RLO: Steps in conducting a systematic review


  1. Introduction
  2. Step One - Formulating a question
  3. Step Two - Conduct a search
  4. Step Three - Assess the quality
  5. Step Four - Summarise the evidence
  6. Step Five - Interpret the findings
  7. Activity
  8. Feedback
  9. Resources


We may want to know if one particular health care treatment is better than another or whether it will do more harm than good.

Information about health care is everywhere, but it can be very difficult to make sense of or keep up with al lthe literature and research going on around the world.

Systematic reviews

Systematic reviews are widely considered to be the best source of research evidence. They are essential tools for health care workers, researchers, consumers and policy makers who want to keep up with the evidence.

Systematic reviews, unlike literature reviews allow for a more objective appraisal of evidence. They can also highlight the lack of evidence and therefore identify areas where further research may be needed.

One definition of a systematic review is: 'A review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic methods to identify, select and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analse data from the studies that are included in the review.'

Statistical methods may or may not be used to analyse the and summarise the results of the included studies. Reviews should have a carefully planned, written protocol. The protocol is the subject of another RLO entitled 'Protocols for systematic reviews'.