Introduction to Systematic Review (SR) in Education (DUH100)

This course provides an introduction to systematic reviews (SR) in educational research. There are many different types of SR, but they all have in common that they are a synthesis of existing knowledge, and they utilize transparent and explicitly defined procedures to find, evaluate and synthesize the results of relevant research with minimum bias. SR is used to analyze and synthesize both quantitative and qualitative research. It has been widely used in medicine and is currently becoming more and more common within education.

This course is structured to reach two main goals: (1) An understanding of why SRs are important in the field of education, i.e., the purpose and principles of evidence in education, and (2) basic skills needed to appraise a research article and a SR article, and knowledge of the phases and practices of conducting a SR. Both goals will, combined, provide a foundation for you to assess the value of doing a systematic review within your own field and be able to start planning a systematic review.

KCE collaborates nationally and internationally, and we will involve our partners in delivering PhD courses, ensuring that PhD students have access to a wide range of prominent researchers in the field.

Course description for study year 2023-2024. Please note that changes may occur.


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1. What are systematic reviews?

Here, you will become acquainted with the value of systematic reviews, and learn about different kinds of SR, including SRs with meta-analysis, meta-synthesis and mixed-methods reviews, and learn about other approaches such as mapping and scoping reviews.

2. Framing the question

Framing a research question for an SR is an essential aspect. We will approach this issue by investigating different kinds of research questions used in systematic reviews and through your own work on developing a possible research question.

3. Developing a search strategy and protocol

What are the relevant sources of evidence needed to answer the research question posed in a non-biased way? Investigating possible databases and other sources of information will be a main topic in order to develop a search strategy and a protocol. We will critically discuss the importance of minimizing bias in various stages of systematic reviews including identifying relevant literature and extraction of data.

4. Critically appraising research articles and SR

Following the introduction to SR, we will carefully examine research articles and systematic reviews and discuss their quality using different appraisal tools.

Learning outcome


By completion of this course, the PhD candidate will have knowledge about:

  • What a SR is and main principles of evidence
  • Why SRs are relevant within the field of education
  • The differences between a narrative review and different kinds of SR
  • The different phases in conducting a systematic review
  • Protocols and other tools used for systematic reviews


By completion of this course, the PhD candidate will have gained following skills:

  • How to assess the quality of research articles and SR
  • To plan and make a relevant research question
  • To build a high quality search strategy

General competences

  • Further individual development of critical research literacy

Required prerequisite knowledge

Students must be enrolled in a PhD program. PhD candidates at other universities and university colleagues in Norway and EEA can apply for admission to the course.


Form of assessment Weight Duration Marks Aid
Hand inn 1/1 Passed / Not Passed

Active participation and completion of small assignments during the course, as well as a final paper (min 3000 words), which includes a rationale for your study, a research question, your method including a search strategy with search string, and a critical assessment of one relevant primary study OR one systematic review identified with this search strategy. The paper may be written in English or in a Scandinavian language. The portfolio is assessed (pass/fail) and participants will receive constructive feedback on their paper.

Coursework requirements

At least 80% attendance.

Course teacher(s)

Course teacher:

Sanna Erika Forsström

Course coordinator:

Serap Keles

Course teacher:

Melissa Bond

Method of work

Lectures and submission of an individual final paper.

Open for

Students enrolled in a PhD program. If any available space, the admission will also be open to researchers and master students. Applicants may be turned down due limitations in number of places (max. 20 participants).

If you are a PhD candidate at UiS you can register using studentweb.All external candidates must contact for admission to the course.

Course assessment

There must be an early dialogue between the course supervisor, the student union representative and the students. The purpose is feedback from the students for changes and adjustments in the course for the current semester.In addition, a digital subject evaluation must be carried out at least every three years. Its purpose is to gather the students experiences with the course.


The syllabus can be found in Leganto