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Systematic Reviews & Other Review Types

What is a systematic review?

A high level overview of primary research on a focused question that identifies, selects, synthesizes, and appraises all high quality research evidence relevant to that question. 

Because of the research methodologies to combine data and remove bias, systematic reviews have the potential to be used in clinical practice and inform evidence-based guidelines.

Systematic reviews are conducted by teams of three or more people, take at least one year to complete, and the search must be conducted on all relevant databases.

A systematic review typically includes the following components:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction or Background
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion or Conclusions
  • References

Not every review is a systematic review Before beginning a systematic review, consider whether another review type would be more appropriate.


Level of Evidence pyramid

EBM Pyramid and EBM Page Generator, copyright 2006 Trustees of Dartmouth College and Yale University. All Rights Reserved. Produced by Jan Glover, David Izzo, Karen Odato and Lei Wang.

A systematic review is defined as “a review of the evidence on a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select and critically appraise relevant primary research, and to extract and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review.”  The methods used must be reproducible and transparent.

Source: Undertaking Systematic Reviews of Research on Effectiveness. CRD’s Guidance for those Carrying Out or Commissioning Reviews. CRD Report Number 4 (2nd Edition). NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York. March 2001.  

Systematic Review vs. Literature Review

Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Pharmacy
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