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Systematic and Complex Reviews

Frameworks for research questions

Different frameworks lend themselves to different discipline focuses and research questions. PICO is the most widely known framework developed mainly for research questions in the health sciences.  Please note: The frameworks below are not an exhaustive list of systematic review frameworks that you can use.


Population; Phenomenon of Interest, Context, Population Intervention or Phenomena of Interest, Context


Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcomes, Context


Theory, Context, Characteristics, Methodology


Antecedents, Decisions, Outcomes


Antecedents, Decisions, Outcome, Theory, Context, Methodology


Input, Mediator, Outcome


Expectations (improvement, innovation or information), Client group, Location (where service is located), Impact (change in service and how measured), Professional involved, Service


Client group, Location (where service is located), Improvement|Information|Innovation, Professionals (people who provide the service)


Context, Intervention, Mechanisms, Outcomes


Choosing databases

Most guidelines recommend you search a few subject databases when conducting a systemic review. In addition, at least one citation tracking database should be searched to ensure a comprehensive search (Bramer et al., 2017). Ultimately, the choice of specific databases should be in line with the discipline or topic area, and the review’s guiding research question(s) (Hiebl, 2021).

This page lists prominent subject databases for each discipline area. A full list of databases can be found in the relevant Library Subject Guides.


Recommended subject databases

Citation tracking or Multidisciplinary databases

Citation tracking databases cover many different subject areas and harvest information from many subject specific databases.

Discipline specific examples of reviews

Systematic Review

Aarseth, W., Ahola, T., Aaltonen, K., Økland, A., & Andersen, B. (2017). Project sustainability strategies: A systematic literature review. International Journal of Project Management, 35(6), 1071-1083.

Di Vaio, A., Hassan, R., Chhabra, M., Arrigo, E., & Palladino, R. (2022). Sustainable entrepreneurship impact and entrepreneurial venture life cycle: A systematic literature review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 378, 134469.

Klang, D., Wallnöfer, M., & Hacklin, F. (2014). The Business Model Paradox: A Systematic Review and Exploration of Antecedents. International Journal of Management Reviews, 16(4), 454–478.    


Umbrella Review

Guidotti, F., Demarie, S., Ciaccioni, S., & Capranica, L. (2023). Relevant sport management knowledge, competencies, and skills: An umbrella review. Sustainability, 15(12), 9515. 

Macintyre, A. K., Shipton, D., Sarica, S., Scobie, G., Craig, N., & McCartney, G. (2024). Assessing the effects of population-level political, economic and social exposures, interventions and policies on inclusive economy outcomes for health equity in high-income countries: a systematic review of reviews. Systematic Reviews, 13(1), 58.



White, K., Habib, R., & Hardisty, D. J. (2019). How to SHIFT Consumer Behaviors to be More Sustainable: A Literature Review and Guiding Framework. Journal of Marketing, 83(3), 22-49.


Hossain, M. (2020). Sharing economy: A comprehensive literature review. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 87, 102470. 


Eon, C., Breadsell, J. K., Byrne, J., & Morrison, G. M. (2020). The discrepancy between as-built and as-designed in                energy efficient buildings: A rapid review. Sustainability, 12(16), 6372.

Meadows, J., Montano, M., Alfar, A. J. K., Başkan, Ö. Y., De Brún, C., Hill, J., McClatchey, R., Kallfa, N., & Fernandes, G. S. (2024). The impact of the cost-of-living crisis on population health in the UK: Rapid evidence review. BMC Public Health, 24(1), 561.

Scoping review

Han, S. J., & Stieha, V. (2020). Growth Mindset for Human Resource Development: A Scoping Review of the Literature with Recommended Interventions. Human Resource Development Review, 19(3), 309-331.

Paul, E., Bodson, O., & Ridde, V. (2021). What theories underpin performance-based financing? A scoping review. [Theories of PBF in LMICs] Journal of Health Organization and Management, 35(3), 344-381.


Recommended readings and references


BioMed Central. (2024). Systematic reviews: Protocol. Springer Nature. Retrieved 13 March 2024 from

Bramer, W., Rethlefsen, M. L., Kleijnen, J., & Franco, O. (2017). Optimal database combinations for literature searches in systematic reviews: A prospective exploratory study. Systematic Reviews, 6(1), 245-245.

Denyer, D., & Tranfield, D. (2009). Producing a systematic review. In D. A. Buchanan & A. Bryman (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of organizational research methods (pp. 671-689). Sage.

Faulkner, G., Fagan, M. J., & Lee, J. (2022). Umbrella reviews (systematic review of reviews). International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 15(1), 73-90.

Gunnell, K. E., Belcourt, V. J., Tomasone, J. R., & Weeks, L. C. (2022). Systematic review methods. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 15(1), 5-29. 

Hiebl, M. R. W. (2023). Sample Selection in Systematic Literature Reviews of Management Research. Organizational Research Methods26(2), 229-261. https://doi-org/10.1177/1094428120986851

Iannizzi, C., Akl, E. A., Anslinger, E., Weibel, S., Kahale, L. A., Abina, M. A., Piechotta, V., & Skoetz, N. (2023). Methods and guidance on conducting, reporting, publishing, and appraising living systematic reviews: a scoping review. Systematic Reviews, 12, 1-14.

Mantsiou, C., Liakos, A., Mainou, M., Papanas, N., Tsapas, A., & Bekiari, E. (2023). A Simple Guide to Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. The International Journal of Lower Extremity Wounds, 15347346231169842.

Munn, Z., Peters, M. D. J., Stern, C., Tufanaru, C., McArthur, A., & Aromataris, E. (2018). Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 18(1), N.PAG.

Paul, J., Khatri, P., & Kaur Duggal, H. Frameworks for developing impactful systematic literature reviews and theory building: What, Why and How? Journal of Decision Systems, 1-14.

Peters, M. D. J., Marnie, C., Colquhoun, H., Garritty, C. M., Hempel, S., Horsley, T., Langlois, E. V., Lillie, E., O’Brien, K. K., Tunçalp, Ӧ., Wilson, M. G., Zarin, W., & Tricco, A. C. (2021). Scoping reviews: reinforcing and advancing the methodology and application. Systematic Reviews, 10(1), 263.

Uttley, L., & Montgomery, P. (2017). The influence of the team in conducting a systematic review. Systematic Reviews, 6


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