Aim: This paper offers a discussion of the reading and writing practices that define systematic review.
Background: Although increasingly popular, systematic review has engendered a critique of the claims made for it as a more objective method for summing up research findings than other kinds of reviews.
Discussion: An alternative understanding of systematic review is as a highly subjective, albeit disciplined, engagement between resisting readers and resistant texts. Reviewers of research exemplify the resisting reader when they exclude reports on grounds of relevance, quality, or methodological difference. Research reports exemplify resistant texts as they do not simply yield their findings, but rather must be made docile to review. These acts of resistance make systematic review possible, but challenge claims of its greater capacity to control bias.
Conclusion: An understanding of the reading and writing practices that define systematic review still holds truth and objectivity as regulative ideals, but is aware of the reading and writing practices that both enable and challenge those ideals.