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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. A main goal is to avoid bias in selection of research. 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.

Course description for study year 2021-2022. Please note that changes may occur.

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Offered by

Faculty of Arts and Education, Faculty of Arts and Education

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

1) The first course (description included below) is an introduction to systematic reviews in education.

2) The second is a course on conducting SRs with a meta analysis (description to follow).

3) The third is a course on conducting SRs with a meta synthesis (description to follow).


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, a protocol, and avoiding bias

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 emphasize the necessity of avoiding bias and what implications bias can have.

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.

Required prerequisite knowledge
Students must be enrolled in a PhD program. PhD candidates at other universities and university colleges in Norway and EEA can apply for admission to the course
Form of assessment Weight Duration Marks Aid
Hand inn 1/1 Pass - Fail

Active participation and completion of small assignments during the course, as well as a final paper (min 2000-3000 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: May Irene Furenes
Course coordinator: Serap Keles
Course teacher: Dieuwer Ten Braak
Course teacher: Elaine Munthe
Method of work
Lectures and seminars and submission of an individual 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).
Course assessment
An evaluation form in accordance with the expectations in the UiS quality system will be made available to the candidates after the completion of the course. The course participants are encouraged to contribute to the course evaluation.
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