Difference Between Literature Review and Systematic Review

Main Difference – Literature Review vs Systematic Review

Literature review and systematic review are two scholarly texts that help to introduce new knowledge to various fields. A literature review, which reviews the existing research and information on a selected study area, is a crucial element of a research study. A systematic review is also a type of a literature review. The main difference between literature review and systematic review is their focus on the research question; a systematic review is focused on a specific research question whereas a literature review is not.

This article highlights,

1. What is a Literature Review?
       – Definition, Features, Characteristics

2. What is a Systematic Review?
       – Definition, Features, Characteristics

3. What is the difference between Literature Review and Systematic Review?Difference Between Literature Review and Systematic Review - Comparison Summary

What is a Literature Review

A literature review is an indispensable element of a research study. This is where the researcher shows his knowledge on the subject area he or she is researching on. A literature review is a discussion on the already existing material in the subject area. Thus, this will require a collection of published (in print or online) work concerning the selected research area. In simple terms, a literature is a review of the literature in the related subject area.

A good literature review is a critical discussion, displaying the writer’s knowledge on relevant theories and approaches and awareness of contrasting arguments. A literature review should have the following features (Caulley, 1992)

  • Compare and contrast different researchers’ views
  • Identify areas in which researchers are in disagreement
  • Group researchers who have similar conclusions
  • Criticize the methodology
  • Highlight exemplary studies
  • Highlight gaps in research
  • Indicate the connection between your study and previous studies
  • Indicate how your study will contribute to the literature in general
  • Conclude by summarizing what the literature indicates

The structure of a literature review is similar to that of an article or essay, unlike an annotated bibliography. The information that is collected is integrated into paragraphs based on their relevance. Literature reviews help researchers to evaluate the existing literature, to identify a gap in the research area, to place their study in the existing research and identify future research.

Difference Between Literature Review and Systematic Review

What is a Systematic Review

A systematic review is a type of systematic review that is focused on a particular research question. The main purpose of this type of research is to identify, review, and summarize the best available research on a specific research question. Systematic reviews are used mainly because the review of existing studies is often more convenient than conducting a new study. These are mostly used in the health and medical field, but they are not rare in fields such as social sciences and environmental science.  Given below are the main stages of a systematic review:

  1. Defining the research question and identifying an objective method
  2. Searching for relevant data that from existing research studies that meet certain criteria (research studies must be reliable and valid).
  3. Extracting data from the selected studies (data such as the participants, methods, outcomes, etc.
  4. Assessing the quality of information
  5. Analyzing and combining all the data which would give an overall result.

Difference Between Literature Review and Systematic Review


Literature Review is a critical evaluation of the existing published work in a selected research area.

Systematic Review is a type of literature review that is focused on a particular research question.


Literature Review aims to review the existing literature, identify the research gap, place the research study in relation to other studies, to evaluate promising research methods, and to suggest further research.

Systematic Review aims to identify, review, and summarize the best available research on a specific research question.

Research Question

In Literature Review, a research question is formed after writing the literature review and identifying the research gap.

In Systematic Review, a research question is formed at the beginning of the systematic review.

Research Study

Literature Review is an essential component of a research study and is done at the beginning of the study.

Systematic Review is not followed by a separate research study.


Caulley, D. N. “Writing a critical review of the literature.” La Trobe University: Bundoora (1992).

cccrg.cochrane.org. . Retrieved 1 June 2016.

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About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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