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Systematic Reviews & Evidence Synthesis Methods

A detailed, step-by-step guide to the first several stages of an evidence synthesis review.

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Data Extraction

Whether you plan to perform a meta-analysis or not, you will need to establish a regimented approach to extracting data. Researchers often use a form or table to capture the data they will then summarize or analyze. The amount and types of data you collect, as well as the number of collaborators who will be extracting it, will dictate which extraction tools are best for your project. Programs like Excel or Google Spreadsheets may be the best option for smaller or more straightforward projects, while systematic review software platforms can provide more robust support for larger or more complicated data.

It is recommended that you pilot your data extraction tool, especially if you will code your data, to determine if fields should be added or clarified, or if the review team needs guidance in collecting and coding data.

Data Extraction Tools

Additional Information

These resources offer additional information and examples of data extraction forms:​

Brown, S. A., Upchurch, S. L., & Acton, G. J. (2003). A framework for developing a coding scheme for meta-analysis. Western Journal of Nursing Research25(2), 205–222.

Elamin, M. B., Flynn, D. N., Bassler, D., Briel, M., Alonso-Coello, P., Karanicolas, P. J., … Montori, V. M. (2009). Choice of data extraction tools for systematic reviews depends on resources and review complexity. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology62(5), 506–510.

Higgins, J.P.T., & Thomas, J. (Eds.) (2022). Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions Version 6.3. The Cochrane Collaboration. Available from (see Part 2: Core Methods, Chapters 4, 5)

Research guide from the George Washington University Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library.