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Systematic reviews: Introduction

Library support for systematic reviews

Extensive online resources and individual tutorials are available to SVHM staff preparing systematic reviews.

Find out more -

What is a systematic review?

"A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question. It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made.

The key characteristics of a systematic review are:

  1. a clearly stated set of objectives with an explicit, reproducible methodology;
  2. a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibliity criteria;
  3. an assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies, for example through the assessment of risk of bias; and
  4. systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies."

Liberati, A., Altman, D. G., Tetzlaff, J., Mulrow, C., Gøtzsche, P. C., Ioannidis, J. P. A., . . . Moher, D. (2009). The PRISMA Statement for Reporting Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses of Studies That Evaluate Health Care Interventions: Explanation and Elaboration. Annals of Internal Medicine, 151(4), W-65. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-151-4-200908180-00136

The PRISMA Statement

The PRISMA Statement is a detailed guide to the systematic review process. Many published systematic reviews refer to following the PRISMA guidelines, but there are also other guidelines.

Content on is well worth exploring. It includes:

  • PRISMA Statement - guidelines for reviews and meta analyses including examples, explanation and elaboration, checklist and flow chart
  • Protocols - help with planning your review and registering a protocol on PROSPERO
  • PRISMA extensions - for abstracts, harms, protocols etc

Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions

The Cochrane handbook sets out guidelines for Cochrane systematic reviews.

 Image from the The Cochrane Collaboration © 2019 

Basic principles

Webinar - a practical approach to systematic reviews

Webinar presentation by Helen Wilding, Senior Research Librarian at St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne, 30 July 2020. Presented as part of the Nursing Research Institute webinar series in collaboration with St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney, St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne & Australian Catholic University.

Sifting the evidence

Guide Author

Helen Wilding, Senior Research Librarian

Carl de Gruchy Library, St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne
+613 9231 2541

Literature Searching, Systematic Reviews, Mental Health liaison 
Thursdays, Fridays & alternate Wednesdays
Helen's profile | Researchgate | Orcid