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Systematic Reviews Guide: Systematic Reviews Guide

A picture of books spine on book shelves, group together by colour.Systematic Reviews

Welcome to our Systematic Reviews Guide.  This is primarily for Nursing, Midwifery, Health, Radiography and Radiotherapy students doing research and dissertation modules.  However, other taught-postgraduate students may also find this guide helpful.

Literature reviews

Traditional literature reviews are those where researchers have sought to organise existing knowledge and publish summary of a variety of topics. They are useful for background reading and gathering information on a specific topic.

  • They are less rigorous than a Systematic Literature Review (SLR) and conducted by one researcher.
  • Based on one or more databases.
  • Uses appropriate terms with synonyms, related terms etc.
  • Include an audit trail (usually presented in a table) showing how you arrived at your final articles.

Systematic reviews

A systematic review is a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select and critically appraise relevant research and to collect and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review (Cochrane Handbook, 2011). Often conducted by a team rather than a single researcher, it is not merely a descriptive summary of the studies you have chosen but should aim to do the following:

  • Focus on a single topic with strict criteria parameters and consistent methodology.
  • Cover all the available research relating to the question.
  • Draw the evidence together and start to relate the studies together.
  • Combine findings across the studies and look for themes and patterns, similarities and overlaps and differences between the studies.
  • Draw together different study perspectives and recommendations for practice.
  • Acknowledge the study limitations as presented by the authors themselves or, alternatively, include an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the studies.
  • Examine, compare and summarise each piece of research identified.
  • Aim for a considered judgement and a balanced and unbiased conclusion.

Learn more about Systematic Reviews, by watching the video below

Evidence heirarchy

Top of hierarchy

Secondary research (pre-appraised and synthesized)

  • Evidence based guidelines
  • Systematic reviews (syntheses of existing studies)

Primary research(original first hand research)

  • Single large group study e.g. Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs)
  • Other groups studies e.g. observation studies
  • Case study or report
  • Background information or expert opinion
Bottom of hierarchy

Resources to Undertake Systematic Reviews

The University offers a wide range of academic databases that are suitable to undertake your systematic review.  For example, if you are a health student you may like to explore CINAHL or British Nursing Database, or if you are a Psychology student, PsycARTICLES and Proquest Psychology  Datase would be suitable.  You can access these from our A-Z of e-Journals.  Using Discovery is not suitable for the structured approach that needs to be undertaken when undertaking a Systematic Review.

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