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Systematic Reviews: Where to start

What to do first

If you have never done a Systematic review before.

  • Consider other types of review. Calgary University has a good overview as does Temple University and the University of Pittsburgh. Read this article on why systematic reviews and narrative reviews should be seen as complimentary. Read an analysis of the 14 review types and a recent follow up article characterising health related reviews by type grouping them into review families.  
  • Not sure if you are doing a "Systematic Review" or a "Literature search in a Systematic Way" - Look below for more information. This could save you a lot of time and anxiety. Very useful video from McGill University on the different types of review - narrative, systematic and scoping. 
  • Read a book on how to do it. We recommend some on this page.
  • Consider attending courses
  • Be realistic about how much time you will need to decide on your question, protocol and search strategy- Time well spent.

What is a systematic review?

10 Step Roadmap to Successful Systematic Reviews

We really like this book, now on its 2nd ed. Using its 10 step roadmap will get you started quickly.  "Doing a systematic review" edited by Boland, A., Cherry, G and Dickson, R (2017). It is now available electronically, they have a very useful online resource to supplement learning.

Doing a Systematic Review: A students Guide 2nd ed by Boland and Cherry

  1. Planning your review
  2. Performing scoping searches, identifying review question and writing  protocol
  3. Literature Searching
  4. Screening titles and abstracts
  5. Obtaining papers
  6. Selecting full text articles
  7. Data extraction
  8. Quality assessment
  9. Analysis and synthesis
  10. Writing up, editing and disseminating

As librarians we can help with Steps 2, 3 and 5. We can also suggest resources to help with the other steps.

Other books:

Systematic Reviews:Centre for Research and Dissemination: Guidance for Undertaking reviews in Health Care- Free ebook from the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination in the UK.

Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review. 2nd ed Booth, A. Sutton, S. (2016)

Systematic Searching: Practical ideas for improving results. Levay, P. (2019)  eBook and print

Searching Skill toolkit: finding the evidence. 2nd ed. 2014, De Brun. This is available as an ebook 

 

Not sure?

Not sure if you are doing a systematic review or a literature search in a systematic way? There is fine line between them but generally if you are an undergraduate you will be doing the latter. If you need help please contact your relevant Academic Engagement Librarian by finding the relevant subject guide and following the relevant email link or drop in to the Academic Skills Hub.

The following highlights some some key differences between a systematic review and a literature search

systematic review versus Literature review

How we can help you with your search

We offer courses on searching the literature for a Systematic Review  - one for Health and one for a wider audience. The courses take approx 2 1/2 hours, in the Hartley Library and are bookable via Gradbook and Staff book for all Staff and Post Graduate Researchers. 

Contact us if you need help.

  • Advice on creating your search strategy
  • Review of current search strategy
  • Guidance on resources to use
  • Bespoke Group Training 

Please book via Deskside training or email  eprints@soton.ac.uk  

Related Systematic Review Courses

University of Southampton - Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute (S3RI) offer courses on Medical Statistics & Modelling- including Meta analysis, Design of Experiments and Survey & Official Statistics. For further details see the S3RI webpages. 

Southampton Health Technology Assessment Centre (SHTAC) SHTAC offer an introductory training day -covering the key stages of a systematic review, from scoping the research questions to disseminating results and recommendations. For further details and to book see the SHTAC training page 

University of Sheffield School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) ScHARR offer a 3 day short course on Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysisPlease contact scharr-scu@sheffield.ac.uk For further details see ScHARR Short Courses.