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Systematic Reviews: Home

Introduction

This guide offers support and useful links for completing a systematic review.

A high quality systematic review is typically conducted by a team of researchers over a long time period. This guide is aimed at individual researchers searching systematically but over a shorter time span.

What is a systematic review?

A systematic review is a high-level overview of primary research on a particular research question that tries to identify, select, synthesize and appraise all high quality research evidence relevant to that question in order to answer it. (Definition from Cochrane Collaboration http://www.cochrane.org/about-us/evidence-based-health-care)

The methodology used to collect the research has to be consistent in order to reduce misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the data.

High quality systematic reviews usually involve a minimum of two people working as part of a research team and can typically take a minimum of a year to complete. Cochrane Collaboration reviews for instance cannot be produced by individuals as the selection of studies for eligibility and data extraction has to be performed by at least two people independently.

Tips for systematic reviews

Useful pointers

  • The review should be based on a peer-reviewed protocol (plan) which describes the review question, your rationale for the proposed methods and details of how different types of studies will be located, appraised and synthesised.
  • Systematic reviews can only be undertaken on primary research papers (so no narrative reviews or opinion papers)
  • 3 main types:
    • Quantitative (only include quantitative primary research)
    • Qualitative (only include qualitative primary research
    • Mixed method ( includes both quantitative and qualitative)

Steps in a systematic literature review

There are five key steps in producing a systematic literature review:

Step 1    Formulate your research question
Step 2    Identify your search terms and conduct your searches
Step 3    Assess the quality of the studies
Step 4    Summarise the evidence
Step 5    Interpret the findings