Q. How to start working on a systematic literature review?

Hello, I am starting to work on a medical literature review. I do not have much experience with systematic literature reviews. I would really appreciate any help to get me started. Thanks!


First, do you need to do a literature review on a particular biomedical topic or do you need to do systematic review of the literature on a particular biomedical topic?  Both types of review look at what has been published on a topic.  A systematic review is a literature review, but it is a very special type of review.  Each step of a systematic review must be carefully planned out, executed, and documented.  

For a brief article describing the steps of a systematic review, see:
Uman LS. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses. J Can Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2011 Feb; 20(1): 57–59.  Available free from PubMedCentral:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3024725/

Here are the first three steps the article gives for doing a systematic review:

First, carefully formulate the question to be addressed.  If your question is too broad, you might need to consider thousands of possible studies for inclusion in your systematic review.  If your question is too narrow, you might find very few or no studies that address your topic.

Once you have settled on your question, decide on the characteristics of the population(s) and of the studies to include in your systematic review.

Next create your search strategy to find studies to include in your systematic review.  Your search strategy will include both the search statements you will use in searching the databases, but it also will include determining which databases to search.  One of the reference librarians will be happy to work with you at this step in the systematic review process.

I hope this helps you get started on this project!  Let us know if you would like to set up an appointment with a librarian to work on a search strategy for your systematic review.



  • Last Updated Dec 11, 2018
  • Views 58
  • Answered By Leslie Ann Bowman

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