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Systematic Review Overview: Systematic Review Guidelines

Introduction to the 8 elements that encompass a systematic review

Selected Systematic Review Guidelines

Growing list of guidelines in support of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses
Most recently published guidelines appear at the top, in date descending order.

Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions
The Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions is the official document that describes in detail the process of preparing and maintaining Cochrane systematic reviews on the effects of healthcare interventions. The current version of the Handbook is version 6.4 (updated August, 2023).

For information on searching see: Chapter 4: Searching for and selecting studies.


JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis

Aromataris E, Munn Z (Editors), 2020

The JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis has chapters for different types of systematic reviews, such as those for qualitative evidence, effectiveness, prevalence and incidence, economic evidence, etc.


Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews
Institute of Medicine, March 23, 2011

The specific section from the IOM document regarding the requirement to work with a Librarian or Information Specialist is:

  • Standard 3: Standards for Finding and Assessing Individual Studies
  • Standard 3.1: Conduct a comprehensive systematic search for evidence
  • 3.1.1: Work with a librarian or other information specialist trained in performing systematic reviews to plan the search strategy


A Guide To Synthesising Qualitative Research For Researchers Undertaking Health Technology Assessments And Systematic Reviews

Healthcare Improvement Scotland, April 1, 2011

From their web page (The "Literature Searching" section starts at PDF page 10):
Background Advice on the clinical and cost effectiveness of new and existing technologies is one aspect of the work of NHS Quality Improvement Scotland. The process of health technology assessment is used to develop this advice and as such the needs, views and perceptions of patients are recognised as a key element of these analyses. Methods to synthesise qualitative research evidence on patient views are therefore increasingly being explored and used. This report has been developed in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Stirling to provide those producing and using HTAs with a guide to the methods used to synthesis qualitative research. The guide provides an overview to the main methods with links to further information as an introduction to this specialist area rather than a step-by-step guide. We hope this will provide those new to HTA or new to the inclusion of patient and public needs and preferences, with sufficient information to know when to seek specialist expertise in the use of qualitative research evidence.


Methods Guide for Effectiveness and Comparative Effectiveness Reviews
AHRQ March 2011

Chapter 3: Finding Evidence for Comparing Medical Interventions
Rose Relevo, Howard Balshem. See page 37 of the pdf document.

Alternative: J Clin Epidemiol. 2011 Jun 16. [Epub ahead of print] Finding evidence for comparing medical interventions: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Effective Health Care program. Relevo R, Balshem H.

Scientific Resource Center, AHRQ Effective Health Care Program, Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center, Oregon Health and Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Mail code: BICC, Portland, OR 97239-3098, USA.

Objective: This article discusses search methodology to identify evidence for comparative effectiveness reviews (CERs) as practiced by the Effective Health Care program.
Study Design and Setting: Review.
Results: Search methods described attempt to overcome the bias inherent in the publication and distribution of clinical evidence. Bibliographic databases and search strategies are discussed with special emphasis on searching for observational studies and harms data. Other techniques described include the use of key articles, citation tracking, hand searching, and personal communications. Strategies for locating gray literature, such as clinical trial protocols and regulatory information, are described. Search reporting and other practical matters are also discussed.
Conclusion: Better reporting and further research on search strategies is needed to develop additional evidence-based recommendations.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. PMID: 21684115


Systematic Reviews: CRD’s guidance for undertaking reviews in health care
"Provides practical guidance for those new to evidence synthesis and provides thorough overview of systematic review methods for the more experienced researcher." -Lancet
UNIVERSITY OF YORK. (2009). Systematic reviews: CRD's guidance for undertaking reviews in health care. York, CRD, University of York.


SCIE systematic research reviews: guidelines
(2nd edition), Deborah Rutter, Jennifer Francis, Esther Coren, Mike Fisher (Social Care Institute for Excellence), December 2010

See page 40 for the Searching chapter: Searching: Overview
137. The aim of searching in a systematic review is to find as many potentially relevant items as possible. This section looks at searching on electronic databases and also using internet and other searching to identify all relevant literature such as user testimony.

NB: requires free registration to obtain the PDF.


PRISMA 2020 -- a checklist for reporting systematic reviews
Stands for: Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses.
It is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

"The PRISMA Statement consists of a 27-item checklist and a four-phase flow diagram. The checklist includes items deemed essential for transparent reporting of a systematic review. In this Explanation and Elaboration document, we explain the meaning and rationale for each checklist item. For each item, we include an example of good reporting and, where possible, references to relevant empirical studies and methodological literature. The PRISMA Statement, this document, and the associated Web site should be helpful resources to improve reporting of systematic reviews and meta-analyses."
Page MJ, Moher D, Bossuyt PM, Boutron I, Hoffmann TC, Mulrow CD, et al. PRISMA 2020 explanation and elaboration: updated guidance and exemplars for reporting systematic reviews. BMJ 2021;372:n160. doi: 10.1136/bmj.n160. PMID: 33781993

NB: PRISMA replaces the former QUORUM document.