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Systematic Reviews (in the Health Sciences)

Guidance for conducting health sciences systematic reviews.

Components of a Systematic Review

The structure of a systematic review typically follows the same structure as original research articles. PRISMA Guidelines are designed to follow the structure of a systematic review manuscript format with the sections in bold and the required checklist item listed underneath

  • Title: Describe your manuscript and state whether it is a systematic review, meta-analysis, or both.
  • Abstract: Structure the abstract and include (as applicable): background, objectives, data sources, study eligibility criteria, participants, interventions, quality assessment and synthesis methods, results, limitations, conclusions, implications of key findings, and systematic review registration number.
  • Introduction or Background: Describe the rationale for the review and provide a statement of questions being addressed.
  • Methods: Include details regarding the protocol, eligibility criteria, databases searched, full search strategy of at least one database (often reported in appendix), and the study selection process. Describe how data were extracted and analyzed. If a librarian is part of your research team, that person may be best suited to write this section. 
  • Results: Report the numbers of articles screened at each stage using a PRISMA diagram. Include information about included study characteristics, risk of bias (quality assessment) within studies, and results across studies.
  • Discussion: Summarize main findings, including the strength of evidence and limitations of the review. Provide a general interpretation of the results and implications for future research.
  • Funding: Describe any sources of funding for the systematic review
  • Appendix: Include entire search strategy for at least one database in the appendix (include search strategies for all databases searched for more transparency). For more information on formatting the search strategy see Search Methods & Appendix for Manuscript

Refer to the Standards & Guidelines tab for more information

Documenting a Search

The Publication Process

There are many factors behind the selection of a journal to publish your systematic review and the entire publication process. For more information about the process refer to the Health Sciences Libraries Scholarly Communication Research Guide.

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