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Literature Reviews

Guidance on conducting a narrative literature review for dissertations and theses

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

Establishing inclusion and exclusion criteria helps with designing search strategies and deciding which studies are relevant to your research question.  Possible criteria to consider include

  • Time frame: Historical perspective? Published within 5 years?
  • Geography: City? Country? Region?
  • Population: Age? Chemicals of interest? Gender? Species? Socioeconomic status?
  • Setting/Environment: Urban or rural? Experimental conditions? Climate?
  • Source type: Articles? Books? Conference proceedings? Dissertations or theses? Government reports?
  • Study design: Qualitative or quantitative? A specific methodology? Experimental or theoretical?
Tip: Choose your criteria carefully to avoid bias. For example, if you exclude non-English language articles, you may be ignoring relevant studies.


The following 6-minute video explains the relationship between inclusion and exclusion criteria and database searches.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria, Massachusetts General Hospital