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Doing postgraduate research

Covers the steps involved in performing a literature search for a postgraduate dissertation or research paper. Help is available through written guides; videos and links.

Analyse and interpret your results

Once you have performed your literature search to find studies covering your research question the next stage is to analyse and interpret them. This involves:

  • selecting the studies from those you have found which you would like to include in your review
  • assessing the quality of every study you are including
  • synthesising the findings from all of the studies in an unbiased way

Screen your results

The first step in analysing your results should be to test them against your inclusion and exclusion criteria from your protocol. Any results to be included in your review should be those that meet all of your inclusion criteria.

There are three stages in the screening process:

Pre-screening: Record the numbers of results from your search before screening commences

Title/Abstract screening: Go through the titles and abstracts of your results, removing any records which clearly do not meet your inclusion criteria. Don't be too strict in defining what meets your criteria at this stage as titles and abstracts offer only limited information.

Full text screening:  Obtain the full text of all studies which you have left. These should then be screened closely to see if they meet your criteria.

You should keep a record of any studies you have excluded as you may need to give some details about these in the methodology section of a thesis and results section of a systematic review.

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Assess the quality of your results

Once you know which studies meet your criteria you need to appraise them for quality. Part of this quality check is checking for the risk of bias amongst studies you have found.

Some of the links below include checklists for different types of studies, to help you with this task.

Assessing quality - external guides

Further help

If you need more help with assessing the quality of studies you find you can contact the Academic Learning Support team.

Collect and analyse data

The next step is to extract data from each study, data refers to information which is relevant to your review/thesis question.

Some reviews require the use of software to help with extracting data.

Interpret your results

Once you have selected the most reliable and relevant studies you will need to pull all the findings together. Systematic reviews contain analysis of the primary studies. The analysis may be narrative, which could be a structured summary and discussion of the studies' characteristics and findings, or it could be quantitative, which involves statistical analysis. The most commonly used statistical technique is meta-analysis.

Interpreting results - external guides

Software guides

There is software available which can help you when analysing your research.

NVivo is a software program used for qualitative and mixed-methods research. Specifically, it is used for the analysis of unstructured text, audio, video, and image data, including (but not limited to) interviews, focus groups, surveys, social media, and journal articles.

SPSS is the abbreviation of Statistical Package for Social Sciences and it is used by researchers to perform statistical analysis. As the name suggests, SPSS statistics software is used to perform only statistical operations.


The Library does not provide training in the use of this software but you may find the following guides useful: