Systematic reviews (SRs) are a rigorous and transparent form of literature review. They involve identifying, synthesising and assessing all available evidence, quantitative and/or qualitative, in order to generate a robust, empirically derived answer to a focused research question. Increasingly considered a key tool for evidence-informed policy making, a number of donors – most notably the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and AusAid – are focusing attention and resources on testing the appropriateness of SRs in assessing the impacts of development and humanitarian interventions.
This briefing paper reflects upon the use of SRs in international development research. It draws upon the authors' shared experience of conducting 8 systematic reviews, six of which focused specifically on fragile and conflict-affected situations, and identifies where an SR approach adds value to development research and where it becomes problematic.
Hagen-Zanker, J.; Duvendack, M.; Mallett, R.; Slater, R.; Carpenter, S.; Tromme, M. Making systematic reviews work for international development research. SLRC Briefing Paper No. 1. ODI, London, UK (2012) 4 pp.