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Systematic Literature Reviews

This guide provides tips and strategies for conducting a systematic literature review.

About This Guide

This guide provides an overview of the processes involved in finding and managing information sources for use in systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

What are Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses?

The following definitions comes from the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, Version 6.1.

"Systematic reviews seek to collate evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. They aim to minimize bias by using explicit, systematic methods documented in advance with a protocol." (chapter 1)

"Meta-analysis is the statistical combination of results from two or more separate studies." (chaptet 10)

Before You Begin

A systematic review is a major commitment.

  • Expect the systematic review or meta-analysis to take lots of time
  • Plan everything out before starting
  • Meet with a librarian to discuss some of the necessary tools, including (but not limited to) ...
    • Databases to find the relevant publications
    • Citation management tools such as EndNote, Mendeley, or Zotero
    • Systematic reviews software such as Rayyan (free) or Covidence (fee-based)
  • Read a guidebook on systematic reviews
  • Make sure that everyone knows who is responsible for backing-up files, etc.

Cornell University Library's "What Type of Review Is Right for You?" can help you think through whether or not to embark on a systematic review or meta-analysis.