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Systematic Reviews

This guide lists resources related to conducting a Systematic Review.

Library Support

The Library offers a tiered support model for students and faculty working on systematic reviews, scoping reviews, and other types of knowledge syntheses. 

We are able to provide up to 2 consultations total (2 hours) to each student or faculty member. Consultations are provided on a first come, first served basis and are subject to librarian availability at the time of the request.

For more information on what services the Library can provide to students and faculty working on knowledge synthesis projects and what is required of you before your first appointment, please read the Knowledge Synthesis Support Guideline (linked below) before booking an appointment.

What is a Systematic Review?

“A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias, in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making.”

- Cochrane Library

When is a Systematic Review necessary?

Systematic reviews should be done:

  • When there is a large body of primary research on a specific research question
  • When a transparent search methodology and replicability are needed
  • When multiple published studies point to contradictory outcomes
  • When an existing systematic review is outdated (consider updating the existing review)
  • When no ongoing or existing systematic review addresses your research question. Try searching the following resources for protocols or completed systematic reviews before you get started:

Is a Systematic Review the right type of review for my research project?

What resources are needed to complete a Systematic Review?

Time: The length of time needed to complete a systematic review ranges from 6 months to 2 years, with an average mean project length of 67.3 weeks or over a year (Khangura et al., 2012; Borah et al., 2017)

Teamwork: A systematic review cannot be done alone. Results must be screened and appraised by a minimum of two reviewers, ideally  with a third available to settle any disagreements.

Tools: Access to a citation management tool with sharing capabilities (e.g. EndNote). 

What is the timeline for completing a Systematic Review?

Systematic reviews require a lot of time and effort to complete; a reasonable time frame is rarely under one year. The Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions suggests the following timeline to complete a Cochrane Review:

Month Activity
1 - 2 Preparation of protocol
3 - 8 Searches for published & unpublished studies
2 - 3 Pilot test of eligibility criteria
3 - 8 Inclusion assessments
3 Pilot test of 'Risk of bias' assessment
3 - 10 Validity assessments
3 Pilot test of data collection
3 - 10 Data collection
3 - 10 Data entry
5 - 11 Follow up of missing information
8 - 10 Analysis
1 - 11 Preparation of review report
12 - Keeping the review up to date


Creative Commons License

This guide was created by Ontario Tech Libraries and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0 License, except where otherwise noted. 

Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0 License

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