Volunteering for All: national framework - literature review

This report outlines a systematic review of the research literature on volunteering.

Overview of the reviewed literature

Coverage of the review

We start by describing the coverage of the literature that was reviewed, describing the publication type; geographical coverage; and the overall quality scoring.

In total, 130 articles were full-text reviewed by multiple reviewers. After reading, 113 of them (87%) were assessed as appropriate for inclusion in the review and were fully evaluated. As shown in Table 1, the majority of the fully-evaluated papers primarily targeted an academic audience.

Table 1: Publication primary audience

Publication primary audience Frequency %
Academic 108 95.58
Professional  4 3.54
Service provider organisations 1 0.88
Total 113 100

The majority (95%) of the evaluated publications were empirical studies describing a single research study (see Table 2). As shown in Table 3, 28% of the evaluated publications were based on qualitative research design; and roughly 67% were quantitative studies (N=76), including 71 case-control/cross-sectional/uncontrolled longitudinal studies, two cohort studies, two economic evaluations and one ‘before and after’ study. 

Table 2: Publication type

Publication type Freq. Percent
Describes a single research study with empirical evidence 107 94.69
Describes an example or case study relating to volunteers or volunteering 1 0.88
Presents the author’s own views, opinions or experiences 2 1.77
Reviews two or more independent research studies 3 2.65
Total 113 100

Table 3: Research design

Research design Freq. Percent
Case-control/cross-sectional/uncontrolled longitudinal study  71 62.83
Qualitative research 32 28.32
Not a research study or literature review  3 2.65
Cohort Study 2 1.77
Economic Evaluation 2 1.77
Literature Review, including systematic review and rapid review 2 1.77
Controlled Before and After Study (CBA) and uncontrolled Before-and-After Study 1 0.88
Total 113 100

As shown in Table 4, 43% of the papers evaluated covered one or more countries outside of Europe.  A further 22% related to research conducted soley in England. Five publications (4%) were about research focussed exclusively on Scotland. In addition, there were another seven publications (6%) related to more than one country in the UK; and five of them used data from Scotland. There were also six publications that covered countries both within and outside of Europe. 

Table 4: Which country/countries the publications related to

Country studied Freq. Percent
Country/countries outside of Europe 49 43.4
England exclusively 25 22.1
Other country/countries in Europe 18 15.9
More than one country in the UK 7 6.2
Countries within and outside of Europe 6 5.3
Scotland exclusively 5 4.4
Not specified 3 2.7
Total 113 100

Table 5 reports the distribution of the priority scores in the evaluated literature. Only eight publications scored four (out of seven priority domains); whereas the majority of publications scored two or three. 

Table 5: Priority scores

Priority Scores Freq. Percent
4 8 7.08
3 52 46.02
2 53 46.9
Total 113 100

Regarding the quality of research, most of the publications reviewed were assessed as either high or medium quality. Only a small number of them were categorised as low quality publications (see Table 6). This quality assessment was taken into account in writing this review.

Table 6: Research quality evaluated by reviewers

Quality Assessments



High quality



Medium quality



Low quality 








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