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HUB291(A1) Social Science Research Fundamentals (Spring 2024)

Narrative and Systematic Literature Reviews

Narrative or Traditional Literature Reviews

  • Establish a research question
  • Summarize and synthesize material from a range of literature related to the question
  • Critically analyze the material, look for inconsistencies and gaps in the research, and draw conclusions
  • Establish if further research is needed on the subject

      Systematic Literature Reviews have the same elements as Narrative Reviews

  • More rigorous in terms of analyzing and reporting the findings
  • More comprehensive in scope
  • More specific with regard to what is included in the review
  • Require clearly defined search strategies
  • Require transparency about data sources used


Because of the comprehensive, time-consuming, and rigorous nature of systematic reviews, social work students are much more likely to do narrative or traditional literature reviews for their course assignments. However, it is desirable for students to be as specific and transparent as possible in terms of search strategies, resources consulted, conclusions drawn, etc. even though the literature review may be less comprehensive than a systematic review.

Head, African Studies Library

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Beth Restrick
African Studies Library
6th floor, Mugar Memorial Library

Mon-Fri, 9am- 5pm
Subjects: African Studies