Cranfield Systematic Review Approach

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My professor gave me the hint to look for a systematic literature review approach which has been used at Cranfield University in the UK. Actually I found the description of a methodology to be used for a “systematic review”, that can be quite useful. It relies on six principles.

  • The approach addresses one or more clearly specified question
  • Involvement of many participants
  • The goal is to find all published and unpublished studies on a specific topic
  • Criteria for selection of studies are designed a priori and documented
  • Findings are summarized in a transparent and accessible format
  • Synthesis of the findings is necessary to make clear which parts of the questions can be answered and which parts are not known

These goals are achieved by following a ten step process:

  • Design a review plan and -protocol
    It should contain the research strategy, including review questions, study selection criteria, procedures for data extration and synthesis, and a timetable
  • Review group
    which consists of a) advisors, giving strategic advise and b) supporters, helping in the day to day analysis
  • Review question(s)
    Formultate the review questions according to the CIMO method, including context, intervention of an actor, mechanisms at work, outcome of the intervention
  • Search
    use different search strategies (defined in the review plan) eg. protocol driven, snow balling and personal knowledge
  • Select relevant studies
    use the predefined criteria for selecting the relevant literature
  • Rate the quality of the studies
  • Extract information
    systematically collect the information from the studies selected
  • Synthesis findings
  • Reporting
    Describe an analysis of the field, present what is known and not yet known
  • Inform research, policy and practice

Using this approach has many advantages over “just reading the papers”. The major drawback though is, that it needs experience and patience to create the review plan. All necessary research questions have to be raised already at the beginning of the endeavor, since only this can provide for a consistent analysis of the literature.

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