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A Guide to Conducting Reviews: Systematic Review

This LibGuide outlines some of the common types of reviews including literature, systematic, and scoping reviews, and lists some ways by which University Librarians can assist in conducting such reviews.


Definition: A systematic review is a transparent, reproducible, objective, and comprehensive search of the literature focusing on a well-formulated research question. Systematic reviews are conducted by following a set of well-defined procedures and may involve meta-analysis.

Aim: To identify, appraise, select, and synthesize high-quality evidence relevant to that specific question.

Key characteristics:

  • Clearly defined question with inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • An explicit, replicable methodology
  • Rigorous and systematic search of the literature (including published and unpublished studies)
  • Critical appraisal of included studies
  • Data extraction and management
  • Analysis and interpretation of results
  • Report for publication

Strengths: Using highly systematic and robust methods reduces bias in the gathering, summarizing, presenting, interpreting, and reporting of the research evidence. Brings together all known knowledge including published and unpublished literature. Very low risk of bias.

Drawbacks/Limitations: Time-consuming and can take approximately 12-18 months from protocol to publication.

Systematic reviews are not limited to medicine and healthcare. They are also used in psychology, education, sociology, agriculture, nutrition, business, STEM, and other fields. 

Steps of a systematic review

Source: Research Shorts. (2017, May 24). Conducting a systematic literature review [Video]. YouTube.

Further Reading: e-Books on Systematic Reviews by Subject