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Research Skills

Information to help students find, evaluate, reference, and write for their assignments

Systematic reviews

Systematic reviews are a comprehensive scientific study of ALL evidence about a topic.

They follow a structured process. They have to, because if the methodology is not sound, the conclusions won't be sound.

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How do systematic reviews differ from literature reviews?

They do not have a selection process of study material based on a hypothesis like literature reviews. They select ALL material that is relevant to the topic. They are therefore unbiased.

This video is an introduction to the steps involved in doing a systematic review and is a good place to start if you aren't sure what's required:

Center for Evidence Synthesis in Health. (2018). The steps of a systematic review [Video]. YouTube. 

What needs to be included in the reviews?

  • sources from all geographical regions
  • grey literature as well as published literature (see below for a definition of grey literature)
  • sources that have a sound methodology. If they don't, they are not a valid study and cannot be used

This video from Yale University Library explains Systematic Reviews in a bit more depth:

Yale University Library. (n.d.). Systematic searches #1: Introduction [Video]. Yale University.

Grey literature

Grey literature is literature that has been published informally and is non-commercial. It isn't peer reviewed, but can still be a valid form of literature. Grey literature can be in the form of:

  • government documents
  • conference papers
  • statistics
  • infographics
  • dissertations and theses
  • clinical trials

For an exhaustive list of types of grey literature, visit GreyNet.

Systematic review standards

The best way to approach your systematic review is to use a standard.

Standards provide the systematic framework for collecting and analysing all the sources on your topic.

Commonly used standards include:

PRISMA - for systematic reviews of qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-method studies that evaluate the effects of health interventions. This standard tends to be used at Wintec for Sports Science and Physiotherapy systematic reviews.

PICO - for quantitative clinical studies. This standard tends to be used at Wintec for post-graduate Nursing systematic reviews.

PICo - for qualitative clinical studies. This standard tends to be also used at Wintec for post-graduate Nursing systematic reviews.

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