Skip to main content
Murdoch Home Page

Systematic Reviews: Home

Research Support

Researchers at Murdoch University are supported by the Library and the Research and Innovation Directorate.

Use our Supporting Research at Murdoch Guide to discover the Library's services for researchers.

Please contact your Subject Librarian to make an appointment for advice on conducting a systematic review, formulating research strategies, and information about resources and tools specific to your area of research.

Research Week Semester 1, 2019

Systematic Review Consultations

The Murdoch University Library provides one-to-one consultations in support of students and staff undertaking systematic reviews.

Librarians are able to support students by providing:

  • Guidance on the systematic review process and formulation of research questions
  • Advice on locating systematic reviews and other resources
  • Assistance with selection and use of databases
  • General feedback on search strategies
  • Instruction on use of EndNote and other research software.

Librarians are also able to contribute as members of research teams, with formal acknowledgement or as co-authors, in the following ways:

  • Identifying appropriate databases and grey literature sources
  • Developing or refine research questions
  • Formulating search strategies
  • Managing search results
  • Executing, documenting and updating searches.

The specific activities undertaken will depend on the expected level of participation, by agreement.

What to expect in a consultation
Appointments will generally be for an hour at a time.
When booking the initial consultation with a librarian, please provide the following:

  • Research question and protocol
  • Initial search strategy
  • List of databases you have run your initial searches in (and results)
  • Set of key papers expected to be included in the review

This will allow the librarian to prepare and advise you more effectively.

What is a Systematic Review?

A systematic review analyses evidence from the literature in order to answer a  clinical research question.

An important research organisation that provides support and guidance for researchers undertaking systematic reviews is the Cochrane Collaboration. The Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions (Section 1.2) defines a systematic review as:

"A systematic review attempts 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 quantitative systematic review will include studies that have numerical data.
A qualitative systematic review will include data from observations, diaries, interviews, or other verbal interactions and focus on the interpretation of, and significance given to, the data collected by the participants.

How is a Systematic Review Different from a Literature Review?


Systematic Review Literature (or Narrative) Review
  • Examines a clearly defined topic or question
  • Provides an overview of a topic
  • Uses an explicit search plan or protocol to minimize bias
  • Does not use an explicit search protocol or plan
  • A comprehensive search is undertaken to identify all potentially relevant studies
  • The search process may or may not include all potentially relevant studies
  • An explicit, predetermined protocol, that specifies inclusion and exclusion criteria, is used to select studies for the review
  • An explicit, predetermined protocol is not used to select the studies that are used to support the reviewers' recommendations
  • The quality of individual studies is rigorously appraised in a meta-analysis and a systematic synthesis of the results of included studies is undertaken  with evidence "grades" applied to individual studies
  • A level of evidence rating system may be used to "grade" the quality and strength of individual studies
  • Provides evidence (research)
  • May be evidence-based, but is not evidence (research)
  • When evidence is lacking, the authors usually recommend further research
  • When evidence is lacking, the authors make recommendations based on their opinions and experience

More information on conducting a literature review can be found in our Literature Review guide.

Examples of Reviews

Literature or Narrative Review

Abdel-Moneim, A. S. (2014). Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV): Evidence and speculations. Archives of Virology, 159(7), 1575-1584. doi:10.1007/s00705-014-1995-5

Systematic Review

Davlin, S.L., & VonVille, H.M. (2012). Canine rabies vaccination and domestic dog population characteristics in the developing world: A systematic review. Vaccine, 30(24), 3492-3502. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.03.069

Halton, K., Sarna, M.,Barnett, A., Leonardo, L., & Graves, N. (2013). A systematic review of community based interventions for emerging zoonotic infectious diseases in South East Asia. The JBI Library of Systematic Reviews, 11(2), 1-235.

Cochrane Review

Yamato, T. P., Maher, C. G., Saragiotto, B. T., Hancock, M. J., Ostelo, R. W. J. G., Cabral, C. N. M., ... Costa, L. O. P. (2015) Pilates for low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.  doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010265.pub2

Systematic Review Protocol

Downes, M. J., Dean, R. & Bath-Hextall, F. J. (2013). Animal-assisted therapy for people with serious mental illness. The Cochrane Library.  doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010818 

Review Article

Duclos, C., Beauregard, M.-P., Bottari, C. Ouillet, M.-C., & Gosselin, N. (2015).  The impact of poor sleep on cognition and activities of daily living after traumatic brain injury: A review. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal. 62(1), 2-12. doi: 10.1111/1440-1630.12164