About Systematic Reviews

​​​​​​Frequently Asked Questions

Below are FAQs about systematic reviews that provide a better understanding of the concept of systematic reviews and provide clarifications on areas of confusion

What is a Systematic Review?

A systematic review is a high-level overview of primary research on a particular research question that tries to identify, select, synthesize and appraise all high quality research evidence relevant to that question in order to answer it.
Systematic reviews rely on systematic, explicit, and accountable research methods.
Systematic reviews are the basis for producing concise, transparent and relevant summaries to help inform the decision making process.
(Adapted from Cochrane Handbook)

How do Systematic Reviews differ from other types of reviews?​

 

​(Adapted from: Patticrew, M., 2001.Systematic reviews from astronomy to zoology: myths and misconception. BMJ 322:98-101)

What are the benefits of Systematic reviews?

  • Systematic reviews provide policymakers, stakeholders (e.g. advocates, media) and professionals (e.g. nurses, doctors) with the most reliable evidence to inform their decisions and practices.
  • Systematic reviews help researchers identify gaps in knowledge about a particular question to guide further research
  • Systematic reviews produce evidence that is more generalizable to a wider range of populations and settings
  • Systematic reviews bring greater transparency to the decision-making process
  • Systematic reviews offer the most objective way to summarize and update findings from the ever-growing literature in a more digestible form.

Who are the users of Systematic Reviews?

Individuals making decisions on, or affected by the review question can be considered users.

Common users of systematic reviews in the health sector:

  • Policymakers
  • Hospitals
  • Physicians, nurses and other health professionals
  • Researchers
  • Health journalists
  • Patients
  • Insurers
  • (Source: Moynihan, 2004. Evaluating Health Services:  A Reporter Covers the Science of Research Synthesis)

What are the key stages of a Systematic Review?



(source: Gough D., Oliver S. & Thomas J. (2012). An Introduction to Systematic Reviews.  London: Sage)

What are the common myths about Systematic Reviews?​

  • ​Systematic reviews are the same as ordinary reviews, only bigger
  • Systematic reviews include only randomized controlled trials
  • Systematic reviews require the adoption of a biomedical model of health
  • Systematic reviews are of no relevance to the complex social world outside evidence based medicine
  • Systematic reviews necessarily involve statistical synthesis
  • Systematic reviews have to be done by experts
  • Systematic reviews can be done without experienced information/library support
  • Systematic reviews are a substitute for doing good quality individual studies
(Source: Patticrew, M. 2001.Systematic reviews from astronomy to zoology: myths and misconception. BMJ 322:98-101)