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Systematic Reviews & Evidence Synthesis

A guide for researchers undertaking a systematic review or for those interested in evidence synthesis


Welcome to the Systematic Reviews & Evidence Synthesis Research Guide at UVic Libraries

This site brings together resources available from UVic Libraries and provides an overview of the systematic review process, guidance for conducting evidence synthesis projects, and links to resources to help researchers conduct a comprehensive reviews.

Click on the tabs on this page to uncover detailed lists of resources to help answer your questions.  Each tab is comprised of the best sources for finding what you need.

What is a Systematic Review?

A systematic review uses a structured and reproducible method to identify, assess and critically appraise all relevant studies in response to a specific research query. It can be either quantitative or qualitative, and will generally take a team of researchers many months to complete (Wilkinson, 2020).

The key characteristics of a systematic review are:

  • a clearly stated set of objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies;

  • an explicit, reproducible methodology;

  • a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria;

  • an assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies, for example through the assessment of risk of bias; and

  • a systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies (Higgins & Thomas, 2019).

What is Evidence Synthesis?

Evidence synthesis refers to any method of identifying, selecting, and combining results from multiple studies. A systematic review is a rigorous type of evidence synthesis. Systematic reviews require more time and manpower than traditional literature reviews. While this guide focuses on systematic reviews, readers should be aware of the other types of reviews (scoping reviews, narrative reviews, etc). that are viable forms of evidence synthesis. 

How can the UVic Libraries help?

How can the UVic Libraries help?
The National Academy of Medicine, JBI, and the Cochrane Collaboration all recommend consulting with a librarian when developing a systematic review. Librarians are specially trained in developing search strategies and methodologies for systematic reviews.

Librarians trained in evidence synthesis methods can provide support in many stages of the review process. For example, we can:

  • Provide guidance on which methodology best suits your research goals
  • Recommend databases and other information sources for searching
  • Design and implement comprehensive and reproducible database-specific search strategies 
  • Provide guidance and training on software for article screening
  • Assist in the use of citation management software for deduplication of records
  • Offer best practices for the documentation and reporting of searches

Contact UVic Libraries for a systematic review consultation. List your department in the request.

Systematic Review Overview

The Steps of a Systematic Review

Wondering how to conduct a systematic review? This explainer video from The Evidence Synthesis Academy at Brown University walks you through the basic steps.

Evidence Synthesis

Wondering what evidence synthesis is? This explainer video from Cochrane Ireland walks you through what it is and why we need it, particularly in healthcase.

Works Cited

Higgins, J., & Thomas, J. (2019). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.

Wilkinson, J. (2020, August 11). Systematic review tips every librarian should know. Web of Science Group.

Creative Commons License
This work by The University of Victoria Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License unless otherwise indicated when material has been used from other sources.