Literature review

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This wiki may be used as an initial source for literature reviews. Therefore we include a few links.

See also:

  • Citation (information about formats)
  • Reference manager (information about tools to manage your references)
  • Citation index (information about tools to follow up trails of citation and that often also provide reference management functionality)
  • note taking (may give you ideas for note taking)

The PRISMA Model

The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) model was created to support systematic reviews and meta-analyses, who have become increasingly important in health care. “A systematic review is a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review. Statistical methods (meta-analysis) may or may not be used to analyze and summarize the results of the included studies. Meta-analysis refers to the use of statistical techniques in a systematic review to integrate the results of included studies.” (Moher et al., 2009).

The checklist

The PRISMA Statement firstly consists of a 27-item checklist that is available as word template for research to reuse. The checklist contains sections

  • title
  • abstract
  • introduction
  • methods
  • results
  • discussion
  • funding

The methods part includes the following items:

Protocol and registration 5 Indicate if a review protocol exists, if and where it can be accessed (e.g., Web address), and, if available, provide registration information including registration number.
Eligibility criteria 6 Specify study characteristics (e.g., PICOS, length of follow-up) and report characteristics (e.g., years considered, language, publication status) used as criteria for eligibility, giving rationale.
Information sources 7 Describe all information sources (e.g., databases with dates of coverage, contact with study authors to identify additional studies) in the search and date last searched.
Search 8 Present full electronic search strategy for at least one database, including any limits used, such that it could be repeated.
Study selection 9 State the process for selecting studies (i.e., screening, eligibility, included in systematic review, and, if applicable, included in the meta-analysis).
Data collection process 10 Describe method of data extraction from reports (e.g., piloted forms, independently, in duplicate) and any processes for obtaining and confirming data from investigators.
Data items 11 List and define all variables for which data were sought (e.g., PICOS, funding sources) and any assumptions and simplifications made.
Risk of bias in individual studies 12 Describe methods used for assessing risk of bias of individual studies (including specification of whether this was done at the study or outcome level), and how this information is to be used in any data synthesis.
Summary measures 13 State the principal summary measures (e.g., risk ratio, difference in means).
Synthesis of results 14 Describe the methods of handling data and combining results of studies, if done, including measures of consistency (e.g., I2) for each meta-analysis.
Risk of bias across studies 15 Specify any assessment of risk of bias that may affect the cumulative evidence (e.g., publication bias, selective reporting within studies).
Additional analyses 16 Describe methods of additional analyses (e.g., sensitivity or subgroup analyses, meta-regression), if done, indicating which were pre-specified.

The flow diagram

In addition to the checklist, there is a four phase flow diagram to summarize the most important selection/elimination steps of publications in a systematic review and/or meta-analysis. A word template allows reuse and customization

Flow Diagram Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyse,Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG, The PRISMA Group (2009). Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses: The PRISMA Statement. PLoS Med 6(7): e1000097. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed1000097

The PRISMA model can be applied to other areas, e.g. educational technology



  • Strunk and White (2000). The elements of style (4th edition). Longman. Links to online version available from the wikipedia entry. This is the bible for better style. Very short (105 pages) but full of tips that will greatly improve your writing.
  • Morningstar, Chip (1993), How To Deconstruct Almost Anything, My Postmodern Adventure, HTML


  • Brereton, Pearl. “A Study of Computing Undergraduates Undertaking a Systematic Literature Review.” IEEE Trans. Education 54 (2011): 558-563.
  • Boote and Beile (2005) Scholars Before Researchers: On the Centrality of the Dissertation Literature Review in Research Preparation. Educational Researcher, 34(6) pp. 3-15.
  • Jalali, S., & Wohlin, C.. (2012). Systematic literature studies: database searches vs. backward snowballing. ESEM.
  • Kruse, Sharon D. (undated) Developing a Comprehensive Literature Review: An Inquiry into Method, PDF Preprint.
  • Lavallée, Mathieu; Pierre-N. Robillard, and Reza Mirsalari, Performing Systematic Literature Reviews With Novices: An Iterative Approach. IEEE Transactions On Education, Vol. 57, No. 3, August 2014.
    • Good reading for people who have to direct CS students.
  • Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J. and Rebecca Frels (2016). Seven Steps to a Comprehensive Literature Review. A Multimodal and Cultural Approach, Abstract
  • Petticrew, M. and H. Roberts, Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences. Malden, MA, USA: Blackwell, 2008. PDF (legitimate copy?)
  • Torraco, R.J.. 2005. Writing Integrative Literature Reviews: Guidelines and Examples. Human Resource Development Review, 4 (3), pp 356-367.


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