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Systematic Reviews

Explore some of the most widely-recognized standards and methodologies for conducting a systematic review.

What is a Systematic Review?

Systematic reviews evolved from a need for high quality evidence to support the goals of evidence based practice

"The practice of evidence based medicine means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research." (Sackett, D. 1996)

[For more on Evidence Based Practice please refer to the Upstate Health Sciences Library guide.]

The Institute of Medicine definition:

Systematic reviews identify, select, assess, and synthesize the findings of similar but separate studies and can help clarify what is known and not known about the potential benefits and harms of drugs, devices, and other healthcare services.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released detailed standards for conducting systematic reviews in 2011. 

Note: These standards are for systematic reviews of comparative effectiveness research of therapeutic medical or surgical interventions.

The Cochrane Community was convened at Oxford (UK) in 1992 as the Cochrane Centre "to facilitate the preparation of systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials of health care."

Systematic Reviews outside of clinical research

While systematic reviews originated with the synthesis of clinical trials, they can be conducted on other types of interventions, for example public health studies.

The Campbell Collaboration defininition of a systematic review:

The purpose of a systematic review is to sum up the best available research on a specific question. This is done by synthesizing the results of several studies.

A systematic review uses transparent procedures to find, evaluate and synthesize the results of relevant research. Procedures are explicitly defined in advance, in order to ensure that the exercise is transparent and can be replicated. This practice is also designed to minimize bias.

PRISMA checklist

PRISMA stands for Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses and is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

PRISMA focuses on the reporting of reviews evaluating randomized trials, but can also be used as a basis for reporting systematic reviews of other types of research, particularly evaluations of interventions.

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