"A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question. It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected to minimize bias, thus providing reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made... Meta-analysis is the use of statistical methods to summarize and combine the results of independent studies." - Cochrane Collaboration
Before carrying out your systematic review, make sure to consult at least one set of guidelines (e.g. PRISMA, Cochrane) to help develop your protocol. Also, it is strongly recommended that you register your review with PROSPERO to help make sure the same search question wasn't or isn't currently being investigated by others.
Construct a narrow foreground question using the PICO format (worksheet available in right-hand column). Or, use the following formula as a template:
In patients [include any significant demographics]
with [specify Problem]
does [specify Intervention] or [specify Comparison, if any]
affect [specify Outcome]?
The type of studies you should include in your literature search will depend on the type of question being asked:
|Question Type||Suggested Study Types|
|Diagnosis||RCTs > prospective studies|
|Therapy||RCTs > cohort studies > case-control studies|
|Etiology||RCTs > cohort studies > case-control studies|
|Prognosis||cohort studies > case-control studies|
Use these forms to better define your own research question and search strategy.
A protocol checklist and flow diagram from PRISMA.
Contact a librarian if you would like some help searching for information on your topic or tracking down the full text of an article. That's why we're here!