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Evidence Synthesis Methods including Systematic Reviews (SRs)

Tutorials, How To, Resources in support of teaching and conducting a systematic review.

Protocols, guidelines, agencies, oh my!

The reason why systematic reviews are so highly respected and sought after is because they are rigorous, reproducible, transparent, and have standards. But these characteristics are only true if those standards/guidelines are followed.

Not all systematic reviews are created equally. Make sure yours is top notch so you do not perpetuate the problem.

  • Guidelines: How to do systematic reviews or similar reviews. The rules and expectations; directions.
  • Agency: Systematic review (or similar reviews: i.e. scoping review) authority. A group who creates guidelines and/or manages protocols. Cochrane is a good example or the Joanna Briggs Institute.
  • Protocols: This is the map to your specific study that you create at the beginning of the process. In order to do a systematic review well, you must create a protocol with your research team which includes: the types of studies you will be gathering, what resources you will be searching, inclusion/exclusion criteria, etc. All of this information is often included when you register your review with an agency.
  • Appraisal: If you are doing a traditional systematic review, you will need to appraise the studies to ensure they are good enough to include as your data. Good stuff in, good stuff out.



  1. What type of review are you doing?
    • Look to other systematic reviews that have been completed to compare.
  2. Who is on your research team? (2+ people)
  3. Locate the appropriate guidelines for said review type.
  4. Review PRISMA checklist for
  5. Complete a protocol. (PROSPERO is a good and free model)
    • This will include the databases you will be searching, study inclusion/exclusion rules, etc. 
  6. Check other registries (PROSPERO, Cochrane, etc.) to ensure no one else is doing this study.
  7. Register your review.
  8. Team needs to agree on citation manager that will be used, if team will be using an abstract tracking software, and where you wil be storing all of your shared documentation.
Timeline for a typical systematic review, provided by Cochrane's Handbook.

timeline for a typical SR