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Systematic reviews

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

Steps in a systematic review

A systematic review is reproducible research methodology with a clear process. The steps in any process can of course be broken down in different ways; here are the steps in conducting a systematic review as presented in this guide:


  1. Formulate the question. Requires a clear, unambiguous and structured question
  2. Create a protocol (plan). This should be completed in the early stages of the project
  3. Conduct a thorough search. The search for studies should be extensive and multiple resources used
  4. Post search phase. Some steps which happen after the searching is done
  5. Select studies (screening). Selecting which papers will be included in the review. Reasons for inclusion and exclusion should be recorded before this stage, as part of the protocol
  6. Appraise the quality of studies. Selected studies should be subjected to a refined quality assessment by use of general critical appraisal guides and design-based quality checklists
  7. Extract data, synthesise and analyse. Extracting  data from the included papers for synthesis and analysis
  8. Interpret results, and write up the review. Conclusions based upon the results are written up

Based in part on - 

Khan KS, Kunz R, Kleijnen J, Antes G. Five steps to conducting a systematic review. J R Soc Med 2003;96(3):118-21.