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Systematic Reviews

Specialised advice for planning, researching and writing Systematic Reviews.

What is a systematic review?

A systematic review is a review of research that aims to be principled, methodical and explicit. A systematic review addresses a clearly defined research question and uses explicit and standardised methods to identify and review the literature (EPPI-Centre).

The Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions states that systematic reviews have the following characteristics:

  • 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 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 started in the health and medicine discipline. They have since started to be used in other disciplines including social sciences, sciences and engineering.

Due to this, some content in this guide has a health focus, although it may be applied to other disciplines.

Steps to a systematic review

  1. Plan the review 

  2. Search for the literature.

  3. Analyse the results.

  4. Synthesise findings from included sources.

  5. Write the review.

  6. Publish the review.

The Guidelines & Tools section includes guidelines and handbooks as well as software and other tools to manage the process.


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