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Systematic Reviews

This is a guide to conducting systematic reviews, a structured, comprehensive approach to reviewing the literature on a selected topic.

What is a Systematic Review Protocol?

Systematic reviews include something called a protocol to ensure transparency in their search methods. Protocols also allow other researchers to replicate their findings.Your protocol will include detailed information about your search techniques, including what search terms you used, which databases you searched, and exactly when you conducted your search. It will also include inclusion-exclusion criteria, the factors that you designate will either qualify or disqualify a study from consideration. 

Because it can take considerable time to complete a systematic review from start to finish, researchers often register their protocols to a database, so that other researchers are aware of ongoing reviews. This also helps to prevent two teams from inadvertently conducting a review on the same topic. Before you begin the arduous process of a systematic review, it is wise to survey the record of registered protocols to make sure there is not already a systematic review on your topic. Some important databases of systematic reviews are included below.

Systematic Review Databases