Systematic Review Support

What is a systematic review?

A systematic review is a research method that is designed to answer a research question(s) by identifying, coding, appraising, and synthesizing a group of studies investigating the same question(s). This method is utilized in disciplines such as education, behavioral and social sciences, medicine, public health, and others to answer a variety of questions: effectiveness of an intervention or policy, prevalence, tests/diagnosis, and more.

Who can use this service?

Systematic review support is open to all OU-Tulsa faculty and staff-led systematic reviews, scoping reviews, rapid reviews, and more.

What does this service offer?

  • Provide guidance on research syntheses methodologies, including standards and guidelines
  • Advise on database selection
  • Assist in the construction of database searches and translation to other databases, including the identification of keywords and subject terms
  • Explain how to use software tools to facilitate the management and screening of citations

How do I utilize this service?

Email Stewart Brower to get started.

Steps of a Systematic Review (PIECES)

P: Plan

Decide on the methods of the systematic review before conducting it.

  • Use Campbell Collaboration (MECCIR) Conduct Standards and Searching for Studies: A Guide to Information Retrieval for Campbell Systematic Reviews (Feb 2017) as guides.
  • Identify search terms, including keywords, synonyms, and subject headings to search selected databases.
  • Perform scoping searches in selected databases (to find background literature that may help you refine your research question and set inclusion/exclusion criteria).
  • Set inclusion/exclusion criteria (such as specific aspects of a population; types of interventions, outcomes, and study designs; and limiters such as publication date range and language.
I: Identify

Systematically search for studies using predetermined criteria.

  • Finalize selection of databases to search.
  • Design a search strategy using subject headings, keywords, Boolean operators, and/or proximity operators for each database.
  • Export results from each database into a citation management program such as RefWorks or EndNote.
  • Remove duplicate citations using the citation management program, save remaining citations as an RIS file, then import the RIS file into Rayyan.
  • Document the process using PRISMA flow diagram. See also: PRISMA Flow Diagram Generator.
E: Evaluate

Sort all retrieved articles into included or excluded categories; then assess the risk of bias for each included study.

  • First screening (use exclusion criteria to exclude studies): Sort (screen) studies in Rayyan - based on article title and abstract - and mark as exclude, include, or undecided. McGill University Library has a very helpful guide: Rayyan for Systematic Reviews. For additional assistance, please contact TAMU librarians  - not the McGill librarians.
  • Second screening (use inclusion criteria to include studies): Load PDFs into Rayyan for studies marked as include and undecided; then mark as include or exclude based on screening of the full text. 
  • Assess quality of included studies. Example quality criteria are available in Standard Quality Assessment Criteria for Evaluating Primary Research Papers from a Variety of Fields.
C: Collect/Combine

Create a coding form to capture study characteristics; then synthesize data qualitatively or quantitatively.

  • Use Google Forms or other software to create a coding form.
E: Explain
Contextualize synthesis results, noting strengths and weaknesses of the studies.
S: Summarize

Report or describe methods and results in a clear and transparent manner.

Resources & Tools

Protocol Registers

Health Sciences

Social Sciences

  • Campbell Collaboration: Education, Disability, Crime and Justice, Business and Management, International Development, Nutrition, and Social Welfare
Reporting Standards

Health Sciences

Social Sciences


  • PRISMA Statement

    Includes links to the PRISMA checklist and diagram. An evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Focuses on randomized trials, but can also be used interventions.

  • PRESS Checklist

    The PRESS (Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies) Checklist was produced by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH), as a guide for librarians and information specialists in evaluating electronic search strategies.

Software Tools
  • Rayyan QCRI

    Free web application developed at Qatar Computing Research Institute (Data Analytics) to help authors manage, screen, and collaborate on SRs.

  • Practical Meta-Analysis Effect Size Calculator

    From Campbell Collaboration

  • MetaLight

    From the EppiCentre. "MetaLight is a software application designed to support the teaching and learning of meta-analysis." Freely available and uses the Silverlight browser plugin.

  • Google Forms

    One resource for creating the coding form.

  • PRISMA Flow Diagram Generator

    To document the number of citations in the various steps of the SR searching, collecting, and screening process.

  • SR Toolbox

    A catalog of tools that can be used to support the SR process.

Citation Management Tools