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Systematic Reviews : FAQs

A brief guide on how to conduct a systematic review.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should I include on my systematic review team?

When conducting a systematic review, more than one author is required. Having two or more authors is preferable to reduce or avoid bias. In addition to an information specialist, such as a librarian, a multidisciplinary review team should include team members skilled in project management, writing, and editing.

How can a librarian help me with my systematic review?

  • Identify reviews
  • Assist with search strategies and inclusion/exclusion criteria
  • Help formulating your PICO question
  • Training on Endnote
  • Provide document management strategies
  • Provide content for how the search was conducted for the Methods section of your review

Is a meta-analysis and a systematic review the same thing?

The difference between a meta-analysis and a systematic review is that generally, systematic reviews answer very focused PICO-based questions.

Systematic reviews have a protocol in place prior to the literature review beginning, including: the clinical question, specific inclusion and exclusion criteria, and methods for assessing bias.

A meta-analysis can be considered a “study of studies” and includes methods of combining and analyzing the data.

What do I do if there is a systematic review already on my topic?

Consider the publication date. Depending on the publication date, you may want to use the existing systematic review as the starting point for your current research.

If the publication is newer, you may want to revise your question. Consider the robustness of the review, as well as its methodology.

Can I do a systematic review if there is no literature on my topic?

No. Systematic reviews consist of researching and analyzing multiple publications and databases on a topic. If there is no literature on a topic, there is nothing to research or analyze

I've already written my paper, can I do a systematic review now?

No. It is not possible to do a systematic review after you have written your paper because a systematic review is a systematic process that follows a precise process.

Systematic review vs a systematic literature review

Systematic literature review:

  • provides a subjective summary of the literature on a topic
  • Thorough search of published literature
  • Includes a detailed search strategy
  • Can be produced by a single person, so open to bias
  • Weeks or months to produce
  • Includes: Introduction; Methods - search strategy; Discussion; Conclusion; Long reference list

Systematic review:

  • Brings together the results of studies to answer a specific question
  • Extensive search covering published and grey literature
  • Involves a detailed protocol often developed using the PICO framework
  • Usually involves three or more people to eliminate bias
  • Can take months or years to produce

Remember a systematic review includes, a detailed protocol; Systematic search strategy; Review of results against eligibility criteria; Evaluation of studies; Interpretation and presentation of results; Extensive reference list; Detailed appendices showing search strategies