Answered By: Emily Adams
Last Updated: Sep 14, 2017     Views: 1750

A systematic review is a specific type of literature review that seeks to determine best practices based on available empirical research. Here is, very broadly, how the systematic review process works:


  • A clinical question is asked.
  • Literature is gathered.
    • The inclusion criteria are very clearly defined and each article is assessed to make sure it fits the criteria. If an article is not selected to be included in the systematic review, this is documented.
    • Only experimental, or quantitative, studies are included in systematic reviews. The highest quality systematic reviews include only randomized controlled trials.
  • The quality of the literature is assessed.
    • Each study that matches the selection criteria is then assessed on the quality of the research performed.
  • Data is extracted and analyzed.
    • When the data permit, a meta-analysis is performed.
  • Findings are reported.
    • The goal of a systematic review is to show what the best practices are based on available research. When possible, these will make up the conclusion of the systematic review.


Note: Because the systematic review process is so involved, a systematic review may not have been performed on every research topic. When this happens, it is advisable to search for a systematic review on a broader topic. Systematic reviews found in this way may still be relevant and applicable to your research.


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