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Systematic Review Tutorial

Systematic Reviews: Transparent, Rigorous and Replicable

Systematic Review (from the Cochrane Glossary) :a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review.

Systematic Review vs Literature Review

Systematic Review Literature Review


High-level overview of primary research on a focused question that identifies, selects, synthesizes, and appraises all high quality research evidence relevant to that question Qualitatively summarizes evidence on a topic using informal or subjective methods to collect and interpret studies
  • Answers a focused clinical question
  • Eliminate bias
Provide summary or overview of topic
  • Clearly defined and answerable clinical question
  • Recommend using PICO as a guide
Can be a general topic or a specific question
  1. Pre-specified eligibility criteria
  2. Systematic search strategy
  3. Assessment of the validity of findings
  4. Interpretation and presentation of results
  5. Reference list
  1. Introduction
  2. Methods
  3. Discussion
  4. Conclusion
  5. Reference list
Number of Authors Three or more One or more
Timeline Half a year or longer (the average takes 18 months) Several weeks or months
  • Thorough knowledge of topic
  • Perform searches of all relevant databases
  • Statistical analysis resources (for meta-analysis)
  • Understanding of topic
  • Perform searches of one or more databases
  • Connects practicing clinicians to high quality evidence
  • Supports evidence-based practice
Provides summary of literature on the topic

Adapted from - Kysh, Lynn (2013): Difference between a systematic review and a literature review. [MLGSCA]. Available at: