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How to get started with a systematic review in epidemiology: an introductory guide for early career researchers

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Richard DoddsORCiD, Professor Rachel CooperORCiD, Professor Avan SayerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


BackgroundSystematic review is a powerful research tool which aims to identify and synthesize all evidence relevant to a research question. The approach taken is much like that used in a scientific experiment, with high priority given to the transparency and reproducibility of the methods used and to handling all evidence in a consistent manner.Early career researchers may find themselves in a position where they decide to undertake a systematic review, for example it may form part or all of a PhD thesis. Those with no prior experience of systematic review may need considerable support and direction getting started with such a project. Here we set out in simple terms how to get started with a systematic review.DiscussionAdvice is given on matters such as developing a review protocol, searching using databases and other methods, data extraction, risk of bias assessment and data synthesis including meta-analysis. Signposts to further information and useful resources are also given.ConclusionA well-conducted systematic review benefits the scientific field by providing a summary of existing evidence and highlighting unanswered questions. For the individual, undertaking a systematic review is also a great opportunity to improve skills in critical appraisal and in synthesising evidence.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Denison HJ, Dodds RM, Ntani G, Cooper R, Cooper C, Sayer AA, Baird J

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Archives of Public Health

Year: 2013

Volume: 71

Pages: 1-8

Online publication date: 07/08/2013

ISSN (electronic): 2049-3258


DOI: 10.1186/0778-7367-71-21