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Systematic Review: 1. Overview

Overview

In general, the writing process for a systematic review is similar to the process of writing any other kind of review.

One of the unique aspects of a systematic review is the inclusion of a detailed methodology which describes your source search and selection process. Systematic reviews need to allow a reader to critically interpret the findings - to understand why sources were chosen, how they were assessed, and how conclusions were reached (Horsley, p. 55). More, it allows your review to be replicated. As such, it is important not to take shortcuts when writing about your methodology. This is where your documentation becomes important.

You may discover that your original approach was too ambitious. While it is tempting to take shortcuts, such as only searching in a single database, journal editors have indicated that this is a reason for rejecting such reviews. Rather, rethink your approach to the review entirely. As one editor notes “... the findings of reviews are far too important for advancing a field to be conducted with any less integrity than primary research” (Horsley, p. 56).

Another aspect of a systematic review is that it can provide an answer to a question, rather than a broad overview of current trends and gaps in research. You will need to show your reader how you found the answer, as well as providing them with the results you have identified.