Purity or pragmatism? Reflecting on the use of systematic review methodology in development

Ruth Stewart, Carina van Rooyen, Thea de Wet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Systematic review methodology pioneered in health care has been increasingly applied to development questions of importance in lower- and middle-income countries. This paper reports one such review on the topic of microfinance in sub-Saharan Africa and reflects on the number of pragmatic methodological compromises made when applying the method to a new field. These compromises relate to multidisciplinary teamwork, application of regional filters, drawing on evidence from additional study types and exploring mechanisms for change through the development and testing of a causal pathway. The paper concludes that a pragmatic rigorous approach to systematically reviewing evidence of effectiveness is needed for international development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-444
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Development Effectiveness
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


  • development
  • microfinance
  • multidisciplinary teamwork
  • sub-Saharan Africa
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development


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