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, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.0 (updated July 2019). Cochrane, 2019. Available from www.training.cochrane.org/handbook.
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|3 - 8||Searches for published & unpublished studies|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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