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Systematic Review Guide

Overview of the Systematic Review process with links to resources

Systematic Review Introduction

A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question.  It  uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing more reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made. The 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; and
  • A systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies.

(Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, 2011)



Not all reviews are Systematic reviews : other review types include:

• Critical interpretive synthesis
• Evidence synthesis
• Literature review
• Mapping review
• Meta-analysis
• Meta-ethnography
• Narrative review
• Overview of reviews 
• Qualitative evidence synthesis
• Rapid review
• Realist review
• Review of reviews
• Scoping review
• Umbrella review

Data taken from: Timeline for a Cochrane review

Michael Doheny 

Assistant Librarian: Academic Collaboration and Science

Phone: +353(0)90483030

Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest,

Athlone Campus



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