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Systematic Reviews: 6 Steps to a Systematic Review

Systematic Reviews

Step 1. Building the Search Strategy

Define the scope of the systematic review by formulating the research question using a framework such as PICO.

Identify key concepts of the research question.

Develop search terms, medical subject heading & keywords, for each concept. Work with librarian.

Search using wildcards & proximity operators.

Combining concepts& their subject heading & keyworkds using boolean operators.

Add limits.

Conduct preliminary search using pilot search strategy.

Adapt search strategy. Work with librarian.

Write and register a protocol.

  1. Cochrane Collaboration Registry
  2. Joanna Briggs Institute Registry
  3. Prospero Registry

Conduct final search using final search strategy.

Step 2. Search the Literature.

  1. Conduct search.
  2. Bibliography search.
  3. Verification.(consulting the experts)
  4. Documentation.
    1. Detailed record of:
      1. sources searched,
      2. date searched,
      3. years searched
      4. number of records found in each source,
      5. search strategy used.(Many databases allow you to save a search)
      6. The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses)
      7. Include example of Prisma.
      8. Reference Management



Documents for recording search results.

PRISMA Statement

Cochrane strongly encourage the inclusion of a study flow diagram as recommended by the PRISMA statement.


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