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University of Wollongong Australia

Systematic Review

How the Library can help when you're conducting a systematic review

How to do a systematic review

Step one: formulate a research question

The first step in your systematic review is to start with your research question, framework or topic. Once you've formulated your research question you can start searching for examples of systematic literature reviews.

Step two: find examples

Start searching for examples of systematic literature reviews (SLRs) that are on, or as close to, your topic as possible.

Systematic literature reviews often publish the search strategy and the Library databases they used. This can help you decide which databases to use and help you formulate your search.

Step three: conduct a search

Select and search Library databases relevant to your topic. It will take some time to develop a good search strategy. Once you find a search strategy that works for you, run the same search in each of the databases you have selected for your review. 

The finding information guide will help you develop a good search strategy.

Step four: keep track of your searches

From day one, document your search in each database. Use a good amount of detail so you can re-run the search and prove how you came by your results.

For example, our SLR search tracker is an Excel document (link below) to help you keep a record of your searches. You can refer back to this spreadsheet to re-run your search in the future.

Reference management software such as EndNote is also a good way to track your search results.

Tip: Set up search alerts for your search strategy in the Library databases so you can re-run the search and retrieve current publications relevant to your research.

Step five: record your search results

Record the number of results (citations) from each search. Remove the duplicates, then record the number of remaining citations from each database.

Systematic reviews that have been published will record their results and how they found their results in various ways.

Examples of frameworks that are used to formulate a research question are the PICO or SPIDER frameworks. An example of a workflow is the PRISMA flowchart or diagram to document how you have conducted your search and recorded your results.

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