In "Universities in a competitive global marketplace", Hemsley-Brown and Oplatka (2006) conduct a literature review of higher education marketing in an international context.
They list the business management and education databases they used as well as their hand and Internet searches with which they located secondary references and further publications by identified authors.
A systematic literature review is a review where all procedures are documented – the research audit trail of databases and search terms used is made explicit.
Systematic reviews were originally developed in the field of medicine, through the Cochrane Collaboration (Hemsley-Brown and Oplatka, 2006).
For their search strings they combined “higher education” or “university[ies]” with various thesaurus-obtained terms for marketing: The intention was to create a search that was simultaneously thorough and likely to yield the most relevant examples.
The start date of 1992 was justified as this was the year when polytechnics became universities.
Its origin lies in the field of evidence-based health care, but it has also been adopted by researchers in education and management.
Because of its rigorous approach and transparent methodology, it helps eliminate bias from the selection of literature, and hence create a reliable knowledge base.
A systematic review involves adopting a "replicable, scientific and transparent" approach and providing an "audit trail of reviewers' decisions, procedures and conclusions" (Moustaghfir, 2008).
The search process inevitably throws up a very large number of papers which are then reviewed according to agreed criteria for inclusion, often by a reviewing panel.