What is a systematic review?
A systematic review is a type of literature review that collects, selects, critically analyzes, extracts data, and synthesizes the results of studies asking similar questions. It is designed to provide a complete and exhaustive summary of current literature relevant to a research question. Systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials are key in the practice of evidence-based medicine, and they are conducted in an unbiased, reproducible way to provide evidence for practice and policy-making and identify gaps in research. Meta-analysis is a systematic review that use statistical techniques to combine results from two or more separate studies.
Systematic Reviews are usually a team effort. Important areas of expertise to cover are;
Systematic review process:
Prior to embarking on a systematic review:
Steps in a systematic review:
Assess, interpret, and summarize results: summarize findings, present detailed methodology (search strategies used, inclusion/exclusion criteria, etc.) such that the review can be reproducible. Provide a general interpretation of the results in the context of other evidence, and implications for future research to fill existing gaps in knowledge or to strengthen the body of evidence. Perform a meta-analysis if the studies allow.
Reporting and documenting the systematic review process:
There are a number of reporting standards for systematic reviews. These can serve as guidelines for protocol, manuscript preparation, and journals may require.
Citation management software helps manage and organize the citations from various sources, and format bibliography using different type of styles, such as, Vancouver, APA, journal specified citation style.
Systematic review software:
Here are select software and web-based tools that are helpful for managing systematic reviews. Please check before downloading any software, as this is subject to change.
Data collection (Coding):
Data collection is the process of gathering and measuring information on targeted variables in an established systematic fashion, which then enables one to answer relevant questions and evaluate outcomes. Here is a list of some free online tools:
Meta-analysis is a subset of systematic reviews; a method for systematically combining pertinent qualitative and quantitative study data from several selected studies to develop a single conclusion that has greater statistical power. "Meta-analysis should only be considered when a group of studies is sufficiently homogeneous in terms of participants, interventions and outcomes to provide a meaningful summary. It is often appropriate to take a broader perspective in a meta-analysis than in a single clinical trial. A common analogy is that systematic reviews bring together apples and oranges, and that combining these can yield a meaningless result. This is true if apples and oranges are of intrinsic interest on their own, but may not be if they are used to contribute to a wider question about fruit. For example, a meta-analysis may reasonably evaluate the average effect of a class of drugs by combining results from trials where each evaluates the effect of a different drug from the class." Below are some selected meta-analysis tools to help to develop summary statistics obtained from a series of related studies.
How to prepare a manuscript for international journals:
When you organize your manuscript, the first thing to consider is that the order of sections will be very different than the order of items on your checklist. An article begins with the Title, Abstract and Keywords. The article text follows the IMRAD format, which responds to the questions below:
The main text is followed by the Conclusion, Acknowledgements, References and Supporting Materials.