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Systematic review guide: 6. Write and publish

Writing and Publishing

When writing your systematic review it is important to follow any guidelines or frameworks provided by the possible publisher of your systematic review. This will ensure that you systematic review has the best chance of being accepted and published in your chosen journal. These guidelines and frameworks are also helpful when not publishing your systematic review and they ensure that your systematic review is comprehensive, follows a systematic approach and provides a clear result and conclusion. Following the PRISMA statement will ensure that a comprehensive report of your review process, results and conclusion are provided in your systematic review.

Following the PRISMA statement will ensure that a comprehensive report of your review process, results and conclusion are provided in your systematic review.

It is also important that you include a flow diagram as a part of your systematic review as this illustrates the process you undertook to come to the final studies included in your review. The PRISMA statement recommends using the PRISMA flow diagram to document this process. Adherence to the PRISMA statement will provide clarity to your systematic review and will align with most publisher's requirements.

Below is an example of a PRISMA flow diagram taken from:

It’s time for a minimum synoptic operation template in patients undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy: a systematic review     

O’Connor, N., Sugrue, M., Melly, C. et al. It’s time for a minimum synoptic operation template in patients undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy: a systematic review. World J Emerg Surg 17, 15 (2022).

© The Author(s) 2022. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License,

In addition to your PRISMA flow diagram, a PRISMA checklist should be completed as this provides evidence that each element of the PRISMA statement has been documented and where they have been documented in your systematic review.

The PRISMA 2020 checklist comprises a 27-item checklist addressing the introduction, methods, results and discussion sections of a systematic review report.

  • Page MJ, Moher D, Bossuyt PM, Boutron I, Hoffmann TC, Mulrow CD, et al. (2021) PRISMA 2020 explanation and elaboration: updated guidance and exemplars for reporting systematic reviews. BMJ. 372(160). doi: 10.1136/bmj.n160

A systematic review must have a detailed methodology that describes the search process and the selection process.
A reader of the review should be able to critically interpret the findings and be able to replicate your search if required.

Ensuring you meet the criteria listed in the methods area of the PRISMA checklist will ensure you have a comprehensive and well document methodology. 

The Cochrane Handbook (Section 4.4.10) states that "the published review should be as up to date as possible. Searches for all the relevant databases should be rerun prior to publication, if the initial search date is more than 12 months (preferably six months) from the intended publication date". See the updating searches tab for instructions on how to re-run and update your search. 

Example search strategy statement

A literature search of databases was conducted <date>, and updated <date>. The search was developed in Medline then adapted as necessary to <list other databases>. No limit was placed on publication year/the year <date> was selected as a starting point for this research given the <provide reasons> – eg. publication of significant report/change in government policy/publication of milestone research etc> 

The search strategy included the use of terms in three broad categories: (1) population, (2) intervention, (3) comparison (4) outcomes, <or identify the framework appropriate to your strategy>. 

The search terms used included: 

(1) – list alternates for category one above 

(2) - list alternates for category two above 

(3) - list alternates for category three above 

(4) – list alternates for category four above 

Searches were restricted to <English language> publications and <human studies>. All study designs were included/Only the following study designs were included. 

Hand searches were conducted on the reference lists of included studies; the table of contents of <list key journals> were examined to identify further relevant research. 

Research was included if they met the following criteria: 

  1. criteria one 

  1. criteria two, etc 

Appendix <number> includes the search strategy used in Medline. 

For example see the search strategy strategy and supplementary material in:
Rahmati, M, Udeh, R, Yon, DK, et al. (2023). A systematic review and meta-analysis of long-term sequelae of COVID-19 2-year after SARS-CoV-2 infection: a call to action for neurological, physical, and psychological sciences. Journal of Medical Virology. 95(6). doi:10.1002/jmv.28852


The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research: Authorship (2018) guide states that 'contributions to research that do not meet the criteria for authorship should be acknowledged where appropriate'. 

Librarian acknowledgement welcomed in any reports or research publications, but not required. 
Please contact your Research Liaison Librarian to discuss acknowledgement, providing a copy of the final search strategy if possible. 

If you are considering publishing your systematic review, make sure you: 

  • Find a journals that focuses on the type of research you have written your review in
  • Review the journals impact factor and other journal metrics.
  • See if other systematic reviews have been published in these journals 
  • See how other systematic reviews are written in these journals
  • Confirm if the journal has a writing guideline or a framework that you need to follow to publish your systematic review

Visit our Strategic Publishing Libguide for more information on how to identify a journal to publish your systematic review in.