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Before beginning a Systematic Review ask yourself:


  • Do I have a clearly defined clinical question with established inclusion and exclusion criteria?

  • Do I have a team of at least 3 people?

  • Do I have time to go through as many search results as we might find?

  • Do I have resources to get foreign-language articles appropriately translated?

  • Do I have the statistical resources to analyse the pool data?

If you answered No to any of the first 4 questions, a traditional literature review will be more appropriate. If you answered No to the last question, a meta-analysis will not be an appropriate methodology for your review.


If a Systematic Review is not appropriate for your project, we can still support you with a systematic search for a literature review or some other form of review*. To request this please see our literature search request form on our website. Please state that you require a systematic search for a review publication.


Systematic Review vs Literature Review**


Systematic Reviews

Literature Reviews


Focused on a single question (often PICO based)

Not necessarily focused on a single question - may describe an overview


Includes peer review protocol or plan

No protocol included


Provides summaries of the available literature on a topic

Summarises the available literature


Clear objectives are identified

Objectives may or may not be identified

Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria

Criteria is stated before review is conducted

Criteria not always stated

Search Strategy

Comprehensive and systematic (stated in the document)

Strategy not explicitly stated (not always comprehensive or systematic)

Process of Selecting Articles

Usually clear and explicit

Not always described in a literature review

Process of Evaluating Articles

Comprehensive evaluation of study quality

Evaluation of study quality may or may not be included

Process of Extracting Information

Usually clear and specific

Not always clear or explicit

Results & Data Synthesis

Clear summaries of studies based on high quality evidence

Summary based on studies where the quality of the articles may not be specified. May also be influenced by the reviewer's theories, needs and beliefs.


Written by an expert or group of experts with a detailed and well grounded knowledge of the issues

Written by an expert or group of experts with a detailed and well grounded knowledge of the issues


*Note: there are many types of reviews see: Grant, M.J. and Booth, A. (2009), A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26: 91-108.

**Produced by Curtin University Library see Systematic Review Guide for comparison with other kinds of reviews

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