Systematic Review – Why and How?
Systematic review, as the name implies, employs systematic methods to collect secondary data and synthesize findings by critically appraising research studies. Writing a systematic review can be challenging in so many ways. For instance, why do the researchers select some studies and reject others? In this blog, we discuss why systematic reviews are done and how they are done to demystify systematic review.
A lot of studies explore the same question, for example “can vitamin C supplementation reduce the incidence and severity of respiratory infections?” For a researcher / clinician / patient it is overwhelming to make sense of all these findings which are based on various trials and infections. A systematic review simplifies it by bringing all these findings together and presenting it in an effective manner which can lead to take a meaningful decision and perform future clinical practices.
The steps adopted in a systematic review are as follows:
Framing research questions for the review –The review should start with addressing the research problem / question. The question can be either too broad or too narrow to limit the feasibility and relevance of the review.
Identifying relevant work – The relevant research studies must be searched extensively using multiple sources. Selection criterion must be established for the studies based on the research questions. Also, reasons for the inclusion and exclusion of studies must be recorded.
Assessing the selected studies – The studies selected for the review must then have to be subjected to a more refined quality assessment with the help of certain general critical appraisal guides.
Synthesizing evidence – The findings from the review must be combined and presented in a format including details of authors, year of publication, findings, etc. in a tabular form with the aim of drawing conclusions about a body of evidence.
Interpreting the findings – Exploration for heterogeneity is carried out to determine whether the overall summary can be used. Otherwise, the results observed from high-quality studies can be used for generating inferences.
Because of the rigorous methods employed in systematic reviews, they are considered as a trusted form of evidence synthesis. They are useful for making policy and practice recommendations, since they summarize the state of knowledge on a particular topic.
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