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Conducting a Systematic Review

What Is a Systematic Review?

"A review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review. Statistical methods (meta-analysis) may or may not be used to analyze and summarize the results of the included studies." - from the Cochrane Handbook


In a nutshell, a systematic review is a secondary study from a collection of primary studies (original research) that pertain to a specific research question. Those primary studies have been analyzed, examined, appraised, and evaluated for the highest level of evidence and quality of methodology, in order to provide the best answer to a research question.

The methods and/or protocol of conducting a systematic review are clear, understandable, rigorous and transparent. In a systematic review, you should see:

  • A clearly stated objective.
  • Search Methods: The where, and the how. 
  • Selection Criteria (inclusion/exclusion): What does the study need to look like to answer your research question.
    • Types of participants, problem, study design
    • Interventions, exposures, outcomes.
  • See the example below:



Additional Definitions: 

National Health Service


A Systematic Review is not a Literature Review


Systematic reviews are often confused with review articles. This type of publication are often called narrative reviews or literature reviews. 


Literature reviews (or narrative reviews or review articles) are valuable and help to build one's knowledge base on a topic. However, they are quite different from systematic reviews.

  • There is no research question.
  • It is an overview or BROAD examination of the published literature on a topic.
  • There is no critical appraisal of the research. No stated methods as it is not study, but rather a narrative review of the studies. 
  • See the example below:

Recent Systematic Reviews at NYMC



Afzal, F., Aiman, W., Zahoor, H., Bajwa, A. R., Kazmi, S. H., Anwar, A., Anwar, M. Y., Rashid, S., Zubair, H., Kashif, T., & Ashar Ali, M. (2023). Efficacy and safety of antibody-drug conjugates in triple-negative and HER-2 positive breast cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials. Breast disease42(1), 121–136.


Aiman, W., Ali, M. A., Basit, M. A., Omar, Z., Suleman, M., Hassan, M., Jamil, T., Anwar, M. S., Shafique, Z., Dhanesar, G., Faisal, M. S., Akerman, M. J., Maroules, M., & Anwer, F. (2023). Efficacy and tolerability of isocitrate dehydrogenase inhibitors in patients with acute myeloid leukemia: A systematic review of clinical trials. Leukemia research129, 107077. Advance online publication.


Ang, S. P., Chia, J. E., Jaiswal, V., Bandyopadhyay, D., Iglesias, J., Mohan, G. V. K., Gautam, S., Win, T., Kumar, T., Iqbal, A., Chia, T. H., & Aronow, W. (2023). Subclinical Hypothyroidism and Clinical Outcomes After Percutaneous Coronary Intervention: A Meta-Analysis. Current problems in cardiology48(8), 101719. Advance online publication.


Burshtein, J., Buethe, M. G., Ghias, M. H., Stein, A. B., Glick, S., & Marmon, S. (2023). Efficacy, perception, and utilization of pediatric teledermatology: A systematic review. JAAD international12, 3–11.


Drivas, E., Gachabayov, M., Kajmolli, A., Stadlan, Z., Felsenreich, M., & Castaldi, M. (2023). Quilting Suture Technique After Mastectomy: A Meta-Analysis. The American surgeon, 31348231173995. Advance online publication. 


Elfil, M., Ghozy, S., Elmashad, A., Ghaith, H. S., Aladawi, M., Dicpinigaitis, A. J., Mansour, O. Y., Khandelwal, P., Asif, K., Nour, M., Toth, G., & Al-Mufti, F. (2023). Effect of intra-arterial thrombolysis following successful endovascular thrombectomy on functional outcomes in patients with large vessel occlusion acute ischemic stroke: A post-CHOICE meta-analysis. Journal of stroke and cerebrovascular diseases : the official journal of National Stroke Association32(8), 107194. Advance online publication.


Futterman, I. D., Grace, H., Weingarten, S., Borjian, A., & Clare, C. A. (2023). Maternal anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after natural disasters: a systematic review. The journal of maternal-fetal & neonatal medicine : the official journal of the European Association of Perinatal Medicine, the Federation of Asia and Oceania Perinatal Societies, the International Society of Perinatal Obstetricians36(1), 2199345.


Gupta, R., Behnoush, A. H., Khalaji, A., Malik, A. H., Goel, A., Sreenivasan, J., Bandyopadhyay, D., Agrawal, A., Frishman, W. H., Aronow, W. S., Vyas, A. V., & Patel, N. C. (2023). Early Coronary Angiography in Patients With Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest Without ST-Segment Elevation: A Systematic Review, Meta-Analysis, and Comparative Analysis of Studies. Cardiology in review, 10.1097/CRD.0000000000000551. Advance online publication.


Gupta, R., Mahmoudi, E., Behnoush, A. H., Khalaji, A., Malik, A. H., Sood, A., Bandyopadhyay, D., Zaid, S., Goel, A., Sreenivasan, J., Patel, C., Vyas, A. V., Lavie, C. J., & Patel, N. C. (2023). Effect of BMI on patients undergoing transcatheter aortic valve implantation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, S0033-0620(22)00158-X. Advance online publication.


Gupta, R., Malik, A. H., Briasoulis, A., Joshi, A. M., Guthier, D. G., Popli, T., Aronow, W. S., Vyas, A. V., Patel, N. C., Ahmad, H., & Kluck, B. (2023). Comparative Safety and Effectiveness of Loading Doses of P2Y12 Inhibitors in Patients Undergoing Elective PCI: a Network Meta-analysis. Cardiovascular drugs and therapy37(2), 291–298.


Hamza, M., Manasrah, N., Patel, N. N., Sattar, Y., & Patel, B. (2023). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prevalence and Outcomes of Cardiac Metastasis of Neuroendocrine Malignancies. The American journal of cardiology194, 86–92.


Hassanin, A., Afify, H., Zook, S., Frishman, W. H., & Aronow, W. S. (2023). Infective Endocarditis After Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation: A Systematic Review. Cardiology in review31(2), 93–98.


Isath, A., Kanwal, A., Virk, H. U. H., Bandyopadhyay, D., Wang, Z., Kumar, A., Kalra, A., Naidu, S. S., Lavie, C. J., Virani, S. S., & Krittanawong, C. (2023). The Effect of Yoga on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors: A Meta-Analysis. Current problems in cardiology48(5), 101593.


Iqbal, P., Ata, F., Chaudhry, H., Muthanna, B., Waqas Younas, H., Munamm, S. A. U., Sharma, R., Fadah, K., Elazzazy, S., Hamad, A., Said Abu Tabar, O., & Omar, N. E. (2023). Post-COVID-19-associated multiorgan complications or "long COVID" with literature review and management strategy discussion: A meta-analysis. Health science reports6(4), e1211.


Kamat, D., Al-Ajlouni, Y. A., & Hall, R. C. W. (2023). The Therapeutic Impact of Plant-Based and Nutritional Supplements on Anxiety, Depressive Symptoms and Sleep Quality among Adults and Elderly: A Systematic Review of the Literature. International journal of environmental research and public health20(6), 5171.


Maloh, J., Engel, T., Natarelli, N., Nong, Y., Zufall, A., & Sivamani, R. K. (2023). Systematic Review of Psychological Interventions for Quality of Life, Mental Health, and Hair Growth in Alopecia Areata and Scarring Alopecia. Journal of clinical medicine12(3), 964.


Masaquel, C., Schley, K., Wright, K., Mauskopf, J., Parrish, R. A., Presa, J. V., & Hewlett, D., Jr (2023). The Impact of Social Determinants of Health on Meningococcal Vaccination Awareness, Delivery, and Coverage in Adolescents and Young Adults in the United States: A Systematic Review. Vaccines11(2), 256.


Pollack, B. L., Popiel, P., Toaff, M. C., Drugge, E., Bielawski, A., Sacks, A., Bibi, M., Friedman-Ciment, R., LeBron, K., Alishahian, L., Phillips, D., Rubino, S. R., Pollack, S., Khan, R. S., Khan, E. S., Pape, D. M., & Grimes, C. L. (2023). Permanent Compared With Absorbable Suture in Apical Prolapse Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Obstetrics and gynecology141(2), 268–283.


Stuebe, C., Jones, B. A., Syal, A., Rahme, R. J., Turcotte, E. L., Toussaint, L. G., 3rd, Ross, J. S., & Bendok, B. R. (2023). Cerebrospinal Venous Fistula Presenting with Cognitive Decline: Systematic Literature Review and Report of Two Cases. World neurosurgery176, 74–80. Advance online publication.


Subramanian, A., Weiss, D., Nyhan, K., Dewan, A., & Jukic, A. M. Z. (2023). Circulating miRNAs in the first trimester and pregnancy complications: a systematic review. Epigenetics18(1), 2152615.


Tan, M. C., Talaei, F., Trongtorsak, A., Lee, J. Z., & Rattanawong, P. (2023). Chronic kidney disease is associated with increased all-cause mortality in transvenous lead extraction: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Pacing and clinical electrophysiology : PACE46(1), 66–72.


Zahid, S., Ullah, W., Zia Khan, M., Faisal Uddin, M., Rai, D., Abbas, S., Usman Khan, M., Hussein, A., Salama, A., Bandyopadhyay, D., Baibhav, B., Rao, M., Alam, M., Alraies, M. C., Balla, S., Alkhouli, M., & Depta, J. P. (2023). Cerebral Embolic Protection during Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation: Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Current problems in cardiology48(6), 101127.

Where Do I Find Published Systematic Reviews?

  • The Campbell Collaboration is an international research network that produces systematic reviews of the effects of social interventions focusing on education, crime and justice, and social welfare.
  • The Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD) databases are updated daily and provide decision-makers with access to quality assessed systematic reviews, economic evaluations, summaries of health technology assessments, summaries of all Cochrane reviews and protocols, and summaries of Campbell reviews.
  • The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) includes the full text of regularly updated systematic reviews of the effects of healthcare prepared by The Cochrane Collaboration.
  • The Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE) covers a broad range of health related interventions and complements the CDSR by quality-assessing and summarizing reviews that have not yet been carried out by the Cochrane Collaboration. Each abstract includes a summary of the review together with a critical commentary about the overall quality.
  • Both PubMed and PubMed Clinical Queries can be used to locate systematic reviews. The Clinical Queries tool retrieves citations identified as systematic reviews, meta-analyses, reviews of clinical trials, evidence-based medicine, consensus development conferences, guidelines, and citations to articles from journals specializing in review studies of value to clinicians.

NOTE: Linking to the Cochrane Databases and PubMed through the Health Sciences Library ensures that you have access to the full text of systematic reviews and articles when available.