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Systematic Reviews & Other Review Types

This guide will help you get started with your next systematic review, Scoping Review, or other review types.

Systematic Review vs. Literature (Narrative) Review

Traditional literature review / narrative review:

Characteristics:

  • Describes and appraises previous work but does not describe specific methods by which the reviewed studies were identified, selected and evaluated

Uses:

  • Overviews, discussions, critiques of previous work and the current gaps in knowledge
  • Often used as rationale for new research  
  • To scope the types of interventions available to include in a review

Limitations:

  • The writers assumptions and agenda often unknown
  • Biases that occur in selecting and assessing the literature are unknown
  • Cannot be replicated

Systematic review:

Characteristics:

  • The scope of the review is identified in advance (eg review question and sub‐questions and/or sub‐group analysis to be undertaken)
  • Comprehensive search to find all relevant studies
  • Use of explicit criteria to include / exclude studies
  • Application of established standards to critically appraise study quality
  • Explicit methods of extracting and synthesizing study findings (qualitative or quantitative)
  • May include a meta-analysis (quantitative synthesis) *optional

Uses:

  • Identifies, appraises and synthesizes all available research that is relevant to a particular review question
  • Collates all that is known on a given topic and identifies the basis of that knowledge  
  • Comprehensive report using explicit processes so that rationale, assumptions and methods are open to scrutiny by external parties
  • Can be replicated / updated

Limitations:

  • Systematic reviews with narrowly defined review questions provide specific answers to specific questions  
  • Alternative questions that have not been answered usually need to be reconstructed by the reader  

Source: Cochrane. Background to Systematic Reviews

https://ph.cochrane.org/sites/ph.cochrane.org/

files/public/uploads/Unit_One.pdf

What is a Systematic Review?

 

Level of Evidence pyramid

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.

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.

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.  

When is a Systematic Review the most appropriate study design?

When answering questions of effectiveness comparing two different treatments or interventions.

Is your review question a complex intervention? Learn more here

7 Stages of Conducting a Systematic Review

1.  Gathering your team (Minimum of two reviewers with a third to serve as a tiebreaker)


2.  Questioning (Define a narrow question, may use PICO)  Is your review question a complex intervention? Learn more here


3.  Planning (Create a priori protocol (See Prisma-P extension), plan/test search strategy, register protocol (PROSPERO-see below) 


4.  Searching/Screening (Exhaustive, transparent & repeatable searching for evidence/selecting studies) Includes database, grey literature/clinical trial registry and handsearching of the literature. 

See our Systematic Review Search Service for help conducting the search!


5.  Managing (Transparency & duplicability of search methods/citations)


6.  Synthesizing the evidence (appraising the evidence, interpreting results,

performing a qualitative and/or quantitative/meta-analysis (optional))


7.  Drawing Conclusions & Writing/Publishing & Reporting

Where to register your Systematic Review Protocol?

Library help

Systematic Review Service Contact:

Stephanie Roth is on leave during the Fall 2019 Semester, please email Karen Burstein for systematic review service inquiries.

Our Chat with a Librarian service is available at https://www.library.temple.edu/hsl.

 

Systematic Review Standards