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Baltimore MD 21201-1512

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Systematic Review Service: Introduction

What is a Systematic Review?

A systematic review is “…a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review.” (Cochrane Handbook)  Combining the results of several studies "gives a more reliable and precise estimate of an intervention’s effectiveness than one study alone." (Centre for Reviews and Dissemination

Systematic reviews differ from narrative reviews, which are often authored by experts in a field and are generally narrative summaries of a topic.

Before beginning a systematic review:

  • Clarify your review topic
  • Decide if a systematic review is the best approach to answer the question (what are other types of review?)
  • Determine if you have the necessary time and resources
  • Form a review team (this is not a solo activity!)
  • Expect a slow and lengthy process

What kind of review is right for you?

Systematic Review Service at HSHSL

Are you planning to conduct a systematic review? Librarians at the HSHSL are experts in conducting comprehensive literature searches as part of the systematic review process.

After the initial consultation, in which the project's aims and scope are discussed, the librarian typically:

  • Determines if an existing systematic review has already answered your research question
  • Decides which sources to search (e.g. databases, grey literature)
  • Collaborates with researchers to develop appropriate search strategies to ensure that all relevant studies are identified
  • Conducts the literature search and removes duplicate records
  • Delivers search results
  • Writes the search methodology for your manuscript
  • Re-runs the literature search before submitting the manuscript, as needed

Librarians keep detailed records throughout the process to ensure transparency.

For questions about the systematic review service, please contact