Shiffman - Systematic Review Guide

A guide to performing systematic reviews and requesting assistance from a librarian.

What is a systematic review?

According to the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, 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 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"

Is a systematic review necessary?

Do you need to perform a systematic review to answer your research question? Take this short survey to find out! 

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WSU affiliates have free, unlimited access to Covidence software, which streamlines record de-duplication, title/abstract screening, and full-text screening. Request an invitation to join WSU's Covidence account, and see how to get started using Covidence!

Systematic review steps


Steps in a Systematic Review

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Systematic review steps:

1. Define your research question

2. Develop inclusion and exclusion criteria

3. Search for studies

4. Select studies according to eligibility criteria

5. Extract data from included studies

6. Assess the quality of the included studies

7. Synthesize and present the results

8. Publish and disseminate the results