VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Systematic Reviews

Guide that helps users to understand what a systematic review entails, as well as provide resources to do one.

How can the Library help?

Research librarians can partner with you on systematic reviews.

Add us to your author team and we will design and manage complex, thorough searches in multiple databases. We will also provide you with:

  • RefWorks libraries of de-duplicated results
  • Tables with detailed search strategies
  • A narrative of the search methodology.

Contact your library liasion for help. 

ICJME Authorship Principles (pg. 2) 

 ICMJE recommends that authorship be based on the following 4 criteria:

1.  Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work;

 2. Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content

3.  Final approval of the version to be published

4.  Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Attribution

Some of these sources and sections come from:

  • Duke University Medical Center Library
  •  The University of Iowa : Hardin Library

 

What is a systematic review?

Systematic Review: attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question.

The key characteristics of a systematic review are:

  1. Clearly defined question with inclusion & exclusion criteria
  2. Rigorous & systematic search of the literature - Published & Unpublished
  3. Critical appraisal of included studies
  4. Data extraction and management
  5. Analysis & interpretation of results
  6. Report for publication

Meta-Analysis: a quantitative statistical analysis of several separate but similar experiments or studies in order to test the pooled data for statistical significance [often found within systematic reviews, but not the same]. – Definition from www.merriam-Webster.com   

  •  All meta-analyses should be part of a systematic review, but not all systematic reviews will include a meta-analysis.

What does it take to do a systematic review?

Time: On average, systematic reviews require 12 -18 months of preparation.

A team: A systematic review can't be done alone! You need to work with subject experts to clarify issues related to the topic; librarians to develop comprehensive search strategies and identify appropriate databases; reviewers to screen abstracts and read the full text; a statistician who can assist with data analysis; and a project leader to coordinate and write the final report.

A clearly defined question: Clarify the key question(s) of your systematic review and the rationale for each question. Use the PICO framework to identify key concepts of the question. Determine inclusion/exclusion criteria.

A written protocol: You need to write a protocol outlining the study methodology. The protocol should include the rationale for the systematic review, key questions broken into PICO components, inclusion/exclusion criteria, literature searches for published/unpublished literature, data abstraction/data management, assessment of methodological quality of individual studies, data synthesis, and grading the evidence for each key question.

         Need help writing a protocol?


A registered protocol: After you write the protocol, you should register it with PROSPERO, an International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews. Registration is free and open to anyone undertaking systematic reviews of the effects of interventions and strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor health conditions, for which there is a health related outcome.

For more information about registering protocols & PROSPERO, see:

Best practices in systematic reviews: the importance of protocols & registration

An international registry of systematic review protocols

Comprehensive literature searches: First, identify systematic reviews that may address your key questions. Then, identify appropriate databases and conduct comprehensive and detailed literature searches that can be documented and duplicated.

Citation management: You should have working knowledge of EndNote to help manage citations retrieved from literature searches.

Follow reporting guidelines: Use appropriate guidelines for reporting your review for publication.

For more information about the nuances of conducting systematic reviews, contact your library liasion!

Typical Timeline for Conducting a Systematic Review

Estimated timeline for completing a Cochrane systematic review

         

          Month                   Activity

           1 – 2                   Preparation of protocol.

           3 – 8                   Searches for published and unpublished studies.

           2 – 3                   Pilot test of eligibility criteria.

           3 – 8                   Inclusion assessments.

           3                        Pilot test of ‘Risk of bias’ assessment.

           3 – 10                 Validity assessments.

           3                        Pilot test of data collection.

           3 – 10                 Data collection.

           3 – 10                 Data entry.

           5 – 11                 Follow up of missing information.

           8 – 10                 Analysis.

           1 – 11                 Preparation of review report.

           12 –                    Keeping the review up-to-date.

 

 

Source: Higgins JPT, Green S (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 [updated March 2011]. The Cochrane Collaboration, 2011. Available from www.cochrane-handbook.org. Courtesy of the University of Maryland HS/HSL.