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Edward G. Miner Library

Systematic Reviews: Getting Started

A guide to help users plan the best review type, team, methods and have a clear idea of the responsibilities of performing these comprehensive literature review projects.

Systematic Review

"A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing more reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made (Antman 1992, Oxman 1993). 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"

Higgins, J. P. T., Green, S., & Cochrane Collaboration. (2008). Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions. Chichester, England: Wiley-Blackwell.

Steps to conducting a Systematic Review

Your questions to the following questions can help you decide if a systematic review is appropriate and will be a useful format for your investigation of a research question.

1.  What is your purpose for this project?  
Some possible purposes:

  • Determine best practices/ best treatment
  • Inform policy
  • Summarize qualitative studies
  • Integrate qualitative studies with quantitative ones
  • Explore a new topic
  • Investigate applications of a theory

2. How much research already exists on this topic? How much is published? What steps have you taken to determine the amount of published literature?

3. What kind of research do you expect to find on your topic? In what types of publications?

4. When do you expect/need to have results ready to submit for presentation/publication/grade/degree?

5. How much time, on a daily/weekly basis, do you realistically expect to have available for reviewing abstracts and full-texts, extracting data, evaluating study quality and writing in the above time frame?

6. How many people will be working on reviewing abstracts & full text, data mining and writing of this paper?

7. How much time will be available to work on the project within the proposed time frame?

8. What plans do you have for contingencies in the event one or more study team members cannot complete their portion of the work in the time frame?

Systematic Review Process

Miner Library Systematic Review Services:

Standard:

  • Suggest pertinent databases
  • Recommend search terms
  • Teach you how to look for and enter search terms
  • Teach you about stringing terms together          

CO-authorship:

  • Find search terms & formulate search strategy
  • Translate the search strategy among databases and grey lit sources
  • Collect, de-duplicate, and track #s of query results
  • Snowball (track forward and backward citations)
  • Write/edit search segment of Methods section
  • Citation visualization (bibliometric analysis)
  • Draft PRISMA diagram