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Systematic Reviews

A guide directing researchers on the systematic review process. Layout based on Doing a Systematic Review: A Student's Guide, 2nd Edition, by Angela Boland, M. Gemma Cherry, and Rumona Dickson.

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Overview

Definition

What is a Systematic Review?

A systematic review is a comprehensive search of all of the studies, papers, research, and literature revolving around a specific question. It attempts to eliminate any bias, and includes unpublished studies ("grey literature"). The reviewers filter out poorly done studies and make recommendations based on a synthesis of the high quality studies. The ultimate goal of a systematic review is to change and improve clinical practice.

There are several different types of reviews researchers can conduct (Grant & Booth, 2009). For information on the other types of evidence syntheses, check out our guides on Integrative and Scoping Reviews.

what is needed

What is Needed?

To successfully conduct a systematic review, researchers need the following:

  • At least 3 people: This is not an individual effort! It is beneficial to work with a research team and a librarian for help in scoping the project and reviewing the literature. See Getting Help for information on how to consult with a librarian.
  • Time: a review can take 12-18 months, or even longer depending on the size of literature available. See the Planning Your Review for information on organizing your systematic review.
  • Adherence to standard practices: especially if the review is being conducted through an organization such as Cochrane, Campbell, or JBI - there are set requirements for authors to follow in these institutions. See below for a list of standards and guidelines.
  • A focused research question relating to a specific topic or area of literature: researchers are looking to answer a very specific question by reviewing all of the relevant research. See Developing A Research Question for more information on how to do this.

manage data extract

SR Toolbox

Systematic Review Toolbox

This toolbox provides an easy-to-use and searchable format for locating resources available online to help in the systematic review process. Tools offered include software, checklists, and guidelines for help in every step of the systematic review process. Filter by type of tool, cost, discipline, and approach using the advanced search (right-hand side). See the toolbox website below for more information.

More resources

Systematic Review Books in Our Collection

See below for some titles in our collection related to writing and conducting a systematic review. If you learn about other titles we don't have access to, feel free to suggest a purchase.

sysrev books

Doing a Systematic Review
Systematic Reviews to Answer Health Care Questions
Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews