Steps in Developing a Systematic Review
1. Define the question - a clearly defined question will ensure that your research produces relevant results.
2. Write the protocol, which includes the inclusion/exclusion and eligibility criteria. The protocol defines the process for selecting studies and reduces the risk of bias.
3. Register your protocol.
4. Develop the search strategy.
5. Identify any recent or ongoing system reviews.
6. Search relevant sources to identify the evidence.
7. Appraise and select suitable studies
8. Synthesize the data.
9. Document and report the search strategy.
A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing more reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions can be made. The key characteristics of a systematic review are:
Higgins, J. & Green, S. (Ed.). (2011). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. (5th ed.). Retrieved from www.cochrane-handbook.org
Why is it important to have a plan?
A major cause of bias in a systematic review is answering a different question to that being originally asked. This is why it is important to develop a review plan or protocol.
The benefits of having a protocol before the beginning of a review:
The protocol should include: