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Systematic reviews

A brief overview of systematic reviews and resources to support producing one.

Interpreting the results

The discussion section is written to help readers interpret the results of a review.

The discussion section should include:

  • A statement of the principal findings 
  • Highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the review
  • The meaning of the results 
  • Implications for practice, policy, and research
  • Any recommendations

Schünemann H, Vist G, Higgins J, Santesso N, Deeks J, Glasziou P, et al. Interpreting results and drawing conclusions. In: Higgins J, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ et al, editors. Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions, Cochrane; 2022.

Purssell E, McCrae N.  How to perform a systematic literature review: a guide for healthcare researchers, practitioners and students. Springer Nature Switzerland; 2020. Chapter 10, Meaning and implications: the discussion; p. 123-38.

Writing the review

A systematic review is a document that is created with the intention of transparency and reproducibility. All steps and decisions made need to be documented. These should be based on the protocol. There are tools like the PRISMA 2020 checklist and PRISMA Statement provide guidance as to what to include in a review.

NOTE: 1/3/23 - The PRISMA website is currently offline. The PRISMA checklist and expanded checklist can be downloaded as supplementary materials to this article. Other materials may be available via the articles listed on the EQUATOR website.

Page MJ, McKenzie JE, Bossuyt PM, Boutron I, Hoffmann TC, Mulrow CD, et al. The PRISMA 2020 statement: an updated guideline for reporting systematic reviews. Syst Rev. 2021;10(1):89.

PRISMA 2020 Checklist

Standards for reporting systematic reviews In: Institute of Medicine. Finding what works in health care: standards for systematic reviews. National Academies Press; 2011, p. 195-222.