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Systematic reviews: finding and managing the evidence

This guide gives an overview of how to plan, execute and organize literature searches to support systematic reviews and other projects and research requiring in-depth searches.

What are systematic reviews?

It’s widely acknowledged that health care decisions should be made on the basis of the best available evidence.

However, with a large and growing body of research information out there of variable quality, it can be time-consuming and overwhelming for healthcare staff  and researchers to find that best available evidence.

Systematic reviews help overcome this problem. They aim to: identify, evaluate and summarize the findings of individual studies, in a systematic and unbiased manner, thereby making reliable evidence more accessible to decision makers.

High quality systematic reviews seek to

  • Identify all relevant published and unpublished evidence
  • Select studies or reports for inclusion
  • Assess the quality of each study or report
  • Synthesize the findings from individual studies or reports in an unbiased way
  • Interpret the findings and present a balanced and impartial summary of the findings with due consideration of any flaws in the evidence.

Hemingway, P. (2009) What is a systematic review?  http://www.medicine.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/painres/download/whatis/syst-review.pdf

The best websites to find systematic reviews are:

The Cochrane Library

The Campbell Collaboration

Prospero (Prospective trials)