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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.

What is 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.

Note that systematic reviews can be very time intensive (up to 18 months, by some estimates). Other review methods may be more appropriate for you if you have limited time, or are working alone. The PredicTER tool can give you an estimate of how much time may be needed for your review. 

Is There Already a Systematic Review on Your Topic?

Search the following databases in your subject area to find if a recent 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.