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Systematic reviews

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

Planning the review

Starting a systematic review can be a big undertaking. This is a structured process that begins with a plan called a protocol. Before staring on the protocol you will need to:

  • Establish the need for a systematic review on the topic.
  • Check that there is not a current systematic review on the same topic.

Sources to check for systematic reviews include research databases and the following systematic review specific databases:

The Cochrane Library (Heath Sciences)

Pubmed Clinical Queries (Health Sciences)

The Campbell Collaboration (Crime and Justice,Education,Social Welfare,International Development)

Joanna Briggs Institute (Nursing)

PROSPERO :  International Prospective Register of Systematic reviews (Health Related)

Collaboration for Enviromental Evidence.(Environmental conservation)

EPPI-Centre : Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre  (Education and social policy, Health promotion and public health,International health)

Review Protocols

The plan for a systematic review is called a Protocol  and defines the steps that will be undertaken in the review.

The Cochrane Collaboration defines a Protocol as follows:

The plan or set of steps to be followed in a study. A Protocol for a systematic review should describe the rationale for the review, the objectives, and the methods that will be used to locate, select, and critically appraise studies, and to collect and analyse data from the included studies.

A review protocol will include:

  • Background to the study and the importance of the topic
  • The objectives and scope
  • Determine the selection criteria
  • The Planned search strategy
  • Planned data extraction
  • The proposed method for synthesising the findings

The protocol will help guide the process of the review and work as a point of reference to each part of the review.