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conduct a systematic review: outline of the process
Want a preview of the process? Finished reading the steps and need a refresher? Use this outline as a (p)review, but make sure to see the full guide for details on how to complete each step. (Click on a step name to see the To Do List associated with that step in the full guide.)
Before You Begin
Step 1: Choose Your Topic
- Choose a topic.
- Phrase your topic as an answerable question.
- Review the existing literature on the topic.
- Decide which types of documents you will and will not include in your systematic review (create inclusion and exclusion criteria).
Step 2: Identify Your Keywords
- Clearly state the research topic in as much detail as possible.
- Identify the main and unique keywords in your research topic.
- Apply quotation marks and asterisks to your search.
- Identify any synonyms or related terms.
Step 3: Connect Your Keywords
- Use AND to connect independent keywords.
- Use OR to connect related keywords.
- Use NOT to eliminate irrelevant words.
- Write out all your keywords with the connectors.
- Wrap parentheses around related terms.
- Examine your search phrase for redundancies.
- Write your full search phrase.
Step 4: Choose Your Databases
- Make a list of all the subjects, fields, and disciplines that may contribute information about your topic.
- Identify the databases associated with the subjects, fields, and disciplines on your list.
Step 5: Find Your Subjects
- Translate your keywords into subjects
- Add the subjects you found to your search phrases (one search phrase per database).
- Double check your (semi)final search phrases.
Step 6: Run Your Search
- Place each search phrase in the corresponding database's "Advanced Search."
- Make sure your search phrases are turning up results that are relevant to you. If not, revise them.
- "Steal" all the keywords and subjects from the results that are relevant and add them to your own search phrases.
- Rerun searches in the databases for as long as you keep modifying your search phrases.
Step 7: Apply Your Criteria
- Write down the number of results you retrieved in each database.
- Apply your inclusion and exclusion criteria to your results using the databases' filters and limits.
- Write down the number of results you obtain in each database after you apply the filters and limits.
Step 8: Manage Your Citations
- Consider a citation manager such as RefWorks.
- Transfer the citation information from the databases to the citation manager you select.
Step 9+: What Happens Next?
- Find any other types of sources you are interested in that may not have been included in the databases.
- Make sure you have documented every step of your search process.
- Read and evaluate the sources you found.
- Contact your professor or advisor for more information on what you should do next.