What is a Systematic Review?
A systematic review is a summary of the medical literature that uses explicit methods to perform a comprehensive literature search and critical appraisal of individual studies and that uses appropriate statistical techniques to combine these valid studies. (CEBM).
Key characteristics of a systematic review are:
- a clearly stated set of objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies
- an explicit, reproducible methodology
- a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria
- an assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies, for example through the assessment of risk of bias
- a systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies. (Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, 2008, p. 6)
Meta analysis is a systematic review that uses quantitative methods to synthesize and summarize the results.
Similiarities and Differences Between Systematic and Literature Reviews
Reproduced from: Bettany-Saltikov, J. (2010). Learning how to undertake a systematic review: Part 1. Nursing Standard, 24(40): 47-55.
|Systematic Review||Literature Review|
|Question||Focused on a single question||Not necessarily focused on a single question, but may describe an overview|
|Protocol||A peer review protocol or plan is included||No protocol is included|
|Background||Both provide summaries of the available literature on a topic|
|Objectives||Clear objectives are identified||Objectives may or may not be identified|
|Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria||Criteria stated before the review is conducted||Criteria not specified|
|Search Strategy||Comprehensive search conducted in a systematic way||Strategy not explicitly stated|
|Process of Selecting Articles||Usually clear and explicit||Not described in a literature review|
|Process of Evaluating Articles||Comprehensive evaluation of study quality||Evaluation of study quality may or may not be included|
|Process of Extracting Relevant Information||Usually clear and specific||Not clear or explicit|
|Results and Data Synthesis||Clear summaries of studies based on high quality evidence||Summary based on studies where the quality of the articles may not be specified. May also be influenced by the reviewer's theories, needs and beliefs|
|Discussion||Written by an expert or group of experts with a detailed and well grounded knowledge of the issues|
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The Library also holds copies in print of the 2009 edition.
The Library also holds copies in print.