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Systematized review methods for SBS 402

Information about the methods used in systematic reviews that can be adapted for SBS capstone projects.

Sections of your paper

Your paper will likely include the following sections: 

Title: This should include all the key elements of your research. It is common to have a subtitle that identifies systematic/systematized review as your method (e.g. Increasing retention and graduation for parenting students: A systematized review). 

Abstract: A concise summary of what you researched, how you did it, and what you found, possibly including the implications of your findings. 

Introduction: What is your research question and why is it important? This is a good place for broad statistics (often from government agencies) that describe how many people are affected by the social issue you're studying. 

Literature Review: In this section, you are describing the scholarly conversation that has been happening on your topic. You synthesize the information from your sources to find connections among them and identify themes that help you describe the state of scholarship on this topic. You are NOT trying to answer your research question in this section. 

Methods: Include your PICOS, main concepts, and databases searched, along with their platforms (e.g. Academic Search Premier (EBSCO), Sociological Abstracts (ProQuest)). You should describe the process for creating your search strings, and include the search strings themselves in an appendix. Describe any filters you used and what your date range was. (See the examples below for ideas on how to present your methods.) Your methods section should also briefly describe the screening process in Rayyan, and the process of creating a coding table and synthesis table.

Results: This section can include your PRISMA flow diagram, and a description of how many studies were included, and how many were excluded (and for what reasons). This is also where you will present tables and narrative for your coding and synthesis steps. (See the examples below for ideas on how to present your results.)

Discussion: In this section, you talk about the significance of your results: How do you interpret them? What do implications do they have? How does this relate to what is already known about this topic (refer back to your literature review)? How does your theory help you to make meaning of your findings? 

Conclusion: The patterns, connections, or trends that emerge from your synthesis table should lead you to conclusions about what is or isn't effective, or you might say that your findings are inconclusive based on the available evidence. Your conclusions will likely lead to recommendations for policy or practice, and you may also note areas for further research. 

Reference List: This should include everything cited in your paper, including your literature review and the studies included in the systematized review. 

Appendix: Search strings (in order for your methods to be replicable, the entire search string for each database should be included)


This article is a good example of reporting your methods, though your section will be quite a bit shorter than theirs. 

Filges, T., Dietrichson, J., Viinholt, B. C. A., & Dalgaard, N. T. (2022). Service learning for improving academic success in students in grade K to 12: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 18(1), e1210.

You will want to have a section similar to their "4.1 Criteria for considering studies for this review." This section describes their PICOS. You do not need to go into this much detail, but you do need to describe your PICOS. 

You also need a section similar to their "4.2 Search methods for identification of studies" that describes your databases, search strings, and limiters. 

Also note that they include their flow diagram in "4.3.1 Selection of studies." 

Methods & Results

This article has elements of the methods and results sections that you might want to use as a model. 

Peters, L., Hobson, C. W., & Samuel, V. (2022). A systematic review and meta-synthesis of qualitative studies that investigate the emotional experiences of staff working in homeless settings. Health & Social Care in the Community, 30(1), 58–72.

In section 2.1 Systematic Review, there is a PRISMA flow chart, a table with inclusion/exclusion criteria, and a table with the search terms. Because your search terms are different for each database, you will have a lot, and you might consider putting them in an appendix. In that case, you would still want to identify your main concepts in the methods section and then refer the reader to the appendix for the search terms. 

Results: Table 3 is one model for describing the studies you've included, and Table 4 is a presentation of the results of their meta-synthesis, in which they identify the overarching themes and use qualitative data from their studies as examples of the themes. 

Results: Qualitative and Quantitative

The methods section of this article does not include adequate detail, so do NOT use it as a model. The results section is a good example of reporting both qualitative and quantitative results. 

Hanschmidt, F., Linde, K., Hilbert, A., Riedel, H. S. G., & Kersting, A. (2016). Abortion Stigma: A Systematic ReviewPerspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health48(4), 169–177.

Tables 1 & 2 do a nice job of outlining the characteristics of the studies included as well as their main findings. 

The narrative part of the Results section has many sub-sections. The first two present study characteristics and measurements. The following sub-sections describe the findings from the included studies and are separated out into categories ("Women's experiences of stigma," "Public attitudes stigmatizing abortion," etc.). 

The Discussion section gives us a synthesis of what we can take away from the body of included studies, including your interpretation of what it all means, the implications, and any gaps in the literature. 

Methods & Results

This is a systematic review and meta-synthesis that has some elements of the methods and results sections that you may want to use as a model. 

Brede, J., Cage, E., Trott, J., Palmer, L., Smith, A., Serpell, L., Mandy, W., & Russell, A. (2022). “We Have to Try to Find a Way, a Clinical Bridge” - autistic adults’ experience of accessing and receiving support for mental health difficulties: A systematic review and thematic meta-synthesis. Clinical Psychology Review, 93, 102131.

The methods section can serve as a model for presenting your eligibility criteria, information sources, search, and study selection (sections 1.1-1.4). Note that they've included their PRISMA diagram in the results section, and they talk about study selection there as well, not about the process but about the results of it. 


Table 1 is a presentation of the studies' characteristics. Your characteristics table may not have as many columns; that will be based on what aspects of the studies are important for your research. Note that the characteristics are also summarized in the paragraphs below the table. 

Figure 1 is one way to present themes and sub-themes. Note that the figure has just brief headings and bullet points, and each theme is described in greater detail in the following paragraphs.