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Gerstein Science Information Centre

Speech-language Pathology: A Guide for Graduate Students

A guide in support of the graduate program of Speech-language Pathology

What is a Systematic Review?

Systematic reviews are a rigorous means of summarizing a large amount of evidence from the medical literature.

A systematic review involves several strategies that distinguish it from a regular review article. According to Cook, et al. (1997), these strategies are included to limit bias in the collection, appraisal, and synthesis of relevant studies¹. Meta-analyses take the review process one step further by gathering data from primary articles and performing statistical procedures to summarize and synthesize the evidence².

Systematic reviews and their subset, meta-analysis, are an important source of information in decision-making

1. Cook DJ, Mulrow CD, Haynes RB. Systematic reviews: synthesis of best evidence for clinical decisions. Ann Intern Med. 1997 Mar 1:126(5):376-80.  

2. Manser R, Walters EH. What is evidence-based medicine and the role of the systematic review: the revolution coming your way. Monaldi Arch Chest Dis. 2001 Feb:56(1):33-8.

Finding Specific Types of Studies

Are you looking for something specific for your results, such as ONLY:

  • Systematic Reviews
  • Randomised Controlled Trials
  • Observational Studies, or
  • Diagnostic Studies?

Check out  Search Filters to see how to filter your results to a specific study type.

Systematic Review Writing & Research Guides

Evaluation of search filters

Here are a few articles that evaluate search filters:

Glanville, J., Bayliss, S., Booth, A., Dundar, Y., Fernandes, H., Fleeman, N. D., . . . Golder, S. (2008). So many filters, so little time: The development of a search filter appraisal checklist. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 96(4), 356.

Jenkins, M. (2004). Evaluation of methodological search filters—a review. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 21(3), 148-163. (NOTE: article in PDF format)

Wilczynski, N., Walker, C., McKibbon, K., & Haynes, R. (1993). Assessment of methodologic search filters in MEDLINE. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the Annual Symposium on Computer Application in Medical Care, 601. (NOTE: article in PDF format)

Evidence Based Practice Guidelines and Systematic Reviews

First: Find Systematic Reviews

Start by looking for reviews on a similar topic, or if none, take a look at any review to see what their search terms, databases, and methodology looks like.


You need to keep track of:

  • Databases searched
  • Date you performed the search 
  • Subject headings used
  • Keywords used
  • Search history (show combinations of terms)
  • Number of “hits”
  • Duplicates
  • Numbers pre-screening and post-screening

You can use Excel or Word to keep a working document of your methodology.

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