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Systematic Reviews

Information on how to conduct systematic reviews in the health sciences.

Systematic Review Process

Here is a more detailed description of the systematic review process.  Note the iterative nature of the process (arrows on the left).  Step 14 refers only to meta-analyses.

Systematic review process-detailed

Tsafnet, G., Glasziou, P., Choong, M.K., et al. Systematic review automation technologies. Systematic Reviews 2014; 3:74;


Bias: "a systematic error, or deviation from the truth, in results or inference" (Cochrane Handbook, ch. 8)


Types of bias include:

  • Publication, time lag, or multiple publication bias
  • Location bias
  • Citation bias
  • Language bias
  • Outcome reporting bias.

For more details on bias and how to prevent it, see: Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions (2008,Chapter 8Chapter 10, table 10.1.a) and the Catalogue of Bias from CEBM, Oxford.

For guidance on assessing study types, see the Reporting Results page in this guide.


PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) "is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses . . . to help authors improve the reporting of systematic reviews and meta-analyses."

PRISMA 27-item checklist

The PRISMA statement for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses of studies that evaluate health care interventions: explanation and elaboration.

Preferred Reporting Items for a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Diagnostic Test Accuracy Studies: The PRISMA-DTA Statement.

Create & Register Your Protocol


Creating a protocol is an important part of creating a systematic review.  PRISMA-P provides a method for doing this that will work with the PROSPERO system for registering protocols for systematic reviews & meta-analyses.

Preferred reporting items for systematic review and meta-analysis protocols.



PROSPERO (International Prospective Register of Ongoing Systematic Reviews):  registering your protocol may reduce duplication of effort & the publication bias of systematic reviews.

University of York, PROSPERO register

Methods - Guidance

Institute of Medicine. (2011). Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews. Washington, DC: National Academies 

Cochrane Handbook of Systematic Reviews of Interventions, version 6 (2019)

Center for Reviews and Dissemination (University of York, England) (2009). Systematic Reviews: CRD's guidance for undertaking systematic reviews in health care.  

Joanna Briggs Institute. (2014)  The Reviewers Manual. The Joanna Briggs Institute/The University of Adelaide.

The Community Guide/Methods/Systematic Review Methods (June 2014). From The Community Preventive Services Task Force.

For issues in systematic reviews, especially in social science or other qualitative research:  Some Potential "Pitfalls" in the Construction of Educational Systematic Reviews.