Systematic Reviews

Elevating the quality of Systematic Reviews and Evidence Reviews produced at the University of Utah

What are Systematic Reviews?

Systematic Reviews Contribute New Knowledge, Reduce Bias, and are Reproducible and Transparent  


What is a systematic review?

"A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias, in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making." 

- About Cochrane Systematic Reviews, Cochrane Library.

Systematic Review Methodology Requires

TeamSystematic Reviews are not individual projects nor are they the purview of clinical experts alone. Multiple contributors with varying skills are needed. "The number of individuals with a particular expertise needs to be carefully balanced so that one group of experts is not overly influential. For example, review teams that are too dominated by clinical content experts are more likely to hold preconceived opinions related to the topic of the SR, spend less time conducting the review, and produce lower quality SRs (Oxman and Guyatt, 1993)." (Finding What Works in Health Care:Standards for Systematic Reviews, IOM. 2011)

Clear Question"The most critical part of a systematic review is asking the right question. If a systematic review is conducted in a methodologically flawless manner, but the clinical question(s) addressed are of little consequence to patients or providers, the review will have marginal clinical utility." Umscheid, 2013. PMID: 23697745.  |  Ask a clear question with PICO model

Plan - a priori protocolDevelop an  a priori protocol to specify the research methods. A protocol is the "plan or set of steps to be followed in a study. A Protocol for a systematic review should describe the rationale for the review, the objectives, and the methods that will be used to locate, select, and critically appraise studies, and to collect and analyse data from the included studies."    Cochrane Community Glossary

Methods "Systematic reviews seek to collate evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. They aim to minimize bias by using explicit, systematic methods documented in advance with a protocol."     - Cochrane Handbook's, Ch. 1: Introduction

Time Systematic Reviews typically take 12-18 months to complete.

In addition to assembling your team and developing your protocol, time is needed for:

  1. Identification of relevant studies from a number of different sources (including unpublished sources);

  2. Selection of studies for inclusion and evaluation of their strengths and limitations on the basis of clear, predefined criteria;

  3. Systematic collection of data;

  4. Appropriate synthesis of data. 

  5. Manuscript completion for submission to publication.​​      Source: Cochrane Handbook  

What Authors Do - the Evidence Process