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Systematic Reviews

Systematic and Other Reviews


The term systematic review is occurring more frequently in relation to longer student assignments at undergraduate and taught postgraduate level.  Whilst chiefly in Medical, Health and Life Sciences subjects, this has extended to areas such as Education and Business Studies (Zawacki-Richter et al.EPPI Centre).

However, are you actually being required to undertake a formal Systematic Review along the lines of Cochrane or other groups?

  • It may simply be a general literature search and review of articles, using databases
  • Or: a number of elements of the Systematic Review method may be needed, as directed

Elements may include:

  • The protocol, PRISMA flowchart sequence, searching several databases, filtering results (inclusion/exclusion)

It is essential to clarify with the Programme Lead or Module Tutor the precise requirements of the assignment.

Boland, Cherry and Dickson (2017) provide an excellent, detailed but accessible introduction to the Systematic Review process, aimed as Masters' students carrying out a review for their dissertations. This includes a brief survey of other types of review (p 10). Wormald and Evans (2018) produced a concise Editorial on the importance and limits of Systematic Reviews.  Aveyard (2019), whilst not covering Systematic Reviews specifically, has a very useful overview of literature reviewing, with chapters such as 'How do I develop a question for my literature review'.

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Key Reading

Aveyard, H. (2019) Doing a literature review in health and social care. 4th edn. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education.

Boland, A., Cherry, G. and Dickson, R. (2017) Doing a systematic review. 2nd edn. London: Sage.

Wormald, R. and Evans, J. (2018) 'What Makes Systematic Reviews Systematic and Why are They the Highest Level of Evidence?', Ophthalmic Epidemiology, 25:1, 27-30, DOI: 10.1080/09286586.2017.1337913
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