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Systematic Reviews: Getting Started

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Jenessa McElfresh
Jenessa McElfresh, MLIS, AHIP
Systematic Review Service Coordinator
Senior Research & Learning Services Librarian
Associate Professor

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Health Sciences Library
877 Madison Avenue, 2nd Floor
Memphis, TN 38163

What is a systematic review?

According to the Cochrane Handbook of Systematic Reviews of Interventions:

"Systematic reviews seek 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 documented in advance with a protocol."

The PRISMA 2020 Statement articulates the importance of systematic reviews and their documentation as serving "many critical roles," such as:

  • Providing syntheses of the state of knowledge in a field, from which future research priorities can be identified
  • Addressing questions that otherwise could not be answered by individual studies
  • Identifying problems in primary research that should be rectified in future studies
  • Generating or evaluating theories about how or why phenomena occur


Library Resources and Services

Page References

Chandler J, Cumpston M, Thomas J, Higgins JPT, Deeks JJ, Clarke MJ. Chapter I: Introduction. In: Higgins JPT, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.3 (updated February 2022). Cochrane, 2022. Available from

Page MJ, McKenzie JE, Bossuyt PM, et al. The PRISMA 2020 statement: an updated guideline for reporting systematic reviews. BMJ. 2021;372:n71. Published 2021 Mar 29. doi:10.1136/bmj.n71

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