedure that the researcher uses to conduct the SLR includes the following steps: 

Step 1: Research questions’ formulation

Step 2: Selection of potential keywords

Step 3: Inclusion and exclusion criteria settings

Step 4:  Making a search strategy

Step 5: Extracting data from the literature that best suit your inclusion criteria 

Step 6: Analysing results 

Step 7: Interpreting results

Final thoughts

Whatever the type of review you plan to conduct for your research, the researcher’s honesty, integrity and authenticity are obligatory. The similarities, differences and procedures of both simple and systematic literature reviews mentioned above reflect that the fundamental concepts of conducting both types of review are more and less the same. It is the level of research on which we can differentiate these processes. SLR is a little more concerned about transparency and uses rigorous methods for conducting qualitative secondary research. 

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