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Systematic Review Overview: 8. Interpret Results

Introduction to the 8 elements that encompass a systematic review
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Step 8: Interpret Results

The role of the interpretation or discussion section is to provide the reader with some sort of analysis of the results of the review.

The interpretation of results should include a discussion of the evidence gathered. This includes aspects of validity, strengths and weaknesses of the evidence, possible sources of bias that may be present in the included studies, and the potential bias of the review. In addition, it should provide the reader with some understanding of the implications of the results for healthcare providers and offer suggestions for future research.

According to the Cochrane Handbook, the interpretation of results section should include:

  • Information on all important outcomes, including adverse outcomes
  • The quality of the evidence for each of these outcomes, as it applies to specific populations, and specific interventions.
  • Clarification of the manner in which particular values and preferences may bear on the balance of benefits, harms, burden and costs of the intervention.

Generally speaking, the discussion should help readers understand the implication of the results in relation to practical decisions.

Review authors should not, however, make recommendations based on assumptions, resources and values.

There are guidelines for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analysis. Please refer to the PRISMA Statement.