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Systematic and Scoping Reviews Search Methodology

Need Help?

To arrange for a systematic review consultation, please complete this Consult Request form and send it to your Subject Librarian.

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

For more information on how UBC Librarians can support your systematic or scoping review project, please see the How we Can Help document below:

Deciding between a Systematic or a Literature Review?  Check out this description of the differences in their stages and processes.

New: Covidence

UBC Library now subscribes to Covidence, software which helps with the screening, quality appraisal and data extraction stages of systematic and scoping reviews.

To sign up for Covidence, visit the link below. You'll need to use an email address ending in ubc.ca

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.

Evidence Synthesis Academy: The Steps of a Systematic 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.