A systematic review is an appraisal and synthesis of primary research papers using a rigorous and clearly documented methodology in both the search strategy and the selection of studies. This minimises bias in the results. The clear documentation of the process and the decisions made allow the review to be reproduced and updated.
Systematic Reviews are often a team effort. Important areas of expertise to cover are:
O'Connor, E., Whitlock, E., & Spring, B. (2007).
Introduction to Systematic Reviews, Retrieved from http://ebbp.org/course_outlines/systematic_review/#1
From 1956 until the late 1970s, the best selling book Baby and Child Care by influential American pediatrician Dr Spock, advised that infants be placed to sleep on their stomachs. Dr Spock argued ‘There are two disadvantages to a baby’s sleeping on his back. If he vomits he’s more likely to choke on the vomitus. .. I think it is preferable to accustom a baby to sleeping on his stomach from the start.’ This became standard practice in hospitals and millions of households. Dr Spock's advice was based on logic and common sense, but had not been tested. Systematic reviewing of the evidence later proved that this practice had led to tens of thousands of avoidable cot deaths.
Evans I, Thornton H, Chalmers I, et al. Testing Treatments: Better Research for Better Healthcare. 2nd edition. London: Pinter & Martin; 2011. Chapter 2, Hoped-for effects that don’t materialize. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK66199/
|Systematic Review||Literature Review|
|Question||Focused on a single question||Not necessarily focused on a single question, but may describe an overview|
|Protocol||A peer review protocol or plan is included||No protocol is included|
|Background||Both provide summaries of the available literature on a topic|
|Objectives||Clear objectives are identified||Objectives may or may not be identified|
|Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria||Criteria stated before the review is conducted||Criteria not specified|
|Search Strategy||Comprehensive search conducted in a systematic way||Strategy not explicitly stated|
|Process of Selecting Articles||Usually clear and explicit||Not described in a literature review|
|Process of Evaluating||Comprehensive evaluation of study quality||Evaluation of study quality may or may not be included|
|Process of Extracting Relevant Information||Usually clear and specific||Not clear or explicit|
|Results and Data Synthesis||Clear summaries of studies based on high quality evidence||Summary based on studies where the quality of the articles may not be specified. May also be influenced by the reviewer's theories, needs and beliefs|
|Discussion||Written by an expert or group of experts with a detailed and well grounded knowledge of the issues|
Reproduced from: Bettany-Saltikov, J. (2010). Learning how to undertake a systematic review: Part 1. Nursing Standard, 24(40): 47-55.
To help groups and individuals make decisions to improve people’s health. Examples include:
Elizabeth, O. C., Whitlock, E., & Spring, B. Introduction to Systematic Reviews, Retrieved from http://ebbp.org/course_outlines/systematic_review/
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