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Systematic Review: Assess quality

Copy of published guide 'systematic review' (Paula Todd version) for Editing taken in July 2021

Assess quality

The next step in the process is to assess the quality of the included studies. At a minimum, your systematic review should state what types of studies should be included and the threshold for inclusion to reduce the likelihood of including studies with poor-quality evidence. Risk of bias assessment helps to inform the interpretation of the review's results. Be aware of various possible biases.

There are a number of tools and checklists available to assist you with this. Cochrane uses the GRADE approach: see the GRADE guidelines, the Melbourne Grade Centre website, or the sections in the Cochrane handbook on assessing the quality of the body of evidence.  

There is also a range of checklists for assessing the risk of bias in various study designs. (See the table below). If your review is for publication or submission to a particular organisation, make sure you check if they have any requirements regarding checklist selection.
 

STUDY DESIGN

CHECKLISTS

Randomised controlled trials

Quasi-experimental studies
(non-randomised intervention studies)

Cohort studies

Qualitative studies

Mixed methods studies

Cross-sectional studies

Case control studies

Case reports

Case series

Diagnostic test / diagnostic accuracy studies

Prognosis studies
(clinical prediction rule)

Harm / etiology studies

Economic evaluation studies

Prevalence studies

Before-after studies (pre/post) with no control group

Practice guidelines

Community evidence

Text and opinion

Measurement properties

Systematic reviews / meta-analyses
(or IPD reviews)