Systematic Reviews for the Social Sciences: Introduction

What is a systematic review?

A 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. 

Because of the research methodoligies to combine data and remove bias, systematic reviews have the potential to be used in clinical practice and inform evidence-based guidelines.

For questions, contact Jade Winn, Systematic Review Libarian, at jadewinn@usc.edu.

Defining Reviews

 

Systematic Review

Literature Review

Scoping Review

Definition

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

Goals

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.

Question

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.

Components

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

Introduction
Methods
Discussion
Conclusion
Reference list

Abstract
Introduction
Review Questions
Inclusion criteria
Methods
Tabulated and/or narrated description of Results
Discussion
References
Conclusion and Recommendations
Conflicts of Interests, Acknowledgements
Appendices
 

Number of Authors

Three or more

One or more

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

Timeline

Months to years
Average eighteen months

Weeks to months

12+ months

Requirements

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

Value

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. 

Additional Resources

This guide was largely adapted from the Norris Library's Systematic Review Guide.

Video: Overview of Systematic Reviews

View the video on YouTube (12:36)

Video includes:

  • Differences between systematic reviews and standard literature reviews
  • Guidance on locating different types of review articles on PubMed
  • Introduction to Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Note: this video was originally created for Evidence-Based Medicine curriculum for students enrolled in the MD program at Keck School of Medicine in Spring of 2014