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Systematic Reviews: Introduction

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

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. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias, in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making.

Chandler J, Higgins JPT, Deeks JJ, Davenport C, Clarke MJ.

Chapter 1: Introduction. In: Higgins JPT, Churchill R,Chandler JCumpston MS (editors), Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 5.2.0 (updated June 2017), Cochrane, 2017. 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.

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

Help and Training

Systematic reviews are gaining in popularity and Librarians or Information Professionals are becoming more involved in the process.This method already has a strong presence in healthcare and is developing across all disciplines such as education, science, development studies

The Librarians at the Glucksman library and the Regional Medical library at ULH offer resources and library support for systematic review research. Your Librarians can partner with you on systematic reviews.

Add us to your author team and we will design and manage systematic, comprehensive searches in multiple databases. We will also provide you with:

  • EndNote libraries of de-duplicated results.
  • Tables with detailed search strategies.
  • A narrative of the search methodology.

Please allow adequate time for completion of the search strategies as the librarians are likely to have competing commitments.

Contact us go to get started.

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.