A systematic review is a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and reproducible methods to identify, select and critically appraise all relevant research, and to collect and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review.
A systematic review:
A systematic review is a tightly structured literature review that focuses on a topic with strict research parameters. The methodology used to collect research has to be consistent in order to reduce misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the data.
To help you understand and conduct your systematic review we have produce LibGuide to help you.
A systematic literature search is a literature review on a database (such as Pubmed) which demonstrates that you have compiled a list of appropriate search terms and includes the structure of your search history which provides the evidence on which your research is based.
This is a less rigorous process than a systematic review. A systematic review usually covers a wider scope; you would be expected to look at all the available research in the area in question.
If you are unsure about the differences between a systematic review and a literature review take a look at this guide: The difference between a systematic review and a literature review
There are many different types of reviews, each with its own approach, analysis, and purpose. You can find more information in the respective section, in the LibGuide
Consider whether a systematic review is needed before starting your project. Has someone already written one on your topic? Librarians can help you find out. Also decide if you have enough time and resources to conduct a systematic review. Keep in mind that it could take longer than a year complete. Identify a team of collaborators to work with you. This reduces the risk of bias.
PICO may be the most well-known model framework: it has its origins in epidemiology and now is widely-used for evidence-based practice and systematic reviews.
Population defines the group you are studying. It may for example be healthy adults, or adults with dementia, or children under 5 years of age with asthma.
Intervention is the type of treatment you aim to study, e.g. a medicine or a physical therapy.
Comparation is another type of treatment you aim to compare the first treatment with, or perhaps a placebo.
Outcome is the result you intend to measure, for example (increased or decreased) life expectancy, or (cessation of) pain.
Find out more about PICO and other frameworks, in the LibGuide
The protocol serves as a roadmap for your review and specifies the objectives, methods, and outcomes of primary interest of the systematic review. Having a protocol promotes transparency and can be helpful for project management. Some journals require you to submit your protocol along with your manuscript.
The PRISMA guidelines for the transparent reporting of systematic reviews and meta-analyses define a protocol as a document that “describes the rationale, hypothesis, and planned methods of the review. It should be prepared before a review is started and used as a guide to carry out the review”.
For systematic reviews, the PRISMA website provides several sources of guidance on writing a protocol
Once you have written your protocol, consider registering or publishing it. Registration and/or publication improves transparency and prevents unnecessary duplication of research.
For more information about registering protocols & PROSPERO, see:
Need help finding, writing and registering a protocol? See the related section in the Libguide
During the Systematic Literature Review Process, using a Reference Management tool will help you store and organize the citations collected during your screening, de-duplicate the results and automatically format in-text citations and bibliographies in your manuscript.
Our librarians help researchers conduct systematic reviews.
As a consultant on your review, we can provide:
As a co-author, we can: