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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. 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 (8.24mins) 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.
  • If you are doing a literature search in a systematic way (Systematized review) or working with a team on a Systematic Review, please join our new UoS teams site where you can ask questions and share best practice.

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 not available electronically, but we have print copies in the library and 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 us.

The following highlights 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 now offer an online course as well as monthly Q&As via the CHEP Researcher Development Hub and the PGR Development Hub. We also have a Teams site that you are welcome to join to share best practice.

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 Library Research Skills Support or email  

Related Systematic Review Courses