How to do a systematic review

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  • Pollock, A. & Berge, E. (2017) How to do a systematic review

    Rights statement: This is the accepted author manuscript of an article published by SAGE in International Journal of Stroke on 17 November 2017, available online: https://doi.org/10.1177/1747493017743796 Copyright © 2017 by World Stroke Organization and The Authors.

    Accepted author manuscript, 635 KB, PDF-document

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Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Stroke
Early online date17 Nov 2017
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - 17 Nov 2017

Abstract

High quality up-to-date systematic reviews are essential in order to help healthcare practitioners and researchers keep up-to-date with a large and rapidly growing body of evidence. Systematic reviews answer pre-defined research questions using explicit, reproducible methods to identify, critically
appraise and combine results of primary research studies. Key stages in the production of systematic reviews include clarification of aims and methods in a protocol, finding relevant research, collecting data, assessing study quality, synthesising evidence, and interpreting findings. Systematic reviews may address different types of questions, such as questions about effectiveness of interventions, diagnostic test accuracy, prognosis, prevalence or incidence of disease, accuracy of measurement instruments, or qualitative data. For all reviews it is important to define criteria such as the population, intervention, comparison and outcomes, and to identify potential risks of bias.

Reviews of the effect of rehabilitation interventions or reviews of data from observational studies, diagnostic test accuracy, or qualitative data may be more methodologically challenging than reviews of effectiveness of drugs for the prevention or treatment of stroke. Challenges in reviews of stroke rehabilitation can include poor definition of complex interventions, use of outcome measures that haven’t been validated, and poor generalisabilty of results. There may also be challenges with bias because the effects are dependent on the persons delivering the intervention, and because masking of participants and investigators may not be possible. There are a wide range of resources which can support the planning and completion of systematic reviews, and these should be considered when planning a systematic review relating to stroke.

Keywords

  • systematic review, healthcare practitioners, protocol