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Systematic Reviews: Home

What is a Systematic Review?

A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question.The key characteristics of a systematic review are:

  • a clearly defined  question that includes inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • an explicit, reproducible methodology
  • a rigorous systematic search to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria
  • critical appraisal of included studies 
  • data extraction and management
  • analysis and interpretation of results
  • report for publication

Grindlay D. Karantana A. Putting the ‘systematic’ into searching – tips and resources for search strategies in systematic reviewsJournal of Hand Surgery (European Volume) 2018;43(6):674–8.

Systematic Review Timeline

                  Month                    Activity

                   1 – 2                     Preparation of protocol

                   3 – 8                     Searches for published/unpublished studies

                   2 – 3                     Pilot test of eligibility criteria

                   3 – 8                     Inclusion assessments

                   3                          Pilot test of ‘Risk of bias’ assessment

                   3 – 10                   Validity assessments

                   3                          Pilot test of data collection

                   3 – 10                   Data collection

                   3 – 10                   Data entry

                   5 – 11                   Follow up of missing information

                   8 – 10                   Analysis

                   1 – 11                   Preparation of review report

                   12 –                      Keeping the review up-to-date

Source: Higgins JPT, Green S (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 [updated March 2011]. The Cochrane Collaboration, 2011. Available from www.cochrane-handbook.org.


Mark McKone's picture
Mark McKone
Wake Forest School of Medicine
Coy C. Carpenter Library

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