Definitions of systematic reviews vary but high quality reviews usually aim to answer a research question by:
There are different types of Systematic Reviews. These include:
For more information, on different types of reviews, please click here.
Standard systematic reviews come in many shapes and sizes and vary between subjects. Complex questions can involve large teams of researchers and can take months to complete. Smaller reviews can involve one or two people (ideally screening of results should be carried out by two people independently). Resources and time will influence what level of review you can complete. It is vital that you discuss with your supervisor exactly what they expect you to do.
Conducting a systematic review, although it does involve a series of steps, is not a linear process. You may need to revisit some of the steps more than once.
If you have answered yes to any of the questions above, it may be that you are doing a systematic literature review rather than a systematic review. If this is the case, then this guide will still be of use to you, but you may not have to follow all the steps in full. Always check with a supervisor and discuss if you are unsure.
Bayliss, H.R., Lortie, C.J. and Stewart, G.B. (2015) 'How "good" is half a fish? Communicating outcomes of quantitative syntheses to decision makers', Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 13(10): pp. 533-534.
Booth, A. (2001) 'Cochrane or cock-eyed? How should we conduct systematic reviews of qualitative research?' in Qualitative Evidence-based conference: Taking a critical stance, Coventry University.
Cooper, H. Hedges, L.V., & Valentine, J.C. Handbook of research synthesis and meta-analysis (2009) 2nd ed. New York: Russell Sage Foundation
Eden, J., Levit, L., Berg, A., and Morton, S. (eds) (2011) Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews. Washington (DC): National Academies Press.
Hemingway, P. (2009) What is a systematic review? Available from: http://www.bandolier.org.uk/painres/download/whatis/Syst-review.pdf [Accessed: 09/09/2019].
Higgins, J.P.T., Lasserson, T., Chandler, J., Tovey, D., Thomas, J., Flemyng, E., and Churchill, R. (2022) Methodological Expectations of Cochrane Intervention Reviews. London: Cochrane Community.
Khan, K. (2003) ‘Five steps to conducting a systematic review', Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 96, pp. 118-121.
Koricheva, J., Gurevitch, J. & Mengersen, K. (eds.) (2013) Handbook of Meta-Analysis in Ecology and Evolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Meerpohl, J.J. et al. (2012) 'Scientific value of systematic reviews: survey of editors of core clinical journals', PLoS ONE, 7(5): p. e35732. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341385/pdf/pone.0035732.pdf [Accessed: 09/09/2019].
Petticrew, M & Roberts, H. (2006) Systematic reviews in the social sciences: a practical guide. Malden, MA : Blackwell Pub.
Uman, L.S. (2011) 'Systematic reviews and meta-analyses', Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 20(1), pp. 57-59. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3024725/ [Accessed: 09/09/2019].
Whaley, P., Aiassa, E., Beausoleil, C., Beronius, A., Bilotta, G., Boobis, A., de Vries, R., Hanberg, A. Hoffmann, S., Hunt, N., Kwiatkowski, C.F., Lam, J., Lipworth, S., Martin, O., Randall, N., Rhomberg, L., Rooney, A.A., Schunemann, H.J., Wikoff, G., Wolffe, T., and Halsall, C. (2020) Recommendations for the conduct of systematic reviews in toxicology and environmental health research (COSTER), Environment International, 143, p. 105926.