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.
Systematic reviews are reviews of high-quality randomized controlled trials often crucial to evidence-based medicine. Systematic reviews are common to all sciences where data are collected, published in the literature, and an assessment of methodological quality for a precisely defined subject would be helpful.
Each article provides essential primary research literature referenced within each topic.
Limit to literature reviews in left menu.
Coverage: 1926 - present
Databases of evidence to inform decision-making.
Coverage: date varies | Some full text
Key resource for conducting systematic reviews and researching evidence-based medicine.
Coverage: dates vary
Step 1: Framing questions for a review
The problems to be addressed by the review should be specified in clear, unambiguous and structured questions before beginning. Once the review questions have been set modifications to the protocol should be allowed only if alternative ways of defining the populations, interventions, outcomes or study designs become apparent.
Step 2: Identify relevant work
Search for studies, multiple resources should be searched without language restrictions. The study selection criteria should flow directly from the review questions and be specified a priori. Reasons for inclusion and exclusion should be recorded.
Step 3: Assessing the quality of studies
Quality assessment is relevant to every step of a review.
Step 4: Summarize the evidence
Data synthesis consists of tabulation of study characteristics, quality and effects as well as use of statistical methods for exploring differences between studies and combining their effects (meta-analysis).
Step 5: Interpret the findings
The risk of publication bias and related biases should be explored. Exploration for heterogeneity should help determine whether the overall summary can be trusted. Any recommendations should be graded by reference to the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence.
Components: four stages:
Literature reviews should comprise the following elements:
In assessing each piece, consider:
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, it should:
The literature review itself, however, does not present new primary scholarship.
PRISMA: 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
Cochran: Cochrane Reviews are seen as exemplifying best practice in the quality of both their conduct and reporting. To maintain this position we need to improve and maintain the quality of our output as standards and expectations for systematic reviews increase generally; we also need to ens Cochrane Review Groups (CRGs) and all reviews. To this end we have undertaken within The Cochrane Collaboration to define Methodological Expectations for Cochrane Intervention Reviews (MECIR).