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Systematic reviews: Introduction

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

Library supports for systematic reviews

Extensive online resources

Individual tutorials and consultations (SVHM staff only)

  • Search tutorial - learn to search Ovid Medline with a topic of your choice (1 hour)
  • EndNote tutorial - learn to manage your references, cite as you write and more (1 hour)
  • Brief consultations - limited, brief advice on systematic review processes - depends on staff availability (15 minutes, maximum of 2)
  • All sessions are delivered online or face to face depending on Covid restrictions
  • Email us to book or find out more. Please include availability, topic and phone number.

Covidence systematic review software (SVHM staff only)

Co-authorship service (SVHM staff only)

  • SVHM staff planning to publish a systematic review may apply for a librarian to co-author.
  • Please note this is a significant commitment and we are not able to accept all requests.
  • Review teams must include at least two other authors and demonstrate a serious commitment to publish following the PRISMA guidelines.
  • Find out more 

What we can't do:

  • We cannot provide you with written feedback on a search strategy you email to us.
  • We cannot provide you with finished search strategies for a systematic review (with the exception of our limited co-authoring service).

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

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