This guide will help you
What is a Systematic Review?
According to Cochrane, a systematic review is "A review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review."
A systematic review contains the following components:
What makes a systematic review different from other reviews?
A systematic review plan contains the following elements:
Team Members: A project leader to coordinate and write the final report; librarians to develop comprehensive search strategies and identify appropriate databases; reviewers to screen abstracts and read the full text of articles; a statistician who can assist with data analysis; and individuals with expertise in systematic review methods and the clinical area of interest.
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.
Check to see if a high-quality systematic review addressing your question is in progress or has been completed recently.
Eligibility criteria: Determine criteria for including and excluding studies from your review. Typical criteria: population characteristics, intervention details, language, study type, publication type.
Register your systematic review protocol on Prospero.
Create a timeline: typical timeline is 12-18 months (see example detailed timeline)
The search must exhaustively encompass multiple databases and other literature sources. You can consult the library's research guides for your discipline to find the key databases.
Note that your library liaison can provide assistance with identifying databases and creating searches.
Use the following steps to screen your studies based on predefined eligibility criteria. It is recommended that two or more people review each study during screening. Record the number of results at each step.
Based on Cochrane Handbook, Chapter 7.2.3
Consider using software to help organize and streamline the screening process.
Using a data collection form, extract all relevant data from each of the included studies. The specific elements collected will depend on both the question asked by the review and by the types of studies included.
Common fields included on a data extraction form include:
Pilot your data collection form to make sure that all of the important data is collected and that all fields on the form are clear.
Cochrane checklist of items to consider in data collection (Cochrane Handbook 5.1, Part 2, Chapter 7)
This sample data extraction form from the Joanna Briggs Institute will give you an idea of which fields are typically included.
Assessing the methodological quality of studies included in a systematic review is a critical step. This allows you to assess the risk of bias in each study. Whether you plan to asses randomized controlled trials, observational or mixed methods studies, or qualitative research, there are a variety of tools available to simplify this process. Some of the most common tools are included below.
There are a number of reporting frameworks that ensure reproducibility, which can be found at the EQUATOR Network.
Some of the most common reporting guidelines are: