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Systematic Literature Review

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What is a Systematic Literature Review?

A systematic literature review (SLR) is an independent academic method that aims to identify and evaluate all relevant literature on a topic in order to derive conclusions about the question under consideration.

"Systematic reviews are undertaken to clarify the state of existing research and the implications that should be drawn from this." (Feak & Swales, 2009, p. 3)

An SLR can demonstrate the current state of research on a topic, while identifying gaps and areas requiring further research with regard to a given research question.

A formal methodological approach is pursued in order to reduce distortions caused by an overly restrictive selection of the available literature and to increase the reliability of the literature selected (Transfield, Denyer & Smart, 2003). A special aspect in this regard is the fact that a research objective is defined for the search itself and the criteria for determining what is to be included and excluded are defined prior to conducting the search. The search is mainly performed in electronic literature databases (such as Business Source Complete or Web of Science), but also includes manual searches (reviews of reference lists in relevant sources) and the identification of literature not yet published in order to obtain a comprehensive overview of a research topic.

An SLR protocol documents all the information gathered and the steps taken as part of an SLR in order to make the selection process transparent and reproducible.

In an ideal scenario, experts from the respective research discipline, as well as experts working in the relevant field and in libraries, should be involved in setting the search terms. As a rule, the literature is selected by two or more reviewers working independently of one another. Both measures serve the purpose of increasing the objectivity of the literature selection.

An SLR must, then, be more than merely a summary of a topic (Briner & Denyer, 2012). As such, it also distinguishes itself from “ordinary” surveys of the available literature. The following table shows the differences between an SLR and an “ordinary” literature review.

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What are the objectives of SLRs?

  • Avoidance of research redundancies despite a growing amount of publications
  • Identification of research areas, gaps and methods
  • Input for evidence-based management, which allows to base management decisions on scientific methods and findings
  • Identification of links between different areas of research

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SLR process

A SLR has several phases which are defined differently in the literature (Fink 2014, p. 4; Guba 2008, Transfield et al. 2003). We distinguish the following phases which are adapted to the economics and management research area:

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Kontakt SLR

Dr. Franziska Klatt
030-31429778
Die Bibliothek Wirtschaft & Management
Room H 5150b