Traditional literature reviews (TLR) are found in all disciplines including religion. In TLR a research question is chosen, resources are identified that have information relevant to the question, and one uses information from the resources to address the TLR question. Such reviews give writers and readers background knowledge, help them get up to speed, or help to set the stage for further research. In academia, projects supported by TLR include student papers, theses and dissertations, grants, and articles. In a religious community, sermons and religious instruction might be served by TLR. The information explosion is ongoing, and so TLR clearly have value. In addition, however, in the health and social sciences the "systematic review" (SR) is now widely viewed as an important alternative for those doing and reading literature reviews. Two reasons are frequently given for why the conclusions in SR receive special attention: 1. comprehensive literature searching is used (important for limiting bias), and 2. detailed/transparent reporting of methods are used (making replication and evaluation of methods possible). SR can increase confidence in conclusions of reviews.
A part of the first author’s research on SR, philosophy, and religion involves exploring the possibilities of SR for research in religion. A “scoping review” (type of SR) examined the literature on TLR and SR methods in and for religion. Although TLR were found in the religion literature, SR were not. Drawing on significant SR methods literature, a SR model was developed that could provide a more rigorous framework for literature reviews in religion.