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Systematic Reviews

Further Resources and Suggested Reading

Openly available resources on systematic reviews 

  • PROSPERO - International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews
    This register includes protocol details for systematic reviews.
  • PRISMA Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses
  • AMSTAR - Assessing the Methodological Quality of Systematic Reviews 
  • EQUATOR  - Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research. Library of reporting guidelines and also links to other resources relevant to research reporting and writing.
  • PRESS - Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies: 2015 Guideline Statement (2016)
  • MOOSE - Meta-analysis Of Observational Studies in Epidemiology

(From Research Skills Team Canvas course: Literature Searching for Researchers - requires University of Birmingham login).

Cochrane Foundation

The Cochrane Interactive Learning Resource is available to University of Birmingham members (or others with an institutional subscription). This is a valuable learning tool which explores the systematic review process in more detail.

The Cochrane Foundation has a very detailed online handbook, Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions (Higgins et al., 2022). This is aimed at authors preparing Cochrane Systematic Reviews*.

Chapters include, for example:

As of August 2023, the Cochrane Foundation announced updates and "some major changes" to its processes (Cochrane Foundation, 2023).

Data and Digital Skills

If you are looking for help or information about statistical software related to data extraction, such as SPSS or NVivo, see the University of Birmingham Digital Skills (UoB) page or the Mathematics Support Centre information on Statistics Resources.   University of Birmingham members and others with institutional access can access video learning materials on the above on LinkedIn Learning.

Dalhousie University Libraries' Systematic Reviews guide has a section on Data Extraction.

Referencing Software

Software can be invaluable in storing and managing references from multiple sources and citing these in documents. At the University of Birmingham, the web-based EndNote Online is supported for undergraduate (UG) and taught postgraduate (PGT) students.  The separate, downloadable EndNote Desktop programme is supported for doctoral (PhD), post-doctoral and other academic researchers and staff. 

Risk of Bias Tools

A thorough literature search using a range of bibliographic databases – and grey literature if required - will reduce any perceived risk of bias in studies selected for a Review. 

Further information and tools to minimize or assess Risk of Bias can be found for example on the following:

Students are advised to discuss these tools directly with their tutor(s) if required to use them.

Other Tools

You may find that specific, specialised software tools exist that help with systematic reviews but they are not always available at the University of Birmingham. Such tools may have some limited free use but full access is dependent on institutional or School subscription.  They are generally aimed at those studying at PhD level and above in subject areas such as Medicine. 

For example: Covidence* and Rayyan.  The Cochrane Foundation also has information on GRADE and RevMan**.  Another tool is EPPI Reviewer. These systematic review management tools are aimed more at the management of research traced through literature searches in the course of a systematic review, and the evaluation and synthesis processes, including viewing by other members of research teams. Covidence and RevMan are available for use via Library Services / FindIt@Bham (see below). Students are advised to speak with their tutors for guidance on use, and to consult the supplier support information.

Available to University of Birmingham staff and students.

*Covidence.  For help with setting up with and using Covidence, see the dedicated Covidence / University of Birmingham web page, as well as the supplier knowledge base.

**RevMan.  Read the instructions on the FindIt@Bham entry for how to register to use Cochrane RevMan.

References and further reading

Aromataris, E., Fernandez, R., Godfrey, C. M., Holly, C., Khalil, H. and Tungpunkom, P. (2015) 'Summarizing systematic reviews: methodological development, conduct and reporting of an umbrella review approach', International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare, 13(3), pp. 132-40. doi: 10.1097/XEB.0000000000000055.

Boutron, I., Page, M.J., Higgins, J.P.T, Altman, D.G., Lundh, A. and Hróbjartsson, A. (2022) ‘Considering bias and conflicts of interest among the included studies’, In Higgins, J.P.T., Thomas, J., Chandler, J., Cumpston, M., Li, T., Page, M.J. and Welch, V.A. (eds.) (2022) Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.3 (updated February 2022). Cochrane, Ch. 7. Available from: (Accessed 19 July 2022)

Cochrane Foundation (2023) Cochrane’s focused review format is now available. Available at: (Accessed 6 November 2023)

Grant, M.J. and Booth, A. (2009) 'A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies', Health Information and Libraries Journal, 26(2), pp. 91-108. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

Health Services Library, University of North Carolina (USA) (2023) Covidence.  Available at: (Accessed 01 March 2023)

Higgins, J.P.T., Thomas, J., Chandler, J., Cumpston, M., Li, T., Page, M.J. and Welch, V.A. (eds.) (2022) Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.3 (updated February 2022). Cochrane. Available from (Accessed 18 July 2022)

Lancaster University Library (2023) Systematic Reviews. Available at: (Accessed 21 November 2023)

Marshall, C., Sutton, A., O'Keefe, H., Johnson, E. (eds.) (2022) The Systematic Review Toolbox. Available from: (Accessed 18 July 2022)

Munn, Z., Peters, M. D. J., Stern, C., Tufanaru, C., McArthur, A. and Aromataris, E. (2018) 'Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach', BMC Medical Research Methodology, 18(1), article 43. doi: 10.1186/s12874-018-0611-x.

Penn State University Libraries (2023) 'Know the difference! Systematic review vs. literature review', in Nursing.  Available at: (Accessed 21 November 2023) 

Tricco, A., Oboirien, K., Lotfi, T. and Sambunjak, D. (2017) Scoping reviews and what you can do with them.  Available at: (Accessed 21 November 2023)

University of Bath (2023) Systematic reviews: introduction. Available at: (Accessed 21 November 2023)

Western Libraries, Western University Canada (2023) Literature reviews, introduction to different types of.  Available at: (Accessed 21 November 2023)


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