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Evidence Synthesis in the Social Sciences

Systematic Reviews

Systematic Reviews have defined steps that create a structure for a reproducible methodology. These steps are outlined in this section of the guide. This page contains essential information for those considering a systematic review.

Is a Systematic Review Appropriate for My Project?

A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias, in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making. (See Section 1.2 in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions for more information.)

Ask Yourself Before Embarking on a Systematic Review: 

  • Do I have a clearly defined research question with established inclusion and exclusion criteria?
  • Do I have a team of at least three people assembled?
  • 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 analyze and pool data?

If you answered “No” to any of the first four questions, another evidence synthesis method might be more appropriate. 

If you answered “No” to the last question, a meta-analysis should not be included in your systematic review. 

More resources to help you determine if a systematic review is appropriate: 

Essential Resources for Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences


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