Understanding the Structure and Purpose of Systematic Reviews

Defining systematic review:

A systematic review is a well-planned literature review that basically answers a focused research problem, with pre-defined inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Steps involved in systematic review:

The first step involved in drafting a systematic review is identification of the REAL research problem. For this you need to search for valid literatures dealing with your subject area and locate the research gaps in those studies. This will assist you in devising an appropriate research question. In general, researchers use the PICO framework to define the question scope. Its anatomic parts are as follows:

P-Problem/Population

I-Intervention

C-Comparison, and

O-Outcome

The second step involves setting the inclusion and exclusion criteria that will further determine which studies are you going to include in the systematic review. Here are few parameters that are taken into consideration while zeroing down on a relevant study:

– Population

– Study design

– Type of intervention

– Grouping

– Outcomes of the study, and so on.

Thirdly, you need to carry out the real work of spotting out those inclusive studies by taking help of databases, such as online libraries, online searches, and so on. Then simply insert this retrieved information into a reference manager, such as EndNote, Cite This For Me, Reference Generator, and so on.

The next approach will be to extract data from these studies by using a tool, software or excel sheet. This will assist the researcher in evaluating the study bias if any. For this, you can use a risk of bias tool, such as Cochrane tool, for assessment of potential study or sample bias.

Finally, the results have to be presented along with the methodology section, which includes the criteria of selection, strategies, and so on. A meta-analysis is done, if necessary. Future recommendations can also be cited in this section, regarding any change in the policy or clinical/non-clinical practice.

In this blog, we have tried to summarize the complete process of writing a systematic review in a uncomplicated manner, and along with this, we have also tried to explain the quality elements included in each step of systematic review.


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