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Systematic Reviews: Home

A guide to conducting systematic reviews.

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Why Do a Systematic Review?

  • Save clinicians and researchers valuable time
  • Take a large mass of literature and make concise sense of it
  • Objectively evaluate the quality of evidence on a topic
  • Resolve or highlight contradictions in the literature
  • Guide clinical decisions
  • Form the basis for practice guidelines and health care policy
  • Identify the need for additional research
  • Prevent unnecessary studies from being carried out

What is a Systematic Review?

"A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question. It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected to minimize bias, thus providing reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made."

Liberati, et al., 2009. The PRISMA statement for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses of studies that evaluate health care interventions: explanation and elaboration. J Clin Epidemiol 2009; 62: e1-e34. 

Types of Reviews

There are a wide variety of different types of reviews. For an excellent summary of 14 review types, see Grant MJ, Booth A. A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Info Libr J. 2009 Jun;26(2):91-108. PMID: 19490148.

Here are some common categories:

Narrative reviews: Broad perspective on topic, no specified search strategy, significant bias issues, may not evaluate quality of evidence

Systematic reviews: Comprehensive with minimized bias, based on specific question and criteria with a pre-planned protocol, evaluates quality of evidence

  • Based on randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs) – Best evidence
  • Based on other types of clinical studies or literature – Best available evidence
  • Meta-analysis – A quantitative systematic review that applies statistical analysis

Scoping Reviews: An overview of the literature on a broader topic; often done to identify whether a systematic review is feasible or to identify the overall state of the literature. For detailed information on how to do a Scoping Review, check out the Joanna Briggs Institute Guidelines.

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