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Systematic Reviews

This is a guide for learning about systematic reviews.

What is Evidence Synthesis?

Evidence synthesis is an umbrella term that includes systematic reviews, as well as other review types. It refers to the process of collecting, analyzing and integrating data from multiple sources in a systematic way and often involves rigorous and transparent approaches to identifying, selecting and evaluating the information to be included in the review. The goal of evidence synthesis is often to provide a comprehensive and unbiased overview of the existing evidence on a particular topic, which can then inform decision making. 

Systematic Reviews

According to Grant and Booth, a systematic review is a type of literature review that "seeks to systematically search for, appraise and synthesi[ze] research evidence." (Grant & Booth, p. 102). A systematic review:

  • Begins with a specific, often-multi-faceted question, the format of which may be informed by a framework 
  • Adheres to a specific protocol that has been pre-registered
  • Uses a search strategy that is comprehensive, transparent, and reproducible
  • Screens the evidence in a way to mitigate bias, the outlines of which are provided by a specific guideline 
  • Critically appraises and synthesizes the evidence in a way to mitigate bias, the outlines of are provided by a specific guideline 
    • The synthesis may take the form of a meta-analysis 
  • Is written and published according to reporting guidelines 
  • Is time-consuming and requires a team of researchers

What Authors Do

What Authors Do: Systematic Reviews. Designed by Jessica Kaufman, Cochrane Consumers & Communication Review Group, Centre for Health Communication & Participation, La Trobe University, 2011. Licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 4.0.