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Systematic Reviews (in the Health Sciences)

Guidance for conducting health sciences systematic reviews.

Assemble a Research Team

A systematic review team should include: 

  • A minimum of three reviewers to reduce bias (SRs cannot be done alone)
    • third reviewer helps to reach consensus
    • more reviewers will accelerate the screening process
  • Content experts who have expertise in the subject area and current research being done in his subject
  • Experts in SR methodology, with knowledge in reducing risk of bias, study design, data collection, management & analysis, and statistical analysis
  • Librarian for database searching, citation management, search methodology, and search documentation
  • Statistician if including a meta-analysis

Does a systematic review already exist?

If a SR already exists or is in-progress, another systematic review may be duplicative and difficult to get published. Search the sources below for published SRs or protocols of in-progress reviews.  Depending on your research question, you may want to search additional databases as well. 

Set a Realistic Timeline

Conducting a SR takes time - anywhere from 6 to 12 months!

An analysis of time spent showed that it took on average 1,139 hours to conduct a SR. 

  • 588 hours - protocol development, searching and retrieval
  • 144 hours - statistical analysis
  • 206 hours - report writing
  • 201 hours - administration

Cochrane provides an example of a timeline for a 12 month review:


Choose Software & Tools


More recommended tools are listed on appropriate pages throughout this guide.