Answered By: Denise R. Gehring, MSLIS, MA
Last Updated: Feb 01, 2024     Views: 4

For more information on writing a systematic review, go to

Definition: A systematic review is a summary of research results (evidence) that uses explicit and reproducible methods to systematically search, critically appraise, and synthesize on a specific issue. It synthesizes the results of multiple primary studies related to each other by using strategies that reduce biases and errors.

When to use: If you want to identify, appraise, and synthesize all available research that is relevant to a particular question with reproducible search methods.

You may choose to conduct a systematic review

  • To uncover the international evidence
  • To confirm current practice/ address any variation/ identify new practices
  • To identify and inform areas for future research
  • To identify and investigate conflicting results
  • To produce statements to guide decision-making (Munn et al, 2018)

Limitations: It requires extensive time and a team


Synthesizing the results of single studies and establishing overall findings for the question of interest from the larger body of evidence enables decision-makers to be more confident in the findings. Examples of significant shifts in best practice following the completion of a systematic review include the practice of giving live-saving corticosteroid injections to pregnant women at risk of giving birth prematurely (see the story of the Cochrane logo) and advice about sleeping positions for babies was contrary to the evidence for many years.

Cochrane is considered one of the most eminent publishers of systematic reviews, along with its sister organization the Campbell Collaboration, and the Joanna Briggs Institute.