A systematic review is an approach to synthesising evidence from multiple studies. Systematic reviews use methodical approaches and criteria to identify relevant studies for inclusion, assess their quality, extract data and synthesise evidence.
Meta-analysis, meta-ethnography and realist synthesis are different types of systematic review.
A systematic review begins with the development of a clearly defined research question. A popular method for formulating a research question is PICO, which asks researchers to define the population, intervention, control and outcomes of interest. Before undertaking a systematic review, it is a good idea to search the literature to ensure your research question has not been addressed in a prior systematic review.
A number of guidelines exist for methodically performing a systematic review and critically appraising studies that meet the eligibility criteria.
- 2020 PRISMA statement and checklist
The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement suggest what should be included in a systematic review.
- Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions
This resource covers the core Cochrane methodologies from determining the scope of the review to interpreting results.
- Formulating a researchable question: A critical step for facilitating good clinical research
This article discusses the PICO framework for developing a research question.
- An Introduction to Systematic Reviews
This book, available for purchase, provides an overview of the nature, logic, diversity and process of undertaking systematic reviews as part of evidence-informed decision making.
- Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide
This book outlines the rationale and methods of systematic review, offering examples of applied practice in a variety of social science disciplines.
- The Campbell Collaboration
This is the website of an international research network that produces systematic reviews of the effects of social interventions.
- EPPI Centre
This is the website for the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Coordinating Centre which provides support and expertise to those undertaking a systematic review.
- Cochrane database of systematic reviews
A database of systematic reviews in health care.
- JBI critical appraisal tools
Checklists from the Joanna Briggs Institute to assist in assessing the trustworthiness, relevance and results of published papers, including risk of bias assessment.
- The Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS) for assessing the quality of nonrandomised studies in meta-analyses
A tool to assist in the assessment of nonrandomised studies.
- AMSTAR 2
A popular tool for critically appraising systematic reviews of randomised and non-randomised studies. This website includes the AMSTAR 2 tool, an article discussing AMSTAR 2 and guidance to use AMSTAR 2
- CASP checklists
A collection of critical appraisal tools for analysing various types of studies including systematic reviews, randomised control trials and cohort studies.
Covidence is a web-based software that helps manage a systematic review with multiple collaborators including screening and data extraction. The free trial allows users to perform one systematic review with two reviewers and up to 500 papers (as at December 2022).
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'Systematic review' is referenced in:
- Rainbow Framework :