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Quick links to Systematic Reviews: Steps to Conduct a Systematic Review

Steps to Conduct a Systematic Review

1. Formulate your research question

  • Define your research topic and research question
  • Develop a search strategy using search tools, eg. PICO, SPICE, etc.

2. Develop eligibility criteria

  • Develop inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • Consider search limits, eg. age/population group, publication year, countries, etc.

3. Search the literature

  • Search for studies should be extensive, search subject related databases and citation databases
  • Search grey literature
  • Save search result to a bibliographic software, eg. Endnote
  • Manage your references in the bibliography software, eg. Create groups in Endnote

4. Screen the literature, assessing the quality of studies

  • Select studies which meet selection criteria. Reasons for inclusion and exclusion should be recorded.

5. Extract the data

  • Extract all relevant data from the included studies.
  • Organise your data into tables, figures, etc.

7. Synthesize and interpret the results

  • The risk of publication bias and other related biases should be explored.
  • Use of statistical methods for meta-analysis

8. Publish and disseminate the results

  • Clearly present your findings, search strategies, selection criteria, etc.
  • Use of checklist and flow diagram to disseminate your result, for example, PRISMA reporting items, CONSORT statement, etc.
  • Provide recommendations for practice and policy making if high quality evidence found
  • Oral presentation, poster presentation at a conference
  • Manuscript for publication.



Crawford, C. C., Boyd, C. C., & Jonas, W. B. (2015). Systematic reviews in practice. Alexandria, VA: Samueli Institute.

Machi, L. A., & McEvoy, B. T. (2016). The literature review: six steps to success (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE.


Bettany-Saltikov, J. (2012). How to do a systematic literature review in nursing: a step-by-step guide. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education.

Boland, A., Cherry, M. G., & Dickson, R. (2014). Doing a systematic review: a student's guide. London: SAGE.

Gough, D., Oliver, S., & Thomas, J. (2017). An introduction to systematic reviews (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE.

Khan, K. S., Kunz, R., Kleijnen, J., & Antes, G. (2003). Five steps to conducting a systematic review. JRSM, 96(3), 118-121. doi: 10.1258/jrsm.96.3.118

Koelemay, M. J. W., & Vermeulen, H. (2016). Quick Guide to Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis. European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, 51(2), 309. doi: 10.1016/j.ejvs.2015.11.010

Machi, L. A., & McEvoy, B. T. (2016). The literature review: six steps to success. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

National Health Medical Research Council. (2000). How to review the evidence: systematic identification and review of the scientific literature: handbook series on preparing clinical practice guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.

Petticrew, M., & Roberts, H. (2006). Systematic reviews in the social sciences: a practical guide. Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell Pub.

Perestelo-Perez, L. (2013). Standards on how to develop and report systematic reviews in psychology and health. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 13(1), 49-57. doi: 10.1016/S1697-2600(13)70007-3

Ridley, D. (2012). The literature review : a step-by-step guide for students (2nd ed.). London: SAGE.