A smart and effective method for undertaking literature reviews particularly for research students and others new to a discipline.

Narrative methods that are commonly used in many research theses, rely on the expertise and experience of the author, making them challenging for novices. In contrast, the method we use and recommend involves systematically searching the literature using online database and other sources to find all relevant papers that fit specific criteria (systematically identifying the literature), entering information about each study into a personal database, then compiling tables that summarise the current status of the literature (quantifying the literature). The results are reliable, quantifiable and reproducible.

Using this method, it’s also possible to determine if there are suitable datasets for meta-analysis. By mapping the literature we can not only identify what is known, but also, but where there are gaps: a critical issue in advancing research and designing PhD research programs.

Reliable, quantifiable and reproducible

The method works well for specific topics, but also for summarising diverse inter-disciplinary research. Using this method many of our students and others have gone on to publish their reviews. Importantly for PhD students, the database can be updated during the PhD thesis allowing them to easily identify relevant papers and produce their final thesis without having to re-read all the literature.

  1. Ansong, M. and Pickering, C.M. (2013). A global review of weeds that can germinate from horse dung. Ecological Management and Restoration. 14: 216-223
  2. Ansong, M. and Pickering. C.M.  (2013). Are weeds hitchhiking a ride on your car? A systematic review of seed dispersal on cars. PlosOne. 8:e80275
  3. Ansong, M. and Pickering. C.M. (2014). Weed seed on clothing: A global review. Journal of Environmental Management. 144: 203-211
  4. Ballantyne, M. and Pickering, C.M. (2013). Tourism and recreation: A common threat to IUCN red-listed vascular plants in Europe. Biodiversity and Conservation. 22: 3027-3044. DOI 10.1007/s10531-013-0569-2
  5. Ballantyne, M. and Pickering C.M. (2015). The impacts of trail infrastructure on vegetation and soils: current literature and future directions. Journal of Environmental Management. 164: 53-64. 10.1016/j.jenvman.2015.08.032
  6. Bartesaghi Koc, C., Osmond, P. and Peters, A. (2016). Towards a comprehensive green infrastructure typology: a systematic review of approaches, methods and typologies. Urban Ecosystems. 20: 15-35. doi:10.1007/s11252-016-0578-5
  7. Bartesaghi Koc, C., Osmond, P. and Peters, A. (2018). Evaluation the cooling effects of green infrastructure: A systematic review of methods, indicators and data sources. Solar Energy. 166: 486-508
  8. Barros, A., Monz, C. and Pickering, C.M. (2015). Is tourism damaging ecosystems in the Andes? Current knowledge and an agenda for future research. Ambio. 44:82–98. DOI 10.1007/s13280-014-0550-7
  9. Bergstrom, J., van Winsen, R. and Henriqson, E. (2015). Reliability engineering and system safety. Reliability of Engineering and System Safety. 141:131-141
  10. Bland, LM., Rowland, J.A., Regan, T.J., Keith, D.A., Murray, J.J., Lester, R.E., Linn, M., Rodriguez, J.P. Nicholson, E. (2018). Developing a standardized definition of ecosystem collapse for risk assessment.  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 16: 29-36
  11. Bloom, J., Dorsett, P. and Mclennan, V. (2018). Investigating employment following spinal cord injury: outcomes, methods and population demographics. Disability and Rehabilitation. https://doi-org.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/10.1080/09638288.2018.1467968
  12. Botzat, A., Fisher, L.K. and Kowarik, I. (2016). Unexploited opportunities in understanding liveability and biodiverse cities. A review of urban biodiversity perception and valuation. Global Environmental Change. 39: 220-233
  13. Boulton, C., Byrne, J. and Dedekorkut-Howes, A., (2015). The role of political and financial factors in the provision of parks: The case of Logan City, Queensland. Sate of Australian Cities Conference
  14. Boulton, C., Dedekorkut-Howes, A. and Byrne, J. (2018). Factors shaping urban greenspace provision: A systematic review of the literature. Landscape and Urban Planning 178: 82-101
  15. Byrne, J. and Portanger, C. (2014). Climate change, energy policy and justice: A systematic Review. Analyse & Kritik. 36:315-418
  16. Chaousis, S., Leusch, F.D.L. and van der Merwe, J.P. (2018). Charting a path towards non-destructive biomarkers in threatened wildlife: A systematic quantitative literature review. Environmental Pollution. 234: 59-70
  17. Chester, P., Ehrlich, C., Warburton, L., Baker, D., Kendall, E. and Crompton, D. (2016). What is the work of recovery orientated practice? A systematic literature review. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing. 25: 270-285
  18. Cheng, M., Edwards, D., Darcy, S. and Redfern, K. (2018). A tri-method approach to a review of adventure tourism literature: Bibliometric analysis, content analysis and a quantitative systematic literature review. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research. 42:997-1020
  19. Cheng, W., Appolloni, A., D’Amato, A. and Zhu, Q. (2018). Green public procurement, missing concepts and future trends – A critical review. Journal of Cleaner Production. 176: 770-784
  20. Chinedu, C.C., Mohamed, W.A. and Ajah, A.O. (2018). A systematic review of education for sustainable development: Enhancing tve teacher training programme. Journal of Technical Education and Training 10: 109-125
  21. Clark, N.J., Clegg, S.M. and Lima, M.R. (2014). A review of global diversity in avian haemosporidians (Plasmodium and Haemoproteus: Haemosporida): new insights from molecular data. International Journal of Parasitology. 44: 329-338
  22. Crisp B. (2015) Systematic reviews: A social work perspective, Australian Social Work. 68: 284-295, DOI: 10.1080/0312407X.2015.1024266
  23. Davenport, R., Hewat, S., Ferguson, A., McAllister, S. and Lincoln, M. (2018). Struggle and failure on clinical placement: A critical narrative review. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. 53: 218-227. 10.1111/1460-6984.12356
  24. Davis N.E., Bennett A., Forsyth, D.M., Bowman D.M.J.S., Lefroy E.D., Wood S.W., Woolnough A.P., West, P., Jordan O., Hampton, J.O. and Johnson C.N. (2016). A systematic review of the impacts and management of introduced deer (family Cervidae) in Australia. Wildlife Research. 43: 515-532. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR16148
  25. Davis, I. and Hay, S. (2018). Primary masculinities: How male teachers are regarded as employees within primary education - a global systematic literature review. Sex Education. 18: 280-292
  26. De Brito, M.M and Evers, M. (2015). Review article: Multi-criteria decision making for flood risk management: a survey of the current state-of-the-art. Natural Hazards and Earth Sciences. 3: 6689-6726.
  27. Dedekorkut-Howes, A. and Vickers, J. (2017). Coastal climate adaptation at the local level: A policy analysis of the Gold Coast. In Climate Change Adaptation in Pacific Countries. Springer, London pp. 401-415
  28. Evans, N., Stevenson, R.B., Lasen, M., Ferreira, J. and Davis, J. (2017). Approaches to embedding sustainability in teaching education: A synthesis of the literature. Teaching and Teacher Education. 63: 405-417
  29. Emam, H., Farrell, P. and Abdelaal, M.A. (2014). Causes of delay in GCC construction projects: a Critical Review. Paper published in the 1st Int’l Conference on Smart, Sustainable and Healthy Cities. Abu Dhabi, UAE. pp 607-621
  30. Falkenberg, L.J. and Tubb, A. (2017). Economic effects of ocean acidification: Publication patterns and directions for future research. Ambio. 46: 543-553. doi:10.1007/s13280-017-0895-9
  31. Filho, M.F., Liao, Y., Loures, E.R and Canciglieri Junior, O. (2017). Self-aware smart products: A Systematic literature review, conceptual design and prototype implementation. Procedia Manufacturing. 11: 1471-1480
  32. Finlayson, K.A., Leusch, F.D.L. and van der Merwe, J.P. (2016). The current state and future directions of marine turtle toxicology research. Environmental International. 94: 113-123
  33. Frohlich, M.F., Jacobson, C., Fidelman, P. and Smith, T.F. (2018). The relationship between adaptive management of social-ecological systems and law: a systematic review. Ecology and 23(2):23
  34. Gomez, M., Pratt, M.A. and Molina, A. (2018). Wine tourism research: a systematic review of 20 vintages from 1995 to 2014. Current Issues in Tourism.
  35. Griffin, K., Gambley, C., Brown, P. and Li, Y. (2017). Copper-tolerance in Pseudomonas syringae p. tomato and Xanthomonas spp. And the control of diseases associated with these pathogens in tomato and pepper. A systematic literature review. Crop Protection. 96: 144-150
  36. Grogan, L.F., Ellis, w., Jones, D., Hero, J., Kerlin, D.H., and McCallum, H. (2017). Current trends and future research directions in Koala chlamydial disease research. Biological Conservation. 215: 179-188.
  37. Gstaettner, A.M.,  Lee, D. and Rodger, K. (2016). The concept of risk in nature-based tourism and recreation – a systematic literature review. Current Issues in Tourism. pp 1-26
  38. Guitart, D., Pickering, C.M., Byrne, J. (2012). Past results and future directions in urban community gardens research. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening. 11: 364-373
  39. Hains-Wesson, R., Tytler, R. (2015). A perspective on supporting STEM academics with blended learning at an Australian university. Issues In Educational Research. 25: 460-479
  40. Hegetschweiler, K.T., de Vries, S., Arnberger, A., Bell, S., Brennan, M., Siter, N., Olafsson, A.S., Voigt, A. and Hunziker, M. (2017). Linking demand and supply factors in identifying cultural ecosystem services of urban green infrastructures: A review of European studies. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 21: 48-59
  41. Herington, M.J., van de Fliertb, E., Smarta, S., Greiga, C. and Lanta P.A. (2017). Rural energy planning remains out-of-step with contemporary paradigms of energy access and development. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 67: 1412–1419.
  42. Hirsch, P.E., N’Guyen, A., Adrian-Kalchhauser, I. and Burkhardt-holm, P. (2015). What do we really know about the impacts of one of the 100 worst invaders in Europe? A reality check. Ambio. 45; 267. DOI 10.1007/s13280-015-0718-9
  43. Hoque, M.A., Phinn, S. and Roelfsema, C. (2017). A systematic review of tropical cyclone disaster management research using remote sensing and spatial analysis. Ocean and Coastal Management. 146: 109-120
  44. Howes, M., Wortley, L., Potts, R., Dedekorkut-Howes, A., Serrao-Neumann, S., Davidsone, J. Smith, T. and Nunn. T. (2017). Environmental sustainability: A case of policy implementation failure? Sustainability. 9: 165. doi: 10.3390/su9020165.
  45. Jasinski, D., Meredith, J., and Kirwan, K. (2015). A comprehensive review of full cost accounting methods and their applicability to the automotive industry. Journal of Cleaner Production. 108: 1123–1139
  46. Kim, E. and Cuskelly, G. (2017). A systematic quantitative review of volunteer management in events. Event Management. 21: 83-100
  47. Kim, E. (2017). A systematic review of motivation of sport event volunteers. World Leisure Journal. DOI: 10.1080/16078055.2017.1373696
  48. Koc, C.B., Osmond, P. and Peters, A. (2017). Towards a comprehensive green infrastructure typology: a systematic review of approaches, methods and typologies. Urban Ecosystems. 20: 15-35.
  49. Khoo-Lattimore, C., Mura, P. and Yung, R. (2017). The time has come: a systematic literature review of mixed methods research in tourism. Current Issues in Tourism. DOI: 10.1080/13683500.2017.1406900
  50. Khoshbakht, M., Gou, Z. and Dupre, K. (2018). Energy use characteristics and benchmarking for higher education buildings. Energy and Buildings. 164: 61-76
  51. Khoshbakht, M., Gou, Z., Lu, Y., Zie, X., and Zhang, J. (2018). Are green buildings more satisfactory? A review of global evidence. Habitat International 74: 57-65
  52. Kollmann, J., Myer, S.T., Bateman, R., et al. (2016). Integrating ecosystem functions into restoration ecology – recent advances and future directions. Restoration Ecology. 24; 722-730. 10.1111/rec.12422.
  53. Kuester, S., Konya-Baumbach, E. and Schuhmacher, M.C. (2018). Get the show on the road: Go-to-market strategies for e-innovations of start-ups. Journal of Business Research. 83: 65-81.
  54. Lai, M.Y., Khoo-Lattimore, C. and Wang, Y. (2017). Food and cuisine image in destination branding: Toward a conceptual model. Tourism and Hospitality Research. DOI: 10.1177/1467358417740763
  55. Lasen, M., Evans, S., Tsey, K., Campbell, C. and Kinchin, I. (2018). Quality of WIL assessment design in higher education: a systematic literature review. Higher Education Research and Development 37: 788-804
  56. Lebeau, P., Verlinde, S., Macharis, C. and Van Mierlo, J. (2017). How can authorities support urban consolidation centres? A review of the accompanying measures. Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability. 10: 468-486 doi.org.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/10.1080/17549175.2017.1310747.
  57. Leung, J., Ferrari, A., Baxter, A., Schoultz, M., Beattie, M. and Harris M. (2017). Systematic reviews: inducting research students into scholarly conversations? Higher Education Research & Development. 36: 217-220
  58. Li, M., Zhang, H., Lemckert, C., Roiko, A. and Stratton, H. (2018). On the hydrodynamics and treatment efficiency of waste stabilization ponds: from a literature review to a strategic evaluation framework. Journal of Cleaner Production. 183: 495-514
  59. Liao, Y., Deschamps, F., de Freitas Rocha Loures, E. and Ramos, L.F.P. (2017). Past, present and future of Industry 4.0- a systematic literature review and research agenda proposal. International Journal of Production Research. 55: 3609-3629.
  60. Liao, Y., Panetto, H., Simao, J.M. and Stadzisz, P.C. (2017). Ontology-based model-driven patterns for notification-oriented data-intensive enterprise information systems. 7th International Conference on Information Society and Technology ICIS, Kopaonik, Serbia. pp. 148-153
  61. Liao, Y., Ramos, L.F.P, Saturno, M., Deschams, F., Loures, E.D.R and Szejka, A.J. (2017). The role of interoperability in the fourth industrial revolution era. IFAC_PapersOnLine 50: 12434-12439
  62. Mathews, T. and Potts, R. (2018). Planning for climigration: a framework for effective action. Climate Change 148: 607-621
  63. McAnulty, T., Jeswiet, J. and Doolan, M. (2016). Formability in single point incremental forming: A comparative analysis of the state of the art. CIRP Journal of Manufacturing Science and Technology. 16:43-54.
  64. N’Guyen, A., Hirsch, P.E., Adrian-Kalchhauser, I. and Burkhardt-Holm, P. (2015). Improving invasive species management by integrating priorities and contributions of scientists and decision makers. Ambio. 45: 280. DOI 10.1007/s13280-015-0723-z
  65. Nicolosi, E. and Corbett, J.B. (2018). Engagement with climate change and the environment: a review of the role of relationships to place. Local Environment. 23: 77-99
  66. Patroni, J., Simpson, G. and Newsome, D. (2018). Feeding wild fish for tourism – A systematic quantitative literature review of impacts and management. International Journal of Tourism Research.  20: 286-298. DOI: 10.1002/jtr.2180
  67. Papadonikolaki, E., Koutamanis, A. and Wamelink, J.W.F. H. (2013). Attaining performance and building information modelling: A systematic literature review of product and process modelling in AEC. Building Information Modelling. Volume 2. Computation and Performance eCAADe31 475-483
  68. Phan, T.D., Smart, J.C.R., Capon, S.J. and Hadwen, W.L. (2016). Applications of Bayesian belief networks in water resource management: A Systematic Review. Environmental Modelling and Software. 85: 98-111
  69. Pickering, C.M., Rossi, S.D., Hernando, A. and Barros, A. (2018). Current knowledge and future research directions for the Monitoring and Management of Visitors in Recreational and Protected Areas Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism. 21: 10-18
  70. Porter, A., Creed, P., Hood, M. and Ching, T.Y.C. (2018). Parental decision-making and deaf children: a systematic literature review. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. eny019
  71. Prater, J. Kirytopoulos, K. and Ma, T. (2017). Optimism bias within the project management context: A systematic quantitative literature review. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business. 10: 370-385
  72. Prayag, G. and Ozanne, L. (2018). A systematic review of peer-to-peer (p2p) accommodation sharing research from 2010 to 2016: progress and prospects from the multi-level perspective. Journal of Hospitality Marketing and Management. 27:649-678
  73. Puolitaival, T, and Kestle, L.(2018). Teaching and learning in AEC education – the gilding information modelling factor. Journal of Information Technology in Construction. 23:195-214
  74. Ribau, C.P., Moreira, A.C., and Raposo, M. (2018). Sme’s internationalization in the American continent: A literature review. Innovar 28: 59-73
  75. Riebe, L., Girardi, A. and Whitsed, C. (2016). A systematic literature review of teamwork pedagogy in higher education. Small Group Research. 47: 619-664.
  76. Riebe, L., Girardi, A. and Whitsed, C. (2017). Teaching teamwork skills in Australian higher education business disciplines: Evidence from a systematic literature review. Issues in Educational Research. 27: 134
  77. Roche, S. (2017). Child protection and maltreatment in the Philippines: A systematic review of the literature. Asian and the Pacific Policy Studies. 4: 104-128. 10.1002/app5.167
  78. Roy, S., Pickering, C. and Byrne, J. (2012). A systematic quantitative review of urban tree benefits, costs, and assessment methods across cities in different climatic zones. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening. 11: 351– 363
  79. Rupprecht, C.D.D., Byrne, J.A., Garden, J.G. and Hero, J. (2015). Informal urban green space: A trilingual systematic review of its role for biodiversity and trends in the literature. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening. 14: 883-908
  80. Sala, E. (2018). Housing crisis, social movements and empowerment: A systematic literature review. Documents d’Analisi Geografica 64: 99-126
  81. Sato, C.F., Wood, J.T. and Lindenmayer, D.B. (2013) The effects of winter recreation on alpine and subalpine fauna: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PlosOne. 8:e64282.
  82. Schoenberg, G., Cuskelly, G. and Auld, C. (2016). The role of intragroup dynamics in non-profit governance models: a systematic quantitative literature review. Managing Sport and Leisure. 21: 1-22. DOI:10.1080/23750472.2016.1169212
  83. Scott, N., Zhang, R., Le, D. and Moyle, B. (2017). A review of eye-tracking research in tourism. Current Issues in Tourism. DOI: 10.1080/13683500.2017.1367367
  84. Spasojevic, B., Lohmann, G. and Scott, N. (2016). Systematic literature review on air transport and tourism: Analysis from 54 journals during the period 2000-2014. CAUTHE 2016: The Changing Landscape of Tourism and Hospitality: The Impact of Emerging Markets and Emerging Destinations. Sydney: Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School, 2016: 293-313
  85. Spasojevic, B., Lohmann, G. and Scott, N. (2018). Air transport and tourism – a systematic literature review (2000-2014). Current Issues in Tourism 21: 975-997
  86. Steven, R., Pickering, C.M. and Castley, G. (2011). A review of the impacts of nature based recreation on birds. Journal of Environmental Management. 92: 2287-2294
  87. Steven, R., Morrison, C. and Castley, J.G. (2014). Birdwatching and avitourism: A global review of research into its participant markets, distribution and impacts, highlighting future research priorities to inform sustainable avitourism management. Journal of Sustainable Tourism: 23: 1257-1276. DOI:10.1080/09669582.2014.924955
  88. Stevenson, R.B., Lasen, M., Ferreira, J.A. and Davis, J. (2017). Approaches to embedding sustainability in teacher education: a synthesis of the literature. Teaching and Teacher Education 63: 405-417
  89. Sullivan, K., Thomas, S. and Rosano, M. (2018). Using industrial ecology and strategic management concepts to pursue the sustainable development goals. Journal of Cleaner Production. 174: 237-246
  90. Suzuki, M., Pai, C. and Islam, M.J. (2018). Systematic quantitative literature review of criminological theories in Asia. Asian Criminology. 13: 129-151. doi: 10.1007/s11417-017-9262-9
  91. Tarne, P., Traverso, M. and Finkbeiner, M. (2017). Review of life cycle sustainability assessment and potential for its adoption at an automotive company. Sustainability 9: 670. doi:10.3390/su9040670
  92. Tilbury, C. and Ramsay, S. (2018). A systematic scoping review of parental satisfaction with child protection services. Evaluation and Program Planning. 66: 141-146.
  93. Trembath, D., Westerveld, M. and Shellshear, L. (2016). Assessing spoken language outcomes in children with ASD: A systematic review. Current Development Disorders Reports. 3: 33-45
  94. Thomas, S. (2014). Blue carbon: Knowledge gaps, critical issues and novel approaches. Ecological Economics. 107: 22-38
  95. Thomson, A., Cuskelly, G., Toohey, K., Kennelly, M., Burton, P, and Fredline, L. (2018). Sport event legacy: A systematic quantitative review of literature. Sport Management Review
  96. Turner, J.A., Babcock, R.C., Hovey, R. and Kendrick, G.A. (2017). Deep thinking: a systematic review of mesophotic coral ecosystems. ICES Journal of Marine Science 74: 2309-2320
  97. van Velden, J., Wilson, K, and Biggs, D. (2018). The evidence for bushmeat crisis in African savannas: a systematic quantitative literature review. Biological Conservation. 221: 345-356
  98. Ward, A., Dargusch, P., Thomas, S., Liu, Y., Fulton, E.A. (2014). A global estimate of carbon stored in the world’s mountain grasslands and shrublands and implications for climate policy. Global Environmental Change. 28: 14-24
  99. Ward, A., Dargusch, P., Grussu, G. and Romeo, R. (2016).Using carbon finance to support climate policy objectives in high mountain ecosystems. Climate Policy. 16: 732-751. DOI:10.1080/14693062.2015.1046413
  100. Wolf, I.B., Ainsworth, G.B., and Crowley, J. (2017). Transformative travel as a sustainable market niche for protected areas: a new development, marketing and conservation model. Journal of Sustainable Tourism 25: 1650-1673.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09669582.2017.1302454
  101. Wortley, L., Hero, J. and Howes, M. (2013). Evaluating ecological restoration success: A review of the literature. Restoration Ecology. 21: 537-543
  102. Yang, E.C.L., Khoo-Lattimore, C. and Arcodia, C. (2017). A systematic literature review of risk and gender research in tourism. Tourism Management. 58: 89-100
  103. Yung, R. and Khoo-Lattimore, C. (2017). New realities: a systematic literature review of virtual reality and augmented reality in tourism research. Current Issues in Tourism. DOI: 10.1080/13683500.2017.1417359

Please let us know if you do publish using this method and we can add your paper to this list.

Further resources and contacts

Article in The Conversation:

Important reference for how to report on how you systematically searched for papers that may be required by journals:

  • Boote, B.N. and Beile P. (2005). Scholars before researchers: On the centrality of the dissertation literature review in research preparation. Educational Researcher. 34: 3-15.
  • Crisp, B.R. (2015) Systematic reviews: A social work perspective. Australian Social Work, 68:3, 284-295.
  • Murray, R. (2011). How to Write a Thesis. McGraw Hill Open University Press. Maidenhead, England (Chapter on writing a literature reviews).
  • Petticrew, M. and Roberts, H. (2006). Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, England.
  • Randolph J.J. (2009). A guide to writing the dissertation literature review. Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation. 14: 1-13.

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