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Systematic Reviews

Systematic Reviews - What They Are

Read through this guide to determine if there is a shared understanding on what this involves.

Is it really really a systematic review?  Do you have the time and the team assembled to do a systematic review?

Everyone Wants to do a Systematic Review - The Krafty Librarian - 1 October 2019

Assessment of Publication Trends of Systematic Reviews and Randomized Clinical Trials, 1995 to 2017.
Niforatos JD, Weaver M, Johansen ME.
JAMA Intern Med. 2019 Jul 29. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.3013. 

Contact a librarian to discuss search support requirements for your systematic review - or submit a search request if your search need is for another review type

Consider requesting a scoping review or even a general literature search in the first instance to get a feel for the amount of information available before refining your request and beginning the systematic review.

A systematic review is a protocol-driven, comprehensive literature review, designed to answer a well defined question.  It involves using a specific research methodology with internationally accepted characteristics.

If you are not prepared to follow this strict methodology then perhaps another review type would be more appropriate. [See the Review Types link].  The Yale University's Harvey Cushing / John Hay Whitney Medical Library has an excellent series of short videos on the process of conducting a systematic review.

The key characteristics of a systematic review are:

  • a clearly stated set of objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies;
  • an explicit, reproducible methodology; a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria;
  • an assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies, for example through the assessment of risk of bias; and
  • a systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies.

Systematic reviews may also contain meta-analyses. Meta-analysis is the use of statistical methods to summarize the results of independent studies. By combining information from all relevant studies, meta-analyses can provide more precise estimates of the effects of health care than those derived from the individual studies included within a review (see The Cochrane Handbook Chapter 10). They also facilitate investigations of the consistency of evidence across studies, and the exploration of differences across studies.

Citation: Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.0

Ensuring the rigor in systematic reviews: Part 1, the overview - Heart & Lung - September-October 2020

Ensuring the rigor in systematic reviews: Part 2, preparation is key: The question and the protocol - Heart & Lung 26 August 2020

When not done well - The Mass Production of Redundant, Misleading, and Conflicted Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses - JP Ioannidis - Milbank Q. September 2016
 

Acknowledgement - much of the content in this guide has been adapted / copied from the Yale University's Harvey Cushing / John Hay Whitney Medical Library's guide on systematic reviews and other comprehensive searching guide.