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Systematic Review Methodology


PROSPERO is an international database of prospectively registered systematic reviews in health and social care. Key features from the review protocol are recorded and maintained as a permanent record. Systematic reviews should be registered at inception (i.e. at the protocol stage) to help avoid unplanned duplication and to enable comparison of reported review methods with what was planned in the protocol.


PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses. PRISMA focuses on the reporting of reviews evaluating randomized trials, but can also be used as a basis for reporting systematic reviews of other types of research, particularly evaluations of interventions.


A systematic review must start with a well formulated, answerable research question that contains the PICO elements:

P = Patient/Population, or Problem
I = Intervention, Prognostic Factor, or Exposure
C = Comparison - main alternative being considered, if any
O = Outcome you hope to accomplish, measure, improve, or achieve

The PICO framework helps to forms the basis for the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Determine the inclusion and exclusion criteria before conducting literature searches. Inclusion criteria is everything that a study must have in order to be included in your review and it should be directly relevant to your research question (the PICO framework), e.g., Homeless female between the ages of 13 and 44 who are sexually active. Exclusion criteria are the factors that would make a study ineligible to be included in your review, e.g., publication prior to 2000, non-English studies, non-substance abuse users, etc.

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(((systematic review[ti] OR systematic literature review[ti] OR systematic scoping review[ti] OR systematic narrative review[ti] OR systematic qualitative review[ti] OR systematic evidence review[ti] OR systematic quantitative review[ti] OR systematic meta-review[ti] OR systematic critical review[ti] OR systematic mixed studies review[ti] OR systematic mapping review[ti] OR systematic cochrane review[ti] OR systematic search and review[ti] OR systematic integrative review[ti]) NOT comment[pt] NOT (protocol[ti] OR protocols[ti])) NOT MEDLINE [subset]) OR (Cochrane Database Syst Rev[ta] AND review[pt]) OR systematic review[pt]