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What is a systematic review?

Systematic review is a type of literature review .  Unlike other forms of review, where authors can include any articles they consider appropriate, a systematic review aims to remove the reviewer's biases as far as possible by following a clearly defined, transparent process. There are a number of steps in the process, and each needs to be documented effectively to ensure the process can be replicated by others or repeated/updated in the future.


A systematic review starts from a clearly defined, researchable question.

plan (protocol) is developed to ensure all available evidence on the topic can be located, along with clear criteria identifying what will and will not be included. This protocol is often registered with a systematic review library, facilitating peer review, and avoiding the need for others to spend time on the search.

The search is then refined and conducted, before articles are screened for relevance, then assessed for quality and appropriateness.  Once the list of included articles is finalised, key data are extracted and analysed to produce a new perspective to the question based on the aggregated evidence.

The synthesis is then written up and submitted for publication.

Reading icon     When to do a systematic review? 

Reading icon     Starting a systematic review - Monash University Library 

Reading icon     Overview of review types 

Reading icon     Overview of review types - updated article (requires Monash username and password) 

Reading icon     The review decision tree 




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