Skip to main content

Systematic Reviews: Home

What is a Systematic Review?

A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. The key characteristics of a systematic review are: a clearly defined question with inclusion & exclusion criteria; rigorous & systematic search of the literature; critical appraisal of included studies; data extraction and management; analysis & interpretation of results; and report for publication.

How can the Library help?

Librarians can partner with you on systematic reviews.

Add us to your author team and we will design and conduct thorough searches in multiple databases. Librarians will provide the following:

  • Search results uploaded to Covidence
  • Documentation of search strategies from each database
  • Narrative of the search methodology for the final paper

Caregivers writing the systematic review use Covidence: a service that de-duplicates results, creates the PRISMA flowchart, manages the screening process, and exports results to the reference manager of your choice.   

To get started:

  1. Complete our systematic review preparation form
  2. Contact us to schedule a consultation

What does it take to do a systematic review?

Time: On average, systematic reviews require 18 months of preparation.

A team: A systematic review can't be done alone! You need to work with subject experts to clarify issues related to the topic; librarians to develop comprehensive search strategies and identify appropriate databases; reviewers to screen abstracts and read the full text; a statistician who can assist with data analysis; and a project leader to coordinate and write the final report.

A clearly defined question: Clarify the key question(s) of you systematic review and the rationale for each question. Use the PICO framework to identify key concepts of the question. Determine inclusion/exclusion criteria.

A written protocol: You need to write a protocol outlining the study methodology. The protocol should include the rationale for the systematic review, key questions broken into PICO components, inclusion/exclusion criteria, literature searches for published/unpublished literature, data abstraction/data management, assessment of methodological quality of individual studies, data synthesis, and grading the evidence for each key question.

Need help writing a protocol? See the University of Warwick's protocol template.

A registered protocol: After you write the protocol, you should register it with PROSPERO, an International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews. Registration is free and open to anyone undertaking systematic reviews of the effects of interventions and strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor health conditions, for which there is a health related outcome.

For more information about registering protocols & PROSPERO, see:
Best practices in systematic reviews: the importance of protocols & registration
An international registry of systematic review protocols

Comprehensive literature searches: First, identify systematic reviews that may address your key questions. Then, identify appropriate databases and conduct comprehensive and detailed literature searches that can be documented and duplicated.

Citation management: You should have working knowledge of EndNote or another citation management system to help manage citations retrieved from literature searches.

Follow reporting guidelines: Use appropriate guidelines for reporting your review for publication.

For more information about the nuances of conducting systematic reviews, contact us!

Contact us

Expert Searchers for Systematic Reviews

Contact one of our expert searchers directly or send an email to for assistance with your systematic review questions.

  Mary Pat Harnegie

  Medical Librarian, Alumni Library
  Manager, South Pointe Hospital Library
  216-444-7335 Main Campus
  216-491-7454 South Pointe Library

  Mary Schleicher

  Medical Librarian, Alumni Library

  Marian Simonson

  Assistant Director, Alumni Library

  Loren Hackett

   Medical Librarian, Alumni Library


This guide was adapted from Systematic Reviews: the process at Duke University.