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Systematic Reviews & Other Review Types

The Ruth Lilly Medical Library provides systematic review assistance for IUSM students, residents, fellows, faculty and staff. Information about the process is available on this guide.

Basics of Systematic Reviews

What is a Systematic Review?

A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias, in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making.

What is a Meta-Analysis?

If the results of the individual studies are combined to produce an overall statistic, this is usually called a meta-analysis. Many Cochrane Reviews measure benefits and harms by collecting data from more than one trial, and combining them to generate an average result. This aims to provide a more precise estimate of the effects of an intervention and to reduce uncertainty.

Definitions provided by About Cochrane Reviews.

Ruth Lilly Medical Library Systematic Reviews Services

Types of Reviews

Flow Chart to choose type of review

Characteristics of reviews to consider:

Feature Narrative Scoping Rapid Systematized Systematic
Question Broad in scope Exploratory  Well-defined and focused Well-defined and focused Well-defined and focused
Search Not specified; potentially biased Completeness of searching determined by time constraints Completeness of searching determined by time constraints May or may not be included in publication Exhaustive, comprehensive, and reproducible
Appraisal None None Time-limited assessment May or may not include Yes, important part of review
Synthesis Narrative Typically tabular with some narrative Typically narrative and tabular Typically narrative with tabular accompaniment Typically narrative and tabular
Team No Yes Yes May or may not have a team Yes
Meta-analysis of results No No No No Sometimes
Time <3 months 4-12 months <4 months 8-12 months 12-18 months

Adapted from Grant, M. J., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91-108.

Recommended Timeline

Timeline for a Cochrane Review

Month          Activity

1 - 2              Preparation of protocol
3 - 8              Searches for published & unpublished studies
2 - 3              Pilot test of eligibility criteria
3 - 8              Inclusion assessments
3                   Pilot test of 'Risk of Bias' assessment
3 - 10            Validity assessments
3                   Pilot test of data collection
3 - 10            Data collection
3 - 10            Data entry
5 - 11            Follow up of missing information
8 - 10            Analysis
1 - 11            Preparation of review report
12 -              Keeping the review up to date