According to the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, a systematic review attempts to gather all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified criteria in order to answer a specific research question. A systematic review has: 1) a clearly stated set of objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies; 2) an explicit, reproducible methodology; 3) a thorough, objective and reproducible search of a range of sources to identify as many relevant studies as possible; 4) an assessment of the validity of the findings for the included studies; 5) a systematic presentation and synthesis of the characteristics and findings of the studies.
Source: Higgins JPT, Green S (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 [updated March 2011]. The Cochrane Collaboration, 2011. Available from http://handbook-5-1.cochrane.org/.
Use the resources listed below to see if a review on your topic is currently in progress or has already been published by someone else. If a review already exists, is it in need of updating or is it a poor quality review? If so, consider whether an update is in order, or whether a new systematic review should be performed.
Systematic reviews require a lot of time and effort to complete; a reasonable time frame is rarely under one year. The Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, Box 2.3.b, suggests the following timeline to complete a Cochrane Review:
|1 - 2||Preparation of protocol|
|3 - 8||Searches for published & unpublished studies|
|2 - 3||Pilot test of eligibility criteria|
|3 - 8||Inclusion assessments|
|3||Pilot test of ‘Risk of bias’ assessment|
|3 - 10||Validity assessments|
|3||Pilot test of data collection|
|3 - 10||Data collection|
|3 - 10||Data entry|
|5 - 11||Follow up of missing information|
|8 - 10||Analysis|
|1 - 11||Preparation of review report|
|12 -||Keeping the review up-to-date|
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