"The aim of reviewing systematically is to have such explicit, rigorous and accountable methods."
David Gough - An introduction to systematic reviews
A systematic review is a tightly structured literature review that focuses on a topic with strict research parameters. The methodology used to collect research has to be consistent in order to reduce misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the data.
The aim of a systematic review is to identify, analyse, appraise and arrive at a considered judgement or set of conclusions based on all the available information and data that adheres to the review's pre-determined set of conformities. Each piece of research material is examined and compared to other resources and summarised accordingly. Some people keep records such as a form or table summarising each reviewed article which they refer to when collating the evidence.
The purpose of following this very strict protocol is to gather evidence-based research that supports a balanced and unbiased conclusion. Statistical information can be extracted and analysed using a process known as meta-analysis.
Accountable: answerable, responsible and justified
Critical Appraisal: The assessment of evidence by systematically reviewing its relevance, validity and results to specific situations.
Explicit: a clear understandable statement of all the relevant details
Grey Literature: Research that is not published by a commercial publisher. This means it can sometimes be difficult to trace the research’s origin or the complete study. Grey literature can include conference proceedings, non-indexed journals (i.e. they are not on databases such as Medline), reports, and student dissertations and theses.
Map (systematic): a systematic description and analysis of the research field refined by a review question
Meta Analysis: A systematic method that takes data from a number of independent studies and integrates them using statistical analysis
Qualitative: Relate to, measure, or measured by the quality of something rather than its quantity
Quantitative: Relate to, measure, or measured by the quantity of something rather than its quality.
Review: a critical appraisal and analysis
Systematic: undertaken according to a fixed plan or system or method
Systematic Review: a review of the research literature using systematic and explicit accountable methods
Synthesis: creating something new from separate elements
The service is an advisory service. RHUL Library cannot conduct systematic reviews on behalf of staff, students or research/project groups.
If you are a postgraduate student embarking on a systematic review and need help with your searches, this guide should be a good starting point but you can also contact the library for support.