"A systematic review (SR) attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing more reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made.
Key characteristics of a systematic review are:
Higgins, Julian. Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. https://training.cochrane.org/handbook/archive/v5.0.2/.
Note: The full systematic review methodology is outside the scope of almost all class assignments or dissertation/thesis. If you are considering assigning one, please meet with a librarian about a modified version that will fit your course's needs and limits.
Define the question
Check for recent systematic reviews and protocols
Create a review protocol, and register it if appropriate
Design and conduct reproducible, comprehensive searches
Organize and screen search results
Appraise the quality of the studies
Analyze / synthesize data
Write the review
For a more thorough introduction, consider this free, asynchronous training course on conducting systematic reviews and meta-analyses from Johns Hopkins University through Coursera. (~13 hours)
Multiple guidelines and standards exist to aid researchers in the creation of high quality systematic reviews and other evidence syntheses.
Reviews may be conducted in accordance to specific internationally-established guidelines, such as Cochrane, the Joanna Briggs Institute, the Campbell Collaboration, and the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence. These follow the most rigorous standards for planning and executing this type of research. Even if you are not conducting a review for one of these organizations, you may still find it valuable to review their guidance documents.Many of these guidelines have additional guidance on specific review content, such as Cochrane's section on systematic reviews on patient-reported outcomes or JBI's section on systematic reviews of qualitative evidence.
Reviews may also adhere to reporting standards, such as PRISMA or MOOSE. These can be useful tools for planning your review, too, used alongside (but not instead of!) guidelines.
The checklists below help you plan what you will need to do, the guidelines describe how to do it, and the reporting standards help you rigorously and transparently describe your process when writing your review.