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Systematic Reviews in the Health Sciences: Home

Gain an understanding of systematic reviews, scoping reviews and other evidence synthesis methodologies from start to finish.
Last Updated: Jun 11, 2024 1:40 PM

What are Systematic Reviews?

"A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view aimed at minimizing bias, to produce more reliable findings to inform decision making." (Cochrane Library)

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)

Is a Systematic Review Right for my Needs?

Which Review Is Right For You infographic

Types of Reviews with Systematic Searching

  • Systematic reviews
  • Meta-anaylses
  • Scoping reviews
  • Rapid reviews
  • Narrative reviews

What to Consider Before Starting a Systematic Review

  • Do you have a clearly defined topic?
  • Does a review on your research topic already exist?
  • Do you have the time to do a review of this type?
  • Team
    • Who is on your team (at least two people!)?
    • Roles
  • Do your target journals accept systematic/scoping reviews?
    • What are their criteria?

Review Family Literature

Arksey, & O’Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19–32. https://doi.org/10.1080/1364557032000119616
UB Libraries Link

Grant, M. J., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: An analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26, 91–108. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x 
UB Libraries Link

Munn, Z., Peters, M., Stern, C., Tufanaru, C., McArthur, A., & Aromataris, E. (2018). Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 181, 143. https://doi-org.gate.lib.buffalo.edu/10.1186/s12874-018-0611-x 
UB Libraries Link

Sutton, A., Clowes, M., Preston, L., & Booth, A. (2019). Meeting the review family: Exploring review types and associated information retrieval requirements. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 36, 202–222. https://doi.org/10.1111/hir.12276 
UB Libraries Link

Health Sciences Librarians

Medicine & Biomedical Sciences - Nell Aronoff

Dental Medicine - Jessica Hollister

Nursing - Amy Lyons

Undergraduate Nursing - Nicole Thomas

Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences - Molly Maloney

Public Health & Health Professions - Michelle Zafron

Bioinformatics - Pam Rose

Consumer Health - Pam Rose

Communicative Disorders & Sciences - Pam Rose

Head of Health Sciences Library Services Elizabeth Stellrecht

Additional Resources

Interested in further details on evidence synthesis projects such as systematic reviews? See how the Health Sciences Librarians at Abbott Library can help: Evidence Synthesis with the Health Sciences Librarians at Abbott Library