A Systematic Search of Trends in Rural Development Research


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This systematic search investigates trends relating to quantity and content of research output over the last three decades in rural development research to assess whether the field is growing in a manner that reflects research and policy priorities and wider social trends related to sustainability. Three databases were searched using specific terms to identify relevant articles. Publications were classified into measurement, intervention or descriptive categories and analysed to explore the theme of sustainability. Findings reveal that descriptive research has dominated the rural development field since the 1980s. Research output has shifted from developing to developed regions. The proportion of publications linked to sustainability increased significantly, and the majority of sustainability interventions employed processes of engaging the community and wider stakeholders. The authors consider learning that can be derived from the systematic search process by highlighting four points relevant to policy makers, practitioners and funding bodies in the field.