Planning a Systematic Review

By Lindsey Sikora and Patrick Labelle.

Sikora, L., Labelle P. (2017). Planning a Systematic Review. CRECS Ten Minute Window, 5(2).

A systematic review is a research methodology that attempts to exhaustively search for and summarize all relevant literature, with the goal of providing evidence from various studies that investigate the same research question. A researcher interested in conducting a systematic review must consider many elements to ensure that a review can be completed in a timely, effective and rigorous manner. Steps involved in using this methodology include thoroughly planning the review, identifying studies and sources, evaluating and appraising results, collecting and combining data, explaining the synthesis and summarizing the findings. This video will briefly explain these various stages along with useful strategies and tools to effectively plan for a systematic review.

See the video on CRECS Youtube Channel.

Keywords: evaluation, research, research methodology

About the authors

Lindsey Sikora has been the Health Sciences Research Liaison Librarian at the Health Sciences Library at the University of Ottawa since January 2012, with a brief secondment as Interim Head of the Geographic, Statistic and Government Information Centre and Social Sciences Library from November 2015 to February 2017. She obtained her Masters of Information Studies from the University of Toronto, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and her Bachelors of Science (Hons.) in Behavioural Neuroscience from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. She has worked collaboratively with many research groups on scoping, rapid and systematic reviews within the Faculties of Medicine (School of Epidemiology and Public Health) and Health Sciences (School of Rehabilitation Sciences; Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences: Population Health).

Patrick Labelle has been the Social Sciences Research Liaison Librarian at the Faculty of Social Sciences Library at the University of Ottawa since November 2012. He obtained his Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario, Canada, and his Bachelors of Arts in Communication and Lettres françaises from the University of Ottawa, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. For the past several years, he has been involved in an increasing number of systematic and scoping reviews led by researchers in the School of Psychology and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Further Reading

Foster, M. J., & Jewell, S. T. (2017). Assembling the Pieces of a Systematic Review: A Guide for Librarians. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Grant, M. J., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: An analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information and Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91–108.

Higgins, J. P., & Green, S. (Eds.). (2011). Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions (5.1.0). Chichester, England: Cochrane Collaboration. Retrieved from

Liberati, A., Altman, D. G., Tetzlaff, J., Mulrow, C., Gøtzsche, P. C., Ioannidis, J. P. A., … Moher, D. (2009). The PRISMA statement for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses of studies that evaluate health care interventions: Explanation and elaboration. PLOS Medicine, 6(7), e1000100.

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