Systematic Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Systematic Guide

Systematic Literature Review Saeed Pahlevan Sharif

Learn how to conduct a systematic literature review and publish it in a top-tier journal!


Different typologies of reviews exist. But I simply group them into three main categories: Traditional literature review, systematic review, and meta-analysis.

Traditional literature review is the most commonly used method for reviewing literature. This is the same method that you used in writing the literature review chapter of your Masters/PhD thesis. But it is not likely you can publish your traditional literature review as a Literature Review paper in a journal until you are an ‘expert’ in your field. In writing traditional literature reviews, you should use your own judgment to select representative literature, assess its relative importance, and present the findings. In other words, traditional literature reviews rely primarily on your understanding and assessment of the field. Thus, editors, reviewers, and researchers expect well-known ‘experts’ to conduct such reviews. Sometimes, even journal editors literally invite experts to write a review for their journal. So, try writing a traditional literature review only if researchers in the field acknowledge you are an ‘expert’. Moreover, traditional literature reviews have been critiqued for their lack of reliability, validity, and extent of research bias in the production of evidence-based knowledge. We will discuss more about the limitations of this method in this course.

On the other hand, meta-analysis is the most positivist and quantitative way of conducting a literature review. To conduct a meta-analysis, you should use the techniques of systematic literature review to identify the papers and then use statistical analysis to combine the results of multiple studies. Meta-analysis can be performed when there are multiple studies addressing the same question, with each individual study reporting measurements that are expected to have some degree of error. So, for meta-analysis, first you should have a good understanding of systematic literature review, and second you should know relevant statistical methods.

Due to the challenges of conducting traditional literature reviews and meta-analysis studies, I would suggest considering conducting a systematic literature review first. Systematic literature review is a research method to synthesize the existing body of knowledge. This method has increasingly replaced traditional narrative reviews. Systematic literature review is considered the ‘gold’ standard for synthesizing evidence and sits between traditional literature reviews and meta-analysis. It means to write a systematic literature review you neither need to be an ‘expert’ in the field nor to know statistical methods. Journals are welcome to systematic literature reviews as long as they are comprehensive, transparent, and conducted following a protocol that reduces biases and increases reliability. Indeed, systematic literature review can be your very first paper published in top-tier journals. I often introduce systematic literature review as a shortcut to publish in high impact journals to my PhD students and early career researchers. The term ‘systematic’ indicates that there is a fixed plan or ‘system’ to conduct the review. What you need to do is just following the detailed guideline, step-by-step! The guideline we use in this course is the revised version of Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). Take this course and publish your first systematic literature review paper!

To know more read the following papers.

Pahlevan-Sharif, S., Mura, P., & Wijesinghe, S. N. (2019). A systematic review of systematic reviews in tourism. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 39, 158-165.

Pahlevan-Sharif, S., Mura, P., & Wijesinghe, S. N. (2019). Systematic Reviews in Asia: Introducing the “PRISMA” Protocol to Tourism and Hospitality Scholars. In Quantitative Tourism Research in Asia (pp. 13-33). Springer, Singapore.

After completing this course, you will be able to

  • Develop your systematic literature review topic
  • Develop a comprehensive search query for searching studies in online databases such as Scopus, World of Science, PubMed, etc.
  • Design your systematic literature review protocol following PRISMA
  • Conduct your systematic literature review
  • Report your systematic literature review to be published in journals

Systematic literature review, developing a systematic review topic, stating the rational for a systematic review study, developing advanced search queries in online databases, advanced level of using Scopus database, assessing systematic literature reviews, reporting your systematic literature review, publishing systematic literature reviews.



Associate Professor Dr Saeed Pahlevan Sharif

دکتر سعید پهلوانشریف

I’m Saeed. I’m currently the Director of Centre for Industrial Revolution and Innovation (CIR4I), Taylor’s University, Malaysia. I’ve conducted various workshops on methodological and data analytics topics. I also have published more than 100 papers in peer-reviewed journals among them are several review papers published in Current Issues in Tourism, Tourism Review, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Nurse researcher, OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying, and Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism. I received Taylor’s University Vice Chancellor’s Research Award and the Iranian Embassy Research Medallist Award in 2017. I serve as the Editor of Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration, Taylor’s Business Review, and Homo economicus.

I have a passion for teaching too. I received Superhero Award 2018 for integrating technology in classroom and recently I was awarded the gold medal of EMAS award for innovation in teaching and learning in 2020. I’ve helped many students and researchers learn to conduct systematic reviews and improve their career by publishing the review papers in top-tier journals. In this course, you’ll find a lot of humour but also lots of explanations and good materials to make sure everything is easy to understand. I’ll be with you every step of the way. Enjoy the course!





Download the Slides

About Literature Review

Functions of Literature Review
8 minutes
Reading: Publishing Systematic Literature Reviews
2 hours
Different Types of Literature Reviews and Systematic Literature Review
14 minutes
Quiz 1: Systematic literature review
5 questions
Systematic literature review and PRISMA
5 minutes
Reading: The Most Important Papers to Read!
2 hours
PRISMA protocol and flow chart
15 minutes
4 minutes

Conducting Systematic Literature Review

How to conduct a systematic literature review
26 minutes
Quiz 2: Conducting systematic literature review
5 questions
Performing the search using Scopus advanced search
17 minutes
Boolean Operators
4 minutes
Quiz 3: Scopus advanced search
5 questions

Performing a Search

Let’s perform a search!
31 minutes
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Systematic Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Systematic Guide