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Systematic Reviews

What is a Systematic Review?

A systematic review attempts to collate all the empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question.  

Key Points:

  • Systematic reviews address a need for health decision makers to be able to access high quality, relevant, accessible and up-to-date information.
  • Systematic reviews aim to minimize bias through the use of pre-specified research questions and methods that are documented in protocols, and by basing their findings on reliable research.
  • Systematic reviews should be conducted by a team that includes domain expertise and methodological expertise, who are free of potential conflicts of interest.
  • People who might make - or be affected by - decisions around the use of interventions should be involved in important decisions about the review.
  • Good data management, project management and quality assurance mechanisms are essential for the completion of a successful systematic review.

Lasserson TJ, Thomas J, Higgins JPT. Chapter 1: Starting a review. In: Higgins JPT, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.0 (updated July 2019). Cochrane, 2019. Available from http://www.training.cochrane.org/handbook

Steps of a Systematic Review

Introduction Video