Systematic reviews aim to identify, evaluate and summarize the findings of individual studies in healthcare, in a systematic and unbiased manner, thereby making reliable evidence more accessible to clinical staff, decision makers and researchers. Effective, comprehensive literature searching is at the heart of the systematic review process and this guide will take you step-by-step through the process. In this guide you will find information about planning, executing and organizing evidence searches to support systematic reviews.
This guide is aimed at NHS staff, researchers, academic staff and MSc or PhD students to provide support for the literature searching process when performing a systematic review. It can also be used to support evidence seeking for writing a thesis, guideline development, research or any other project requiring systematic and reproducible literature searches.
This guide does not cover assessing the quality of papers found, data extraction or meta-analysis but the resources listed below may help your learning in these areas.
Before you carry out a systematic review, it's best to check if a similar review has already been written to avoid unintended duplication of effort.
Some of the best websites to find systematic reviews are:
The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (healthcare studies)
The Campbell Collaboration (social, educational, psychological and forensic studies)
Prospero (database of prospective systematic review protocols)
You should also run some initial searches across databases like Medline or Embase to identify any existing systematic reviews in your field.