- A method of locating, appraising, and synthesizing evidence
- A review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research
- IOM (Institute of Medicine). Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews. 2011.
- PRISMA: Transparent Reporting of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses.
- The Cochrane Collaboration. Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions. 2008.
- Cochrane also offers Review Manager and GradePro to create summaries of findings.
- The Community Guide. Systematic Review Methods. 2013
FlowChart and Overview of Process
- Develop a focused question (PICO -Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome)
- Identify inclusion and exclusion criteria
- Appreciate possible sources of bias
- Develop and execute literature search strategy
- Plan how to assess the quality of the studies & how to extract the data from the studies
Link to Systematic Review Flowchart
- MEDLINE (PubMed)
- Cochrane Library
- Web of Science
- Regional Databases (Global Health Library - WHO)
- Subject Specific Databases (PsychINFO, POPLINE)
- Grey literature
Basic Search Tips
- Divide topic into key concepts
- Convert concepts to search terms (subject terms and keywords). In PubMed, use MeSH terms (medical subject headings).
- Search concepts individually, then combine using Booleans (and, or, not)
- Apply limits such as date of publication, type, language, age groups
- Focus search with limits (age groups, publication types, human/animal ...)
- Manage results with MyNCBI, EndNote, or similar reference management programs
PubMed Search Tips
For additional PubMed assistance, see:
- Aromataris, E. & Pearson, A. (2014). The Systematic Review: an Overview. American Journal of Nursing, 114 (3), 53-8.
- Bambra, C. (2011). Real world reviews: A beginner's Guide. Journal of epidemiology and community health, 65(1), 14-9.
- Jackson, N, & Waters, E. (2004). The challenges of systematically reviewing public health interventions. Journal of public health, 26(3), 303-7.
- Jackson, N, & Waters, E. (2005). Criteria for the systematic review of health promotion and public health interventions. Health promotion international, 20(4), 367-74.
- Montori, V. et al. (2005). Optimal search strategies for retrieving systematic reviews from Medline: analytical survey. BMJ, 330 (7482), 68-73.
- Mullen, P D, & RamÃrez, G. (2006). The promise and pitfalls of systematic reviews. Annual review of public health, 27, 81-102.
- Petticrew, M. (2009). Systematic reviews in public health: Old chestnuts and new challenges. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 87(3), 163-163A.
- Russell, R, Chung, M, Balk, E M, et al. (2009). Opportunities and challenges in conducting systematic reviews to support the development of nutrient reference values: Vitamin a as an example. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(3), 728-733.
Also see a series of papers published in Lancet in 2002 by DA Grimes and KF Schulz :
- An overview of clinical research: The lay of the land. Lancet 2002; 359:57-61.
- Descriptive studies: What they can and cannot do. Lancet 2002;359:145-9.
- Bias and causal associations in observational research. Lancet 2002; 359:248-52.
- Cohort Studies: Marching toward outcomes. Lancet 2002;359:341-5.
- Egger M, S. G. (2001). Systematic reviews in health care: meta-analysis in context. London: BMJ Books (Health Library Bookstacks WA 20.5 S995 2001)
- Khan KS, K. R. (2011). Systematic reviews to support evidence-based medicine: how to review and apply findings of healthcare research. London: Hodder Arnold.