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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.

Different kinds of reviews

There are a wide range of literature review types that are available for research synthesis for publication and research purposes.

Grant and Booth (2009) have identified no less than 14 different review types which include: critical review, literature review, mapping review, meta-analysis, ,mixed studies review/mixed methods review, overview, quantitative systematic review/qualitative evidence synthesis,rapid review,scoping review, state-of-the-art review, systematic review, systematic search and review, systematized review, umbrella review.

Many of these are very similar but at the heart of them all is the process of searching for, analyzing and synthesizing research publications in a systematic and as bias-free way as possible.  Not all topics are suitable for a systematic review, but one of these other types of review may fit the bill for what you hope to achieve.

A brief breakdown of these reviews can be found here:


Welcome to Systematic reviews: finding and managing the evidence

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.

Finding systematic reviews

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.

Library resources on systematic reviews

Web resources on systematic reviews

Cochrane Library Video

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