Conducting a 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. The key characteristics of a systematic review are:
- clearly defined question with inclusion and exclusion criteria;
- rigorous and systematic search of the literature;
- critical appraisal of included studies;
- data extraction and management;
- analysis and interpretation of results; and
- report for publication
What to consider when getting started with a systematic review
Time - average systematic reviews requires about 18 months of preparation
Team - you need to be working with: subject experts to help clarify issues related to the topic; librarians who can develop the comprehensive search strategies and identify the appriopriate databases to search; reviewers who can screen abstracts and read the full text; statistician who can assist with the appropriate analysis of the data; and project leader who will cordinate and write the final report
Written protocol - you need a written protocol that outlines the methodology, including the rationale for the systematic review, key questions broken into PICO components, inclusion/exclusion criteria, and literature search for both published and unpublished literature, data abstraction and data management, assessment of methodological quality of individual studies, data synthesis, and grading the evidence for each key question.
Literature searching - you need to first identify systematic reviews that may already address the key questions; then identify the appropriate databases and conduct a comprehensive and detailed literature search that can be documented and duplicated;
Citation management - you need working knowledge of EndNote or other software package to help manage the citations from the literature search
Guidelines for reporting - you need to use the appropraite guideline for reporting your review for publication
How can the Library help?
Research librarians can partner on systematic reviews. Add us to your author team and we will design and manage complex, thorough searches in multiple databases. We will provide you with EndNote libraries of de-duplicated results, tables with detailed search strategies, and a narrative of the search methodology.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.