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Systematic Reviews

Learn about conducting systematic reviews

Writing Your Review

The members of your systematic review team will all be involved in the writing process. Successful reviews will be used to help clinicians and providers make health care decisions, administrators and policy creators, as well as inform future research. Your review will communicate your process  and methodology with transparency and clarity, so that other researchers can replicate your review, step by step. 

When writing your review, reference reporting standards to ensure you have communicated the essential components of your review methodology and conclusions; a number of tools can facilitate this process.  The following resources can provide guidance, structure and examples as you complete your review: 

PRISMA Reporting Protocol

Tools for Evaluating Systematic Reviews

AMSTAR2:16 questions evaluating systematic reviews on the effectiveness of interventions from the Bruyère Research Institute.

PRISMA Checklist: a list of 27 items that should be included in all systematic reviews. 

CASP Systematic Review Checklist: 10 questions to help you evaluate systematic reviews.

JBI Framework for Assessing Systematic Reviews: 10-item checklist evaluating systematic reviews in medical fields.

ROBIS Tool: worksheet to evaluate systematic reviews on relevance, the review process, and risk of bias. 

BMJ Best Practice Appraising Systematic Reviews: checklist for assessing systematic reviews. 

Review Sections

Your review will follow the same structure as original research articles. The sections of your review article are presented as headings (bolded) in the PRISMA checklist.

From Dalhousie University Libraries Systematic Reviews: A How-To Guide:

Your search methods should be explained at varying levels of detail in multiple areas of your report.

Abstract
In a dedicated section in your review abstract, briefly explain your search methods. State the databases used and the timeframe of your searches. You may also include a very brief description of your research question, core concepts, search criteria, and search process.

Methods Section
An entire section of your report should be dedicated to explaining the methods used to complete the review. Within this section, expand upon the search methods outlined in your abstract. This is also the place to thoroughly detail your search strategy, outline your inclusion and exclusion criteria, state the number of results at each phase of your search process, explain your screening procedures, and describe how data was extracted and analysed. If a methodological expert (librarian, statistician, etc.) contributed to the search or analyses, they may be best suited to write the relevant parts of this section to reflect their contributions accurately. If you used the PRISMA Checklist and Diagram, you can include these in the review's appendix.

Appendix
In your review's appendix, include your entire search strategy. This is the best way to make your review reproducible by others. We recommend displaying your strategy in table format, with separate columns for each database.