Systematic reviews, scoping reviews, and other knowledge syntheses have become a popular research approach, but many people misunderstand them. Sometimes well-meaning faculty will advise students or residents to complete a systematic review, or scoping review, as an “easy” research project without fully understanding the methods and resources required. These misunderstandings often lead to the development of poorly done “systematic reviews”, or "scoping reviews" that lack the required rigour defined in an appropriate protocol, lack well-developed and well-documented search strategies, and fail to follow other methodological and reporting standards that peer reviewers should look for when considering the manuscript for publication.
A systematic review or scoping review is not a suitable project for a single student/resident with no prior experience in this methodology. It also is generally not an appropriate project for a single student and a single faculty advisor who is not an expert on systematic review methodology. Most health science graduate students have not had the appropriate experience or training to independently develop robust protocols and search strategies for systematic reviews. A lack of familiarity with appropriate methods for SR projects is very likely to lead to wasted time and unpublishable work. A systematic review, or scoping review, is not an appropriate short-term project; systematic reviews and scoping review can take an average of a year or more to complete.
We recommend that students instructed to do a systematic review or scoping review without appropriate support share the above statement with their faculty. We are available for consultation on when and for whom a knowledge synthesis is an appropriate project. We can also recommend training courses for faculty who are interested in further participating in and engaging students in future systematic review research.
Source: This page has been based on, and adapted from our colleagues at the ETSU Medical Library guide: https://www.etsu.edu/medlib/services/systemic-review.php
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