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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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Preliminary Searching

Preliminary search of the literature

Before beginning any evidence synthesis project, you will need to search the literature in your topic area for 2 purposes:

  • To determine if there is enough evidence to support an evidence synthesis review on this topic
  • To determine if other teams have recently published or are already working on a similar review, in which case you may want to adjust your research question or pursue a different topic

Medicine and health sciences reviews

Search at least PubMed and Cochrane Library for published studies, systematic reviews, and registered protocols, and search PROSPERO and the JBI Systematic Review Register for registered protocols. Note that PROSPERO only accepts protocols for systematic reviews, rapid reviews, and umbrella reviews, so if you plan to do another type of review, search OSF and the JBI EBP Database instead. If you plan to include qualitative evidence or topics related to nursing and allied health, you should also search CINAHL and any relevant subject-specific databases, such as PsycInfo.

Interdisciplinary reviews or outside health sciences

Search one or more subject-specific databases as well as an interdisciplinary database, such as Scopus or Web of Science. Search OSF for projects and protocol registrations. For social sciences topics, review this list of Campbell Collaboration Title Registrations.

For more context, see also Chapter 2 of Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews: Standards for Initiating a Systematic Review: "Standards for Initiating a Systematic Review."