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Systematic Reviews

A systematic review, with or without meta-analysis, "seeks to collate evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. They aim to minimize bias by using explicit, systematic methods."To understand the difference between a systematic review and a literature review, please see our Conducting a Literature Review LibGuide. Not sure about all the different types of reviews, check out NYU's LibGuide Want to know more about the different types of systematic reviews, check out this article,

The library is able to help with a systematic review in the following ways

Search String

  • Librarians are happy to meet with you and/or your team to discuss the search string and to ensure that it is in the correct format before someone on your team runs the search. Librarians provide instruction on how to use Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) to find terms, the proper use of Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), and how to use the PubMed Advanced Search function. In addition, the Systematic Review Accelerator, available at, can be used to translate a search string for use in different databases. 

Reference Management Software

  • Which reference management software will you use to collect and organize your references for this project? UCF provides EndNote, and the library provides one-on-one training sessions on how to use EndNote for your systematic review. To install EndNote visit the EndNote Guide.

Full Text

  • After selecting the articles for inclusion in the systematic review, you will need to read the full text of the article. If you find an article that UCF Libraries does not have access to, you can place an InterLibrary Loan request for the article. In most cases interlibrary loan requests take one to two business days. 

Finding a Journal to Publish Your Work

  • Librarians are here to help you find the right journal to publish your systematic review. Visit the Getting Published Guide for more information on getting published.  


Things to Consider Before Embarking on a Systematic Review

Clarify your Question

What questions are you trying to answer with your systematic review? The following frameworks may be helpful in clarifying your question.


Review Type


Question format

Question Example


To evaluate the effectiveness of a certain treatment/practice in terms of its impact on outcomes

Population, Intervention, Comparator/s, Outcomes (PICO)

What is the effectiveness of exercise for treating depression in adults compared to no treatment or a comparison treatment?

Experiential (Qualitative)

To investigate the experience or meaningfulness of a particular phenomenon

Population, Phenomena of Interest, Context (PICo)

What is the experience of undergoing high technology medical imaging (such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging) in adult patients in high income countries?

Costs/Economic Evaluation To determine the costs associated with a particular approach/treatment strategy, particularly in terms of cost effectiveness or benefit Population, Intervention, Comparator/s, Outcomes, Context (PICOC) What is the cost effectiveness of self-monitoring of blood glucose in type 2 diabetes mellitus in high income countries?
Prevalence and/or Incidence To determine the prevalence and/or incidence of a certain condition Condition, Context, Population (CoCoPop) What is the prevalence/incidence of claustrophobia and claustrophobic reactions in adult patients undergoing MRI?
Diagnostic Test Accuracy To determine how well a diagnostic test works in terms of its sensitivity and specificity for a particular diagnosis Population, Index Test, Reference Test, Diagnosis of Interest (PIRD) What is the diagnostic test accuracy of nutritional tools (such as the Malnutrition Screening Tool) compared to the Patient Generated Subjective Global Assessment amongst patients with colorectal cancer to identify undernutrition?
Etiology and/or Risk To determine the association between particular exposures/risk factors and outcomes Population, Exposure, Outcome (PEO) Are adults exposed to radon at risk for developing lung cancer?
Prognostic To determine the overall prognosis for a condition, the link between specific prognostic factors and an outcome and/ or prognostic/prediction models and prognostic tests. Population, Prognostic Factors (or models of interest), Outcome (PFO) In adults with low back pain, what is the association between individual recovery expectations and disability outcomes? 
Methodology To examine and investigate current research methods and potentially their impact on research quality. Types of Studies, Types of Data, Types of Methods, Outcomes (SDMO)

What is the effect of masked (blind) peer review for quantitative studies in terms of the study quality as reported in published reports?

Expert opinion/ policy To review and synthesize current expert opinion, text or policy on a certain phenomena Population, Intervention or Phenomena of Interest, Context (PICo) What are the policy strategies to reduce maternal mortality in pregnant and birthing women in Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka? 
Psychometric To evaluate the psychometric properties of a certain test, normally to determine how the reliability and validity of a particular test or assessment. Construct of interest or the name of the measurement instrument(s), Population, Type of measurement instrument, Measurement properties  What is the reliability, validity, responsiveness and interpretability of methods (manual muscle testing, isokinetic dynamometry, hand held dynamometry) to assess muscle strength in adults?

"Clarifying the systematic review question" 
From: Munn Z, Stern C, Aromataris E. What kind of systematic review should I conduct? A proposed topology and guideance for systematic reviewers in the medical and health sciences. BMC Medical Research Metholdolgy. 2018;18:5. 

It Takes a Team

  • In order to reduce bias it is recommended to have at least three members on your team. Two people to review the titles and abstracts and a third person as a "tie-breaker". You may also need a statistician on your team if you are conducting a meta-analysis, contact COM's statisticians at
  • Librarians are a great resource when conducting a systematic review, but they are not content experts (unless your topic is related to libraries), it is best to have team members who are content experts in the field to conduct title, abstract, and full text reviews of literature to be included in your systematic review.


  • Once you have your team assembled you need to establish authorship, roles and responsibilities. Authors should conform to the ICMJE standards for authorship based on the following 4 criteria:
    • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
    • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
    • Final approval of the version to be published; AND
    • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.
  • In addition to being accountable for the parts of the work he or she has done, an author should be able to identify which co-authors are responsible for specific other parts of the work. In addition, authors should have confidence in the integrity of the contributions of their co-authors.


  • Have you selected a protocol that you will follow for your systematic review? For example PRISMA provides a 27 step checklist with explanations on how to conduct the systematic review. BEME reviews are conducted to provide evidence for education.
  • Check the journal you are considering submitting to for protocol requirements.

Systematic Review Software

  • Will you be using a systematic review software? The library provides access to JBI SUMMARI, contact the library for more information. Excel and Qualtrics (a survey software) are also provided by UCF and can be used for data extraction.

Database selection

  • UCF Libraries provides access to many subject specific databases, including those most commonly used in a systematic review: PubMed, Web of Science, and Cochrane. Ask a librarian for more information about databases.
  • Due to budgetary constraints UCF Libraries does not have EMBASE. EMBASE cost $1,250 for 7 days, single user access. Your research team would have to cover the cost or you would need to physically go to a library that has EMBASE.
  • PubMed and Web of Science both search MEDLINE so you will have duplication, which can be easily removed in a reference management software.

Quality Assessment Tools and Risk of Bias Tools

Articles selected for inclusion in the systematic review will need to be assessed for quality and risk of bias.

Acknowledging Contributors

  • Librarians, statisticians, proof readers, and others who have helped throughout your systematic review should be included in your acknowledgement section, and they should be informed before you include them in the acknowledgements. 


1. Higgins JPT, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.2 (updated February 2021). Cochrane, 2021. Available from

Systematic Review Support

To request librarian support for a systematic review or literature search please fill out the form below. Please note that all review services require a virtual consultation with a librarian prior to the librarian providing a final search string and search results. Please note our typical turnaround time is 2 weeks. 

UCF COM HSL Review Inquiry Form

COVID-19 Resource for Systematic Reviews

COVID-19 Resource for Systematic Reviews

WHO’s COVID-19 Global Literature on Coronavirus Disease Database represents a comprehensive multilingual source of current literature on the topic is available at

Articles found in this database may need to be requested through Interlibrary Loan. Please see a librarian for help using this resource.