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Conducting your literature review

Developing inclusion/exclusion criteria

A feature of the systematic literature review is using pre-specified criteria to include/exclude studies. Through searching the literature and formulating your review questions, for example by using PICO, PEO, etc., you will be able to define the specific attributes that research studies must have to be eligible for inclusion in your review, along with other attributes that will exclude them. These attributes will form your inclusion and exclusion criteria, which you will use to assess the relevance and quality of the studies to be included in your final analysis.

Examples of inclusion/exclusion criteria could be:

  • Language, e.g., only include articles published in English.
  • Timeframe, e.g., papers published after a certain date.
  • Geographic location, e.g., UK only.
  • Format, e.g., peer reviewed journal articles.
  • Type of research, e.g., case studies, empirical papers, qualitative research.

To justify their use, you will need to provide a rationale for each of your inclusion/exclusion criteria.

You will find examples of inclusion/exclusion criteria in research theses on CERES, Cranfield’s repository. Simply keyword search for “systematic review”.