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Cognitive Science

Systematic Reviews

What is a systematic review?

The Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions defines a systematic review as:

"A collation of all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question.  It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias and providing reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made (Antman 1992, Oxman 1993).  The key characteristics of a systematic review are:

  • a clearly stated set of objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies.
  • an explicit, reproducible methodology.
  • a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria.
  • an assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies, for example through the assessment of risk of bias.
  • a systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies."

From: Higgins JPT, Green S (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 [updated March 2011]. The Cochrane Collaboration, 2011.

Systematic reviews are of crucial importance in evidence-based medicine, and their implementation in practice is becoming mandatory in all health care professions. A wide range of areas are typically covered: from health interventions, clinical tests, and public health interventions, to social interventions, adverse effects and economic evaluations.

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What is the difference between a Literature Review and a Systematic Review?  

A Systematic Review is protocol driven, with a clearly defined question that requires answering. It often follows the PICO or PICOT model, has an exhaustive search strategy, inclusion and exclusion criteria for the study and adherence to a protocol. 

A Literature Review is a search of literature for background information or to answer a question. It can be a partial or complete search of the literature and can be a subjective search to formulate and substantiate the author's writing.

Literature Reviews

Simply defined it is comprehensive and critical review of literature which provides the theoretical foundation of your chosen topic.

In the following boxes are  videos, books and guides to get you started.

Resources to include in your literature review - books, grey literature, articles, newspapers, theses, conference proceedings, DVDs, CDs, and social media

The following websites will help in getting started on your literature review:Getting started on your literature review

Books available in the Macquarie University Library