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Cleveland Clinic Florida - How to Conduct Systematic Reviews: Home

Not sure if a systematic review is right for you?

Watch the presentation below for an overview of the steps involved and the workload required.

Note: this presentation is designed for librarians, so it provides a good "insider look" at the systematic review research process as well as information on how librarians can contribute to the process.


Emory University Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library's Systematic Review Guide.

This guide was adapted from How to Find and Conduct Systematic Reviews by Dr. Barbara Sorondo from Florida International University, and from Systematic Reviews: the process by Duke University.

How to Conduct Systematic Reviews

A systematic review is one of the most difficult and time-consuming research projects you can undertake, but one that is ultimately very rewarding. Although the amount of work required may seem overwhelming now, this guide will break the process down into easy-to-follow steps.

Before you begin, make sure:

If at any point in the process you get stuck or would like extra help, contact your librarian.


  • Time: 6-18 months to complete a systematic review since search results typically yield several thousand citations.  Please consider another type of search if you are unable to spend 6-18 months reviewing citations. More info
  • Requestor: Only full-time Cleveland Clinic Florida employees who will serve as principal investigator and primary contact with librarian.  Due to the time commitments involved with systematic reviews, the librarian is unable to provide these services for students, part-time employees, or other temporary project personnel.  Library continues to provide regular literature search services for part-time employees.
  • Team: Minimum of 2-3 members to minimize bias.  Suggest including subject experts, librarians for help with search strategies, statisticians for help with data analysis
  • Initial literature search: make sure no one else has published systematic review on the topic.

Summary of the Process

  1. Develop a clearly defined research question using PICO or similar tools  More info
  2. Determine inclusion/exclusion criteria, such as: types of studies, minimum number of participants, ages, gender, language, or date restrictions
  3. Write and register protocol to document methodology  More info
  4. Develop a search strategy, test, then run in multiple databases. Search for additional articles in grey literature, registries, hand searching journals, and checking references in articles
  5. Screen title/abstracts. First pass to select articles matching protocol criteria  
  6. Obtain/read full text of articles that passed screening to determine eligibility.  Document reasons why articles are included/excluded
  7. Analyze articles for data, quality, and bias
  8. Write review and submit for publication