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Nurse Educ Pract. 2014 Mar;14(2):102-5. doi: 10.1016/j.nepr.2014.01.005. Epub 2014 Jan 14.

Including systematic reviews in PhD programmes and candidatures in nursing - 'Hobson's choice'?

Author information

  • 1Department of Health Sciences, Karlstad University, SE-651 88 Karlstad, Sweden. Electronic address:
  • 2Department of Nursing, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden. Electronic address:
  • 3Department of Health Science, Blekinge Institute of Technology, SE-379 71 Karlskrona, Sweden; Faculty of Health and Society, Malmö University, SE-20506 Malmö, Sweden. Electronic address:


Nowadays, gathering and synthesising evidence, i.e. conducting systematic reviews, is considered an important part of any health service research endeavour. Reviewing the literature, however suggest that it is not yet common that PhD students/doctoral candidates publish systematic reviews or even include a high quality review of the literature as a part of their PhD programme or candidature. Implying that systematic reviewing skills might not be acquired by going through an education on a postgraduate level. Additionally, scholars debating systematic reviews 'to be or not to be' as a part of research training seem to be sparse, especially within the field of nursing. In this issue for debate, we would like to propose that the absence of systematic reviews' in this context might severely hamper the 'up and coming' researchers as well as the research conducted. We envisage that this lack can have a negative impact on international nursing practice, and therefore propose that systematic reviews should be considered, whenever appropriate, as a mandatory part of any PhD programme or candidature. We believe that abilities in systematic reviewing will be a sought after research skills in the near future. Including systematic reviews would promote i) refined, well-grounded adequate research questions, ii) PhDs with broad and elevated methodological skills, iii) an increased level of evidence based nursing praxis. However, to make this a reality, supervisors, PhD students, and candidates would need to understand the value of this kind of research activity. Finally, lobbying University faculty boards and grant providers that are not inclined to view literature reviews as 'proper' research or as an important part of health service research, needs to be put on the agenda.

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Meta-analysis; Meta-synthesis; Mixed studies reviews; Nursing; PhD theses; Systematic reviews

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