Systematic Reviews of the Literature
Information technology has been crucial in the development of the systematic literature review. It is unsurprising, therefore, that there is no shortage of advice available on the internet for anyone considering undertaking a systematic review. This document will provide a guide to online sources and give some basic advice to emergency medicine trainees who are considering undertaking a systematic review.
A systematic review is a piece of scientific research. So most of the issues we have raised in relation to primary research, also apply to systematic reviews.
1) The study question must be well defined
2) Research should be guided by a protocol
3) Systematic reviews may be biased. Good practice can reduce bias.
4) Ensure that your review has not already been done or is in progress
5) Training in searching and appraising the literature may be useful
6) If a meta-analysis is appropriate you will probably need some statistical help.
7) Undertaking a systematic review requires resources. Photocopying and inter-library loans cost money. Searching and appraising the literature takes time. Having a colleague to independently select and appraise papers will enhance validity.
8) You will need data collection forms and databases.
9) Piloting the various procedures will be invaluable.
(At least you don't need to worry about the ethics committee!)
ScHARR (the School of Health and Related Research in Sheffield) have a good web site that takes you through the process of doing a systematic review. http://www.shef.ac.uk/scharr/sections/ir/links
The York Centre for Reviews and Dissemination provides detailed instructions on how to do a systematic review and have details of sources on information for systematic reviews; http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/crd/index.htm
The Cochrane Collaboration is an organisation that co-ordinates groups who are undertaking systematic reviews. It produces many high quality systematic reviews on a wide variety of topics. Guidance for potential reviewers and meta-analytic software is available. http://www.cochrane.org/index0.htm