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Systematic Reviews

Describes what a systematic review (SR) is, whether a systematic review is right for you, Purdue Libraries support for SRs, and other resources to help in conducting a SR.

What is a Systematic Review?

A Systematic Review is a very specialized and in-depth literature review.  It is a research method in its own right, where information from research studies is aggregated, analyzed,  and synthesized in an unbiased and reproducible manner to answer a research question. The SR can provide evidence for practice and policy-making as well as gaps in research. In the medical field, where systematic reviews are most common, there are a variety of standard protocols for conducting a SR.

Generally, the systematic review looks at a very specific question.  For example, how effective a particular medical treatment is for a specific population with a stipulated ailment.  How effective a teaching method is for a certain topic in a particular setting.

Systematic reviews are very time intensive and typically require a multi-person research team.  Thus, it is important for you to determine whether a systematic review is right for you.

Librarians can...

Generally speaking, our SR consultations entail 1 or 2 hour-long sessions. We ask that you prepare by filling out our request form.

There are three levels of consultation support we provide. The first two levels are part of our standard service, but assistance at the third level is available only as our capacity allows, and at the discretion of the librarian. Co-authorship acknowledgement is expected for third-level assistance.   

First Level/Session: Guidance on the feasibility of a systematic review of the topic.

  • Provide guidance on choosing a review type
  • Advise on constructing a research question
  • Identify relevant databases for you to search
  • Consult on initial search strategies to improve your results
  • Make suggestions on reference management tools
  • Locate existing SR's that could be models for your work

Second Level/Session:  Follow-up on initial work

  • Feedback on your initial searches, database selection, including appropriateness of terms, strategies, completeness, and accuracy.

Third Level Support:  If you need further support, you may request the librarian participate as a co-author on the project.  These co-author level activities include

  • Contributing to completing the SR process flow chart for the project
  • Designing and refining in-depth search strategies for the team
  • Train the team on using a screening platformlike Covidence or Rayyan
  • Running searches in appropriate databases
  • Continually updating search results using alerts
  • Writing Methods section of SR paper
  • Reviewing final manuscript