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Systematic Reviews

Explaining the systematic review process and the resources available at the Dana Health Sciences Library.

Systematic Review Process

  1. Define a focused and relevant research question.
  2. Conduct a preliminary search to determine whether there are any existing systematic reviews that already address your research question. We suggest searching the Cochrane Database of Systematic ReviewsPROSPERO, and PubMed with an appropriate systematic review filter, e.g. systematic[sb].
  3. Assemble a project team.
  4. Write a review protocol specifying your plan for conducting the review. It should include the rationale for the review, objectives of the review, inclusion/exclusion criteria, methods for locating studies, quality assessment methods, data extraction methods, data synthesis/meta-analysis methods, etc. The Equator Network contains guidelines for conducting many types of research, including systematic reviews and other evidence syntheses. The JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis, from the Joanna Briggs Institute, is another valuable source.
  5. Register your protocol with PROSPEROSystematic Reviews, or other appropriate entity.
  6. Search for studies in core bibliograpic databases (MEDLINE via Ovid or via PubMed, Embase), databases of clinical trials (Cochrane CENTRAL), specialized databases (e.g. PsycINFO, CINAHL), preprint databases (e.g. MedRxiv), or other relevant sources.
  7. Screen titles and abstracts to identify potentially relevant studies.
  8. Review full-text and apply inclusion and exclusion criteria.
  9. Assess quality of eligible studies.
  10. Extract data from individual studies.
  11. Analyze data (and synthesize if appropriate).
  12. Report findings.