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Systematic Review

This guide aims to provide tools and resources that can be used for conducting a systematic review in medical and health sciences.

Finding Existing Systematic Reviews

It is always necessary to check whether a systematic review on your research topic has already been published to avoid unnecessary duplicated effort. You may use the following library databases to search for systematic reviews that are published or in preparation:

Note that:  This is not an exhaustive list.

Tips for searching existing Systematic Reviews (you can apply them to many library databases)

 The first way is to apply search filters to limit the search results to systematic review in library databases.

1. On the search page or the search results page, look for the filters or limits on “Publication Type”, “Methodology”, “Content Type”, or “Article Type”

2. Select publication types, such as systematic reviews, meta-analysis, and meta-synthesis.

 Another way is to include systematic review as a search term to search with your keyword(s) with Boolean operator AND.

For example, sepsis AND (“systematic review” OR "research synthesis" OR "synthesis of research" OR "meta analysis" OR "meta-analysis")

Note that:  If you find an existing review looks similar to yours, consider the following points to see if it is worth to continue doing your own review.

  • Currency: Was the existing systematic review published more than 5 years ago? If so, new research on the topic may have been published, and thus an updated review is needed.
  • Quality: The existing review is not well-conducted or the methodological quality of the review is low. Use a critical appraisal tool such as the "JBI' s Checklist for Systematic Reviews and Research Syntheses" to evaluate the quality of the review. A better review is needed if the existing review is not done well. (More critical appraisal tools can be found on the tab Critical Appraisal). 

Finding Systematic Review Protocols (Systematic Reviews in Progress)

Don’t forget to search the systematic review in progress (SR protocol) which is similar to your topic. Here are a few systematic protocol registries to start from:

  • Cochrane Library - contains published protocols for systematic reviews in healthcare and clinical interventions. Run a search on your topic and select the "Cochrane Protocols" tab.
  • Joanna Briggs Institute - contains protocols of systematic and scoping reviews in healthcare research.
  • Open Science Framework Registries - includes protocols for all types of research projects with no restriction on the discipline.
  • PROSPERO - is the international prospective register of systematic reviews in health and social care.