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Music Therapy

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What is a Systematic Review?


Level of Evidence pyramid

A systematic review is defined as “a review of the evidence on a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select and critically appraise relevant primary research, and to extract and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review.” The methods used must be reproducible and transparent.

Conducting a systematic review involves crafting a research question that looks at outcomes of a specific medical or therapeutic intervention on a specific population. This question is used to generate a search strategy to find all of the extant literature relating to that question. This search then must be translated to multiple databases in order to catch all of the relevant literature!

Source: Undertaking Systematic Reviews of Research on Effectiveness. CRD’s Guidance for those Carrying Out or Commissioning Reviews. CRD Report Number 4 (2nd Edition). NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York. March 2001.  

Image: EBM Pyramid and EBM Page Generator, copyright 2006 Trustees of Dartmouth College and Yale University. All Rights Reserved. Produced by Jan Glover, David Izzo, Karen Odato and Lei Wang.

Why Do Music Therapists Do Systematic Reviews?

The systematic review process allows music therapy researchers rigorously and methodically to evaluate all the existing literature relating to a specific clinical problem or intervention, allowing music therapists to make "well-informed evidence based practice and research decisions, and translating existing music-based and nonmusic based literature to clinical practice and research development" (Hanson-Abromeit & Moore, 2014).

However, systematic reviews are complex, long-term research projects that cannot be conducted in a single semester or by a single researcher. To conduct a good systematic review that will stand up to peer review, you need at least two researchers (but preferably three) and expect your review to take upwards of a year.

Luckily, Temple University Libraries offer a Systematic Review service that provides education, guidance, and searching services for FREE to the Temple community. To learn more, visit the Systematic Review Service research guide:

Why work with a librarian?

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine Standards for Systematic Reviews (2011) recommends working with a librarian "trained in performing systematic reviews to plan [your] search strategy." A librarian can help you determine what kind of review you want to do (there are other kinds besides systematic!), write and register your protocol, create and conduct the search, and deduplicate the search results.

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