Skip to main content

Systematic Reviews Search Methodology

Need Help?

Contact your subject librarian for help with your systematic review.

Systematic Review workshops are generally offered monthly - please check the events calendar for the next offering.

Definition of a Systematic Review

"A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias, in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making."  Source: Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions

Key characteristics of a systematic review are:

  • a clearly defined question
  • an explicit, reproducible methodology with clear inclusion and exclusion criteria for studies
  • a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria;
  • an assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies, for example through the assessment of risk of bias; and
  • a systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies, which includes the search methodology.

Healthcare Triage: Systematic Review and Evidence-Based Medicine

Types of Reviews

Need to know the difference between a scoping review, a systematic review, and a realist review? The links below offer some excellent background and guidance.

Is There Already a Systematic Review on Your Topic?

Search the following databases in your subject area to find if a systematic review has already been done.  A good strategy is to find one on a closely related topic and build on its search strategy.

This is not a comprehensive list and you may need to search in other databases in your field.  To find these consult a Research Guide or a Subject Librarian for ideas.

Finding Existing Systematic Reviews

Evaluating Systematic Reviews

Not all systematic reviews are high quality. When reading a systematic review, look at the search strategy; is it missing important concepts? Do the reviewers address the quality of the articles they discuss?

The resources below may be helpful when evaluating systematic reviews.