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About Systematic Reviews

A systematic review is a secondary research method that identifies and evaluates evidence from existing data in primary research studies.

Commonly, systematic reviews are used in healthcare research to assess the evidence on whether a medical intervention is effective in treating a certain condition. 

As defined by the Cochrane Collaboration a systematic review is: 

“A review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review. Statistical methods (meta-analysis) may or may not be used to analyse and summarise the results of the included studies.” 

A systematic review has these key features: 

  1. It addresses a research question that is clearly defined and specific. 
  2. It follows a rigorous methodology by adopting a clearly pre-defined protocol. 
  3. It is an exhaustive search of the literature that is carried out in accordance with the protocol. 
  4. All evidence is considered and only excluded if it does not meet the eligibility criteria. 
  5. The included studies are critically analysed, especially for risk of bias. 
  6. It ideally involves more than one person. 

Additional information about systematic reviews is available from the online library guide: Systematic Reviews in Health. 

  Activity

Watch the following short video from the Cochrane Collaboration to learn more about systematic reviews. 

What are Systematic Reviews? (3:23 min) by Cochrane Collaboration (YouTube)

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