Systematic Review: 3. Develop criteria

Starting - Step-by-step

Develop question


Develop criteria


An important characteristic of a systematic review is that the search is replicable: someone else should be able to follow the strategy and end up with the same (or very similar) articles.

It’s very easy to look at an article and decide that you want to include it in your study, because the results look good or you’ve heard of the authors, or any other factors. To eliminate these personal biases (as far as possible), it’s crucial to develop clear inclusion and exclusion criteria before beginning your final search.

To do this, you need to consider exactly what you need to find out, and where you might find it. Some examples of criteria you might need to consider include:



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 Accessibility document - examples of criteria

There are many other criteria that might also need to be considered.

  • You need to carefully consider what will be ‘in’ and what will be ‘out’ when you start to get your search results. These criteria will need to be discussed and agreed between you and any co-reviewers initially, and evaluated several times while you refine the search process.


Case Study

              Exercise 3 - Thinking about inclusion and exclusion criteria