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Systematic Reviews

Learn about conducting systematic reviews

Planning Your Review

At the beginning of the review process, you will conduct a thorough search to ensure you are not replicating an existing review. During this stage, you will also:

  • map out your timeline 
  • assemble a team to complete the study selection and screening processes
  • begin to develop your review protocol  
  • explore and select the tools and software you plan to use to facilitate your review. 

Chapter 1 of the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions provides detailed guidance for beginning a review. 

Locating Existing Systematic Reviews

Before starting work on a systematic review, check to see that a systematic review does not already exist or is currently under way.

Existing systematic reviews may also provide a starting point for selecting a review topic and for reviewing protocols. 

Planning a Systematic Review: CRECS uOttawa (9.39)

Systematic Searches #2: Conducting a systematic review from Yale University (7.49)

Project Timeline

The average time to complete a systematic review is 18 months. Below is suggested timeline from Cochrane: 

  • Preparation of protocol: 1 – 2 months
  • Searches for published and unpublished studies: 3-8 months
  • Pilot test of eligibility criteria: 2-3 months
  • Inclusion assessments: 3-8 months
  • Pilot test of ‘Risk of bias’ assessment: 3 months
  • Validity assessments: 3-10 months
  • Pilot test of data collection: 3 months
  • Data collection: 3-10 months
  • Data entry: 3-10 months
  • Follow up of missing information: 5-11 months
  • Analysis: 8-10 months
  • Preparation of review report: 1-11 months
  • Keeping the review up-to-date: 12 months