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Systematic Reviews & Meta-analyses: Home

Guidance on conducting systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

What is a Systematic Review?

Via the Cochrane Collaboration glossary:

"A review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review. Statistical methods (meta-analysis) may or may not be used to analyse and summarise the results of the included studies."

Via the Institute of Medicine (IOM):

"Systematic reviews identify, select, assess, and synthesize the findings of similar but separate studies. They can help clarify what is known and not known about the potential benefits and harms of drugs, devices, and other healthcare services. But the quality of systematic reviews varies; often the scientific rigor of the collected literature is not scrutinized or there are errors in data extraction and meta-analysis."

Via the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, AHRQ:

"A systematic review is a summary of the clinical literature. A systematic review is a critical assessment and evaluation of all research studies that address a particular clinical issue. The researchers use an organized method of locating, assembling, and evaluating a body of literature on a particular topic using a set of specific criteria. A systematic review typically includes a description of the findings of the collection of research studies. The systematic review may also include a quantitative pooling of data, called a meta-analysis.

Example: Scientists collected all the published studies that compared types of treatment for prostate cancer that had not spread beyond the prostate gland. They compiled the results of these studies in a comparative effectiveness review, which is a type of systematic review."

A Systematic Review - the right choice for you?

What are different types of review articles? Grant, M. J., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91-108.

Use the flowchart below to explore several types of research literature reviews, including typical processes and timeframes associated with each.

Review Type Flowchart

Librarians for Systematic Review Consultations

Request a consultation:

  • Email: srconsultation-g@vt.edu
  • In your email, let us know your current project research focus, planning stage, timeline, and goals. 

Ginny Pannabecker, Health, Life Sciences, and Scholarly Communication Librarian, vpannabe@vt.edu

Kiri DeBose, College Librarian for Natural Resources & Environment and Animal Sciences, kdebose@vt.edu

Inga Haugen, Agriculture, Life Sciences, and Scholarly Communication Librarian, ihaugen@vt.edu

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