Literature reviews are central to any academic research. Whether journal article, conference presentation or research thesis it is necessary for all of them to provide an overview of earlier research in order to contextualize one’s own findings. More fundamentally, the beginning of any research is crucially dependent on an appropriate literature review. In recent years a supposedly new form of literature review has emerged, so called, systematic reviews. The aim of this paper is to question the key premises of systematic reviews and demonstrate that the claims they are less biased and more rigorous than so called narrative reviews do not hold. This paper briefly introduces the origin of systematic reviews and explains how they are undertaken. Based on this introduction the paper shows that key premises of systematic reviews cannot be fulfilled and that they by no means guaranty the creation of 'better' literature reviews. In contrast, to systematic reviews which put importance on the literature identification and selection process, it argues that reading is central to reviewing literature. Reading enables academics to improve their understanding of the subject area and therefore to further advance their searches. Better literature reviews can only be achieved through better understanding of the subject area. Proper understanding of search techniques will then allow researchers to identify further relevant literature. Reviewing literature is therefore better described as a hermeneutic process.
Boell, Sebastian and Cezec-Kecmanovic, Dubravka, "ARE SYSTEMATIC REVIEWS BETTER, LESS BIASED AND OF HIGHER QUALITY?" (2011). ECIS 2011 Proceedings. 223.