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Systematic Review

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

What is a systematic review?

A systematic review is an authoritative account of existing evidence using reliable, objective, thorough and reproducible research practices.

It is a method of making sense of large bodies of information and contributes to the answers to questions about what works and what doesn't.

Systematic reviews map areas of uncertainty and identify where little or no relevant research has been done, but where new studies are needed.

It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the systematic review process before beginning your review. You can do this by searching for other systematic reviews to look at as examples, by reading a glossary of commonly used terms, and by learning how to distinguish between types of systematic review.


Characteristics of a systematic review

Some characteristics, or features, of systematic reviews are:

  • Clearly stated set of objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria
  • Explicit, reproducible methodology
  • A systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria
  • Assesses the validity of the findings, for example assessing the risk of bias
  • Systematic presentation and synthesis of the findings of the included studies. (Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, 2008, p. 6).

Watch this video from the Cochrane Library for more information about systematic reviews.