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Systematic Reviews - Research Guide

Finding Systematic Reviews

Databases that Include Systematic Reviews

While searching the recommended databases will find systematic reviews, there are a number of specialist resources that will enable you to do a wider search for previously published reviews:

Registers of Systematic Reviews

Registers of prospective reviews enable you to find reviews which currently in progress and ensure that if undertaking a review you are not duplicating work that is already being done.

Appraising Systematic Reviews

Systematic reviews are often advocated as a mechanism for evaluating evidence for clinical practice, but how do you assess the quality of a systematic review?

When appraising a systematic review, you should ask the following questions:

  • What type of review question is being asked?
  • Is the review question relevant?
  • Did the review address a clearly defined issue?
  • Does the review have a clearly stated set of objectives and a pre-defined protocol that includes eligibility criteria?
  • Was the scope of the review appropriate for the review question?
  • Was there enough information given on the population studied, the intervention applied, any comparators used, and the outcomes considered?
  • Does the review have an explicit, reproducible methodology?
  • Was the review performed according to the original protocol?
  • Were all of the important and relevant studies included?
    • Which bibliographic databases were included?
    • Was the search strategy appropriate and comprehensive?
    • Were reference lists followed up?
    • Were grey literature and unpublished studies included?
    • Were studies included regardless of their date of publication?
    • Were studies included regardless of positive or negative outcomes?
    • Were non-English language studies included?
  • Were adequate bibliographic details provided for each of the included studies?
  • Were appropriate steps taken to minimise bias and errors in the selection of included studies?
  • Were the exclusion criteria appropriate?
  • Did the review authors rigorously assess the quality of included studies and were appropriate measures taken to minimise bias and errors in the quality assessment process?
  • Are the results of all included studies clearly displayed?
  • Were appropriate measures taken to minimise bias and errors in the data extraction process?
  • Were appropriate methods used for statistical analyses and were they performed correctly?
  • What is the overall result of the review and how are the results expressed?
  • If the results of the review have been combined, was it appropriate to do so?
  • How precise are the results and are they presented with confidence intervals?
  • Were differences between the studies assessed?
  • Can the results be applied to the local population?
  • Were all important outcomes considered?
  • Do the review conclusions accurately reflect the evidence that was reviewed?
  • Does the review report all of the relevant findings according to the PRISMA checklist?
  • Are the benefits worth the any potential harms and costs?

Systematic Review Appraisal Tools