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Systematic Review: Introduction

This guide presents tools and advice for conducting systematic reviews.

Using This Guide

This guide presents tools and advice for conducting Systematic Reviews, including:

  • Outline of the Systematic Review process
  • Formulating an effective search strategy
  • Selecting & searching databases
  • Managing search results

What is a Systematic Review

A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question.  It  uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing more reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made. The key characteristics of a systematic review are:

  •     a clearly stated set of objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies;
  •     an explicit, reproducible methodology;
  •     a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria;
  •     an assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies, for example through the assessment of risk of bias; and
  •     a systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies.

(Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, 2011)