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Systematic Reviews: A How-To Guide

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

A. Synthesize Results

Synthesize Results

Once you have selected the most reliable and relevant studies you will need to pull all the findings together. Systematic reviews contain analysis of the primary studies. The analysis may be narrative, which could be a structured summary and discussion of the studies' characteristics and findings, or it could be quantitative, which involves statistical analysis. The most commonly used statistical technique is meta-analysis.

The links below include can help you with this task.

Software guides

There is software available which can help you when analyzing your research.

  • NVivo is a software program used for qualitative and mixed-methods research by helping you to organize your data according to user-defined themes, keywords (called nodes), or classification schemes. You can then query this data or explore relationships between items using concept maps or network visualizations.

    The Digital Scholarship Commons (DSC) at UVic Libraries offers an introductory workshop on qualitative data curation and analysis with NVIVO. See their upcoming workshops page or the NVivo CC-licensed lesson plan for more information.
  • SPSS is the abbreviation of Statistical Package for Social Sciences and it is used by researchers to perform statistical analysis. As the name suggests, SPSS statistics software is used to perform only statistical operations.

    Visit the SPSS Beginner's Guide.

B. Report Your Search Methods

Report Your Search Methods

Your systematic review should be designed with the research community in mind. Other researchers might want to explore the details of your search. Future research teams might want to replicate your review in order to follow up on your findings. To make these things possible, you must report every detail of your search methodology.

Your search methods should be explained at varying levels of detail in multiple areas of your report.


In a dedicated section in your review abstract, briefly explain your search methods. State the databases used and the timeframe of your searches. You may also include a very brief description of your research question, core concepts, search criteria, and search process.

Methods Section

An entire section of your report should be dedicated to explaining the methods used to complete the review. Within this section, expand upon the search methods outlined in your abstract. This is also the place to thoroughly detail your search strategy, outline your inclusion and exclusion criteria, state the number of results at each phase of your search process, explain your screening procedures, and describe how data was extracted and analysed. If a methodological expert (librarian, statistician, etc.) contributed to the search or analyses, they may be best suited to write the relevant parts of this section to reflect their contributions accurately. If you used the PRISMA Checklist and Diagram, you can include these in the review's appendix.


In your review's appendix, include your entire search strategy. This is the best way to make your review reproducible by others. We recommend displaying your strategy in table format, with separate columns for each database. 

Adapted and modified with gratitude from the City University of London's Doing Post Graduate Research research guide.

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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.