Skip to Main Content

Step 2 Develop criteria

Determine the inclusion/exclusion criteria

A key element of systematic reviews is that their eligibility criteria to identify relevant studies and their search strategy be predetermined, rigorous and transparent.  

Some inclusion/exclusion rules to consider are;


Date restrictions are not usually applied unless updating an existing review or investigating a topic which has only existed in a specific time period.


Some reviews focus on populations in specific locations such as developing countries or rural communities.


The review may focus on a specific age group or gender.


A question may investigate a phenomenon in a specific setting such as experiences in a hospital, online, or at ante natal classes.

Study Design

Specific study design investigate different types of research questions. For example; treatment questions are best answered by clinical or randomised control trials or prognosis question by prospective cohort studies. Thus study design can be used as exclusion/exclusion criteria.

Publication type

Systematic reviews synthesise primary research papers. However it is NOT recommended to exclude other types of publication as relevant and vital information may be missed such as erratum. There are reviews which include only Peer Reviewed publications, but some topics require inclusion of grey literature such as reports and conference papers.


Reviews should aim to be as comprehensive as possible and NOT be restricted by language.