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Systematic Reviews: Introduction

The Glucksman Library's guide to assist researchers with completing systematic reviews.

What is a systematic review?

Systematic reviews seek to collate evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. They aim to minimize bias by using explicit, systematic methods documented in advance with a protocol.


Chandler J, Cumpston M, Thomas J, Higgins JPT, Deeks JJ, Clarke MJ. Chapter I: Introduction. In: Higgins JPT, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.0 (updated August 2019). Cochrane, 2019. Available from

Why do we need Systematc Reviews?


Authors of the first version of this LibGuide: Donna Ó DoibhlinIsabelle Delaunois & Fintan Bracken.

Authors of the second update version of this LibGuide: Liz Dore & Isabelle Delaunois.

Guides to Methodology

Steps for a Systematic Review

  1. Define your question

  2. Is there a recent review relevant to your question?

  3. Develop your protocol to include inclusion, exclusion criteria and eligibility

  4. Build your search strategy

  5. Search the literature

  6. Select and critique studies

  7. Extract and synthesize data

  8. Analyse and present results

  9. Interpret results and draw conclusions

  10. Improve and update the review


Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions sets out each step of the review and the Cochrane principles can also be applied to non Cochrane reviews.

Health Research Board TMRN introduction to systematic reviews of randomized trials, NUIG May 2018

MECIR (Methodological Expectations for Cochrane Intervention Reviews) standards for reviews, updates and protocols to comply with.

PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta Analyses). Key documents include the flowchart and checklist.