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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 1: Develop your research question

The first step of your systematic literature review (SLR) is to develop your research question or topic.

There are frameworks and tools you can use to help you develop your research question, including the PICO and SPIDER frameworks, and the PRISMA checklist. Check that you are complying with any expectations of a systematic review in your field. For example, make sure you are clear on whether you need to register your review with PROSPERO.

Once you've formulated your research question, you can start searching for examples of systematic literature reviews.

Step 2: Find examples of systematic reviews

Systematic reviews which have been published in journals can help you decide where and how to conduct searches for your own review. SLRs often include the search strategy and library databases the researchers used.

You can find an example of a systematic review by including the phrase "systematic review" in your search strategy in any of your chosen databases.

e.g. "systematic review" AND (topic words)

You can also search for examples of SLRs in evidence based health databases like these:

Step 3: Select and search databases

It takes time to develop and replicate your search. 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. See search tips for systematic reviews.

The finding information guide can also help you with effective searching.

Step 4: Keep track of your searches

Document your search in each database using a tool such as the UOW Literature Review Search Tracker.

  • Set up alerts for your search strategy so you can re-run them easily
  • Record the number of results (citations) from each search
  • Remove duplicate citations (note the number of duplicates)
  • Record the number of remaining citations from each database

For more tips and tools see documenting your search results.

Step 5: Manage your results

Reference management software such as EndNote and other referencing tools can help you manage your search results.
The University of Sydney also provides an EndNote for Systematic Reviews guide.