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University of Wollongong Australia

Systematic Review

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

Tools for your systematic review

Here are some examples of tools you can use to develop, document and report on your systematic review:

Critical appraisal tools

Critical appraisal skills enable you to systematically assess the trustworthiness, relevance and results of published papers. The Centre for Evidence Based Medicine defines critical appraisal as the systematic evaluation of clinical research papers in order to establish: 

  • Does this study address a clearly focused question? 
  • Did the study use valid methods to address this question? 
  • Are the valid results of this study important? 
  • Are these valid, important results applicable to my patient or population? 

A comprehensive set of critical appraisal tools can be found on the University of South Australia’s library guide.


JBI SUMARI facilitates the entire review process, from protocol development, team management, study selection, critical appraisal, data extraction, data synthesis and writing your systematic review. This tool is developed by the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI).

To set up a personal OVID account and access SUMARI as UOW staff or student, follow these instructions.


PROSPERO is an international register for prospective systematic literature reviews.

It includes protocol details for systematic reviews relevant to:

  • health and public health
  • social care and welfare
  • education
  • crime and justice
  • international development

Protocols can include any type of any study design where there is a health-related outcome.


PRISMA is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

PICO framework

Use a framework like PICO when developing a good clinical research question:

Patient or problem Intervention Comparison Intervention Outcome
Describe the patient or group of patients of interest as accurately as possible What is the main intervention or therapy you'll consider? Is there an alternative treatment to compare?  What is the clinical outcome?

Risk of bias tools

The NHMRC states that risks of bias are the likelihood that features of the study design or conduct of the study will give misleading results. This can result in wasted resources, lost opportunities for effective interventions or harm to consumers. 

See for details of tools you can use to asses risk of bias, including: 

  • RoB 2.0: Cochrane's risk of bias tool for randomised controlled trials 
  • ROBINS-I: evaluates the risk of bias in the studies that compare the health effects of two or more interventions 
  • ROBINS-E: provides a structured approach to assessing the risk of bias in observational epidemiological studies 
  • ROB ME: a tool for assessing risk of bias due to missing evidence in a synthesis 
  • Robvis: a web app designed to for visualizing risk-of-bias assessments performed as part of a systematic review. 


The SPIDER question format was adapted from the PICO tool to search for qualitative and mixed-methods research.  Questions based on this format identify the following concepts:

  1. Sample
  2. Phenomenon of Interest
  3. Design
  4. Evaluation
  5. Research type

Example: What are young parents’ experiences of attending antenatal education? 

young parents
P of I   antenatal education
D questionnaire, survey, interview, focus group, case study, or observational study
E experiences
R qualitative or mixed method






Search for (S AND P of I AND (D OR E) AND R) (Cooke, Smith, & Booth, 2012).