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Writing a Systematised Review in Business

About this Guide

This guide provides an overview of the process of writing a systematised literature review within a business related degree or discipline. There are many ways of approaching your systematised review, and it is important to understand that a literature review is not a “single definable product” (Booth et al., 2021, 1) — it may perform a variety of different purposes depending on the nature of your project and research goals.

Who this guide is for:

This guide is for students undertaking a systematised literature review as a form of secondary research either as a dissertation or as a standalone piece of work.

Who this guide is not for:

If you are collecting primary data for your dissertation, you may need to include one chapter reviewing literature, typically called the “literature review”. This chapter is at the beginning of a dissertation, sitting between your aims and objectives and your methodology. This review is normally a narrative review with literature selected based on judgement (rather than a systematised review).

What is a Systematised Review?

Booth et al., (2021, 2) define a systematised literature review as “a form of research synthesis that seeks to systematically search for, appraise and synthesize research evidence, using strategies to limit bias often adhering to guidelines on the conduct of a review”

Unlike a narrative literature review, a systematic review attempts to incorporate “transparent and well-defined steps”, answering a specific question.

What makes a literature review systematised?

A systematised literature review differs from a traditional narrative review  by including a transparent methodology that explains to the reader exactly what you did to get your search results and how you refined those results to produce your final sample. A key term here is reproducibility. A good systematised gives the reader all the information necessary to reproduce your results using your search strategy, inclusion criteria and analysis.

A systematised review should include most of the below:   

  • Step by step methodology – including search terms, database selection, and inclusion /exclusion criteria.
  • Reports the number of hits retrieved from database searching
  • Reports results using a specified framework (such as PRISMA)
  • Coordinated analysis (such as narrative synthesis)
  • Systematic approaches to presentation (tables etc.)

Difference between a systematised review and a traditional (narrative) literature review

The below table outlines some of the differences between a systematised review and a (traditional) narrative literature review.

Advantages of doing a systematised review for your dissertation:

  • Removes difficulties involved in collecting data
  • Removes time consuming ethics forms
  • Gain a rigorous understanding of a topic
  • Large and rich pool of data
  • Facilitates connections between different areas of literature.

Despite this, a systematised literature review is not an easy option! It is a time-consuming process that is often challenging (yet rewarding).

Systematic, Systematised or Structured?

The words “systematic literature review” have been used in a variety of different ways, often interchangeably to mean subtly different things. Strictly speaking, a systematic review is an exhaustive search for evidence. This kind of review, prominent within healthcare, is conducted by large teams of researchers and can take many months (or even years) to complete. To take a look at some examples, you can visit the Cochrane library here

For an undergraduate or postgraduate dissertation, however, you may wish to carry out a review with systematic features. Grant et al. (2009), refer to this kind of review as a “systematised review” which attempts “to include elements of systematic review process while stopping short of systematic review. Typically conducted as postgraduate student assignment.”

A systematised review (the terminology favoured in this guide) acknowledges that your project will have time constraints and that you will be the sole researcher (thus falling short of a systematic review in the strict sense). Despite this, your lecturer or fellow students may still refer to your review as systematic, as terminology is used flexibly throughout the literature. You may also hear your review referred to as a structured review.

Deakin University Library have produced a helpful guide on writing a systematised review in business which can be accessed here

The pages on the left-hand side talk you through each stage of your review, from scoping searches and planning your methodology, right through to the write up.


Booth, A, Papaioannou, D., Sutton, A. Clowns, M and Booth, A. (2021) Systematic approaches to a successful literature review, 3rd edition. London: SAGE