Searching Systematically or A Systematic Review? Know the Difference...
A systematic literature search is a literature review on a database (such as Medline) which demonstrates that you have compiled a list of appropriate search terms and includes the structure of your search history which provides the evidence on which your assignment is based.
This is a less rigorous process than a systematic review. A systematic review usually covers a wider scope; you would be expected to look at all the available research in the area in question. For example, you would be expected to visit the Library if articles were only held in hard copy format, and where necessary obtain articles not held by the Library.
You may be told that you need to conduct a systematic review when in fact you just need to perform a literature search in a systematic manner. Usually at undergraduate level you would not be expected to exhaust every avenue of information and find every article in your research area.
If you are unsure about the differences between a systematic review and a literature review, this very useful document summarises them;
It is important that you understand the difference between the two because the parameters of “searching systematically” are far more flexible than those for a systematic review.
Your tutors will often expect you to perform a systematic search on a database to encourage best academic practice. This also reduces reliance on Google which does not show how you arrived at the set of references detailed in your bibliography. Your reference lists are supposed to reflect the arguments presented in your assignments; the reference lists provide the evidence.
Evidence-based assignments do not always have to be systematic reviews, and most undergraduate assignments are not systematic reviews. There are lots of different types of reviews which vary slightly in methodology. One of the characteristics they share is that all of them have a basic structure that has been given some thought by the person writing the report. Thus, when marking your work your tutors are looking at the strengths, weaknesses and depth of your arguments and assessing the evidence you have used to back your arguments up.
What’s in a Name? The difference between a Systematic Review and a Literature Review and Why it Matters. By Lynn Kysh, Information Services Librarian, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, MLGSCA Poster 2013 – CC-BY.