Evidence for policy making: Some reflections on the application of systematic reviews to housing research

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


The recent turn towards evidence-based or evidence-informed policy making has generated interest in systematic literature review techniques. Systematic reviewing is increasingly being adopted to address questions in complex social policy areas, but the methodological development lags behind. Drawing on the experience of undertaking three systematic reviews of housing related topics, as part of a project designed to empirically test the transfer of systematic review methods to social policy and social care, this paper reflects on the use of the systematic review methods in housing research and considers how our experience accords with recent methodological development of reviewing in other areas. The paper first examines wider methodological developments occurring during the course of the three-year project, before considering changing review practices in housing studies. It then goes on to examine the key methodological challenges that remain unresolved, in particular: searching for literature, quality appraising studies, interpreting old research against shifting contextual factors, and providing an actual synthesis of diverse material. It calls for a more thoughtful approach to the method and more careful consideration of when systematic reviews may be appropriate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-314
Number of pages18
JournalHousing Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


  • systematic reviews
  • evidence
  • housing policy

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