A systematic review (also systematic literature review or structured literature review, SLR) is a review of literature focused on a research question that tries to identify, appraise, select and synthesize all high quality research evidence relevant to that question. Systematic reviews of high-quality randomized controlled trials are crucial to evidence-based medicine.
An understanding of systematic reviews and how to implement them in practice is becoming mandatory for all professionals involved in the delivery of health care. Systematic reviews are not limited to medicine and are quite common in all other sciences where data are collected, published in the literature, and an assessment of methodological quality for a precisely defined subject would be helpful.
Not to be confused with a book review, a literature review surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources (e.g. dissertations, conference proceedings) relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, providing a description, summary, and critical evaluation of each work. The purpose is to offer an overview of significant literature published on a topic.
Similar to primary research, development of the literature review requires four stages:
Literature reviews should comprise the following elements:
In assessing each piece, consideration should be given to:
3. Definition and Use/Purpose
A literature review may constitute an essential chapter of a thesis or dissertation, or may be a self-contained review of writings on a subject. In either case, its purpose is to:
The literature review itself, however, does not present new primary scholarship.
1. Define a topic and audience:
must be interesting to you
an important aspect of the field
a well-defined issue
2. Search and Re-Search the Literature:
3. Take NOTES while reading
4. Choose the type of review to write:
5. Keep the review focused, but broad interest. (could discuss other disciplines affected)
6. Be Critical and consistent:
A reader should have an idea of
- The major achievements in the reviewed field.
- The areas of debate.
- The outstanding research questions.
7. Find a logical structure.
It can be helpful to use a mind-map to draw a conceptual scheme of the review.
8. Make use of feedback. Can be peer-reviewed or someone reading a draft.
9. Include your own relevant research but be objective.
10. Be Up-to-date, do not forget older studies.
Original by Marco Pautasso. PLOS. July 2013, vol. 9, issue 7.
AVOID these traps:
Questions: Your Librarian, Susan Koskinen, email@example.com
Annual Reviews critically reviews significant primary research literature. Each article provides a gateway to the essential primary research literature referenced within each topic.
BIOSIS Previews: enter your search, use limit to "Literature Types" and Review (if available).
Coverage: 1926 - present
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: enter your search, limit to review.
Coverage: date varies | Some full text |
Embase: enter your search, left menu, use limit to "Literature types" and select reivew / apply.
Embase is a key resource for systematic reviews and researching evidence-based medicine. Coverage: dates vary
PubMed: enter your search, select filter - 'review'. Includes Systematic Reviews search limit, and peer review. (Guide: HTML | PDF).
Covers: 1946 - present