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Criminology Master Thesis: Systematic review

What is a systematic review?

  • Reports secondary data with findings from already published articles.
  • Database searches are thorough, objective and reproducible.
  • Searches aim to identify as many eligible studies as possible, but if resources are limited it's necessary to balance comprehensiveness and maintaining a manageable search result.
  • The included studies are critically appraised and checked for bias with appropriate checklists.
  • The rigorous method for searching, appraising and reporting helps to minimize bias, and is a major difference distinguishing systematic reviews froma traditional narrative reviews.

Other forms of reviews

  • Meta analysis: A form of systematic review which reports secondary data with findings from already published studies. Summarizes the data quantitatively.
  • Narrative review: Reports secondary data with findings from already published studies, but lacks the rigorous method described above.


Note! Peer review articles reporting primary data are called original articles. Primary data can for example be in the form of interviews or questionnaires.

Criminology databases

Below you can find databases within criminology and related areas. When doing a systematic review it's important to search at least two databases, in order to minimize selection bias. Searching only one database might retrieve studies unrepresentative of all studies that would have been identified through searches in several databases.


This guide is maintained by Lena Wennerholm and Ulrika Klintberg, Malmö University library. If you have any questions you can contact us here: