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Dissertation Subject Guide

including systematic reviews, literature reviews and scoping reviews

What methods are you going to use in your review?

Explain what methods you are going to use to conduct your review.

Any systematic review or scoping review should be:

  • rigorous
  • replicable

Your methods of conducting the review should include:

  • clearly identify the purpose of the review
  • Search strategies are critical for enhancing the rigour of any type of review otherwise incomplete and biased searches result. What databases are you going to search? This about limiters as well as search terms
  • Screening - use PRISMA flowchart. Software such as Endnote can help you with screening process too.
  • critical appraisal (for systematic reviews) - the quality of the chosen articles should be evaluated
  • data extraction - usually in a table, the means of extracting data from the chosen resources in a meaningful way e.g. use Word or Excel
  • data analysis - normally thematic analysis looking for common themes and patterns, contrasts and comparisons.


Try to avoid just describing your methods, think about justifying your methods and underpin your justifications with evidence from books, journals etc. For instance, always ask yourself why you're doing something in a particular way and justify it to the reader of your review.


Think about how you can limit your search to more manageable numbers.

Last 5 years? 10 years? Really depends on your topic

Language? Limit to English language unless you're fluent in another language. It's not always possible to obtain an english translation to a international language research paper.

Peer Reviewed? Choose this option if it's available on all the databases you're going to be searching


Be Careful if...

you're limiting your search by country - This doesn't necessarily mean that the research has been carried out in that chosen country. It could mean that 1 of the authors comes from a university or affiliated with that particular country. You might be better adding particular country/regions into your search strategy.

you're searching in different databases - make sure you are using the same limiters across all databases.


Even if you are not conducting a systematic review, you must search systematically i.e. same terms, same limiters

Inclusion & Exclusion criteria

Also think carefully about the research papers you are wanting to include and exclude in your review. This entirely depends on your research question.

Here's a simple example:

What are nurses' experiences of caring for dementia patients in an acute ward setting?

Inclusion and Exclusion criteria
Inclusion Exclusion
acute setting, ward setting, hospital home, residential care
dementia, alzheimers patients other neurological conditions, co-morbidities
nurses experiences

nursing assistants, doctors & other healthcare professionals, caregivers, family experiences