Evidence Synthesis: Systematic & Scoping Reviews for the University Park Campus: Introduction

Services for Systematic Reviews Outside of Medicine

Systematic Reviews Consultation

Interested in consulting with a USC Librarian regarding your systematic review? Fill out our online consultation request form or contact jadewinn@usc.edu

What is a Systematic Review

A systematic review is a research method that attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view aimed at minimizing bias, to produce more reliable findings to inform decision making.

Systematic reviews should be conducted by a team of researchers, at least one of whom has significant knowledge of research conducted in the subject, and cannot be done alone. Systematic reviews follow the established standards and methodologies for conducting and reporting systematic reviews.

Defining Reviews


Systematic Review

Literature Review

Scoping Review


High-level overview of primary research on a focused question that identifies, selects, synthesizes, and appraises all high quality research evidence relevant to that question.

Qualitatively summarizes evidence on a topic using informal or subjective methods to collect and interpret studies

A type of research synthesis that aims to ‘map the literature on a particular topic or research area and provide an opportunity to identify key concepts; gaps in the research; and types and sources of evidence to inform practice, policymaking, and research


Answer a focused clinical question.  Eliminate bias..

Provide summary or overview of topic

Aims to identify the nature and extent of research on chosen topic.


Clearly defined and answerable clinical question.  Recommend using PICO as a guide. 

Can be a general topic or a specific question

Answers broader and topic focused questions beyond those related to the effectiveness of treatments or interventions.


Pre-specified eligibility criteria
Systematic search strategy
Assessment of the validity of findings
Interpretation and presentation of results
Reference list

Reference list

Review Questions
Inclusion criteria
Tabulated and/or narrated description of Results
Conclusion and Recommendations
Conflicts of Interests, Acknowledgements

Number of Authors

Three or more

One or more

Three or more (may require larger teams because of the larger volume of literature)


Months to years
Average eighteen months

Weeks to months

12+ months


Thorough knowledge of topic
Perform searches of all relevant databases
Statistical analysis resources (for meta-analysis)

Understanding of topic
Perform searches of one or more databases

Thorough knowledge of topic
Perform searches of all relevant databases


Connects practicing clinicians to high quality evidence
Supports evidence-based practice

Provides summary of literature on a topic

Preliminary assessment of the size and scope of a potential research topic. 

Is a Systematic Review Right for You?

Not all questions are appropriate for a systematic review. Depending on your question, another type of review, such as a scoping review or literature review, may be more appropriate. 

A systematic review research question should be a well-formulated clearly defined clinical question, commonly in PICO format. 

Additional Resources