According to Cochrane, a systematic review is defined as an attempt “to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias, in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making.”
A systematic review is not the same as a narrative review or a literature review. Unlike other kinds of reviews, systematic reviews must be as thorough and unbiased as possible, and must also make explicit how the search was conducted.
Answering a specific question(s) that is related to an intervention, diagnostic test, prognostic factor, other health or healthcare topic
The following resources are considered to be the best in the field of systematic reviews in terms of guidance and reporting.
METHODS & GUIDANCE
Defined as "the official guide that describes in detail the process of preparing and maintaining Cochrane systematic reviews on the effects of healthcare interventions". It includes: "guidance on the standard methods applicable to every review (planning a review, searching and selecting studies, data collection, risk of bias assessment, statistical analysis, GRADE and interpreting results), as well as more specialised topics (non-randomized studies, adverse effects, complex interventions, equity, economics, patient-reported outcomes, individual patient data, prospective meta-analysis, and qualitative research)" (Cochrane, About the Handbook, para. 2).
A comprehensive guide focusing primarily on the conduct of systematic reviews, covering a broad range of questions and study designs.
PRISMA (2020) is a 27-item checklist that replaces the PRISMA (2009) statement, which ensures proper and transparent reporting for each element in a systematic review and meta-analysis. "It is an expanded checklist that details reporting recommendations for each item, the PRISMA 2020 abstract checklist, and the revised flow diagrams for original and updated reviews."
Check out the supplementary resources page for additional information on systematic reviews, including online courses and books.
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