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Systematic Reviews: A How-To Guide

Overview of systematic review steps and resources to assist researchers conducting reviews


Welcome to Systematic Reviews: A How-To Guide at UVic Libraries

This site brings together resources available from UVic Libraries and provides resources and guidance for conducting a systematic review and similar evidence synthesis projects.

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.

If you've been searching and can't find what you're looking for, ask me by sending an email to

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).

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. Want to learn more? Visit UVic Libraries Systematic Reviews and Evidence Synthesis Research Guide or the seminal article, A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies by Maria J. Grant and Andrew Booth.

How can the UVic Libraries help?

How can the UVic Libraries help?
The National Academy of Medicine, PRIMSA, 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.

Please note that librarians can only advise on search strategies, documentation, and information resources, and they will not conduct searching on your behalf. 

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.


Yale University's Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library Systematic Searches tutorial page

This series of tutorials cover the fundamental concepts and general procedure of searching the health science literature in a systematic manner. They will mainly focus on systematic searches required by a "systematic review". The goal of these tutorials is to ensure that your search is comprehensive, methodical, transparent and reproducible, so that your conclusions are as unbiased and closer to truth as possible. 


University of Saskatchewan's Library Researcher Series: So You Think You Want To Do A Systematic Review provides excellent and engaging context on what you need to know before starting a systematic review project. 

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.