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Systematic Reviews

A guide for researchers beginning a medical systematic review or meta-analysis.

Conducting a Systematic Review: A Process Overview

Conducting a systematic review is a multi-step and planned process.  This is part of the 'systematic' nature of this type of publication.  Each step in the process may involve careful planning and documentation and required diverse skills and knowledge. Therefore, usually an entire team of professionals will work together to produce a systematic review.

What Authors do in Systematic Reviews

Designed by Jessica Kaufman, Cochrane Consumers & Communication Review Group, Centre for Health Communication & Participation, La Trobe University, 2011. CC-BY-SA License

The Systematic Review Team

The systematic review team typically consists of the following members (at minimum):

  • Content experts
    • 2 reviewers
    • 1 tie breaker
  • 1 statistician (meta-analysis)
  • 1 or more information professional (librarian trained in systematic reviews)

At each step of the process, multiple team members may have a role, though some may play a more prominent role at certain portions of the review.  For example, the statistician may be most active during the statistical synthesis phase if a meta analysis is being performed.  All team members should typically be co-authors and review the final manuscript before submission.

Systematic Reviews vs. Other Types of Reviews

As you can see, a systematic review involves a rigorous and sometimes time-intensive approach to thoroughly locate, identify, extract, and analyze all of the available evidence to answer a specific clinical question.  It may be that another type of literature review is a more appropriate publication type depending on your area of research, the amount of evidence, and the time and other support that you have.  The libguide below and the article referenced here may provide more appropriate types of publishable literature reviews.  In any case, the Mulford Health Science Librarians will be glad to assist you in developing and refining your search strategies.