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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: May 7, 2024 1:03 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.
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. 
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. 
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. 
UB Libraries Link

Health Sciences Librarians

Medicine & Biomedical Sciences - Nell Aronoff

Dental Medicine - Elizabeth Stellrecht

Nursing - Amy Lyons

Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences - Molly Maloney

Public Health & Health Professions - Michelle Zafron

Bioinformatics - Pam Rose

Consumer Health - Pam Rose

Communicative Disorders & Sciences - Pam Rose

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