Systematic Reviews

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Ready to start a systematic review? HSL Librarians can help!

Fill out the Systematic Review Request Form and the best-suited librarian will get back to you promptly. Our systematic review service is only available to faculty, staff, students, and others who are affiliated with UNC Chapel Hill.

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Call the HSL at (919) 962-0800 to get immediate help (during library hours).
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Research Hub

Librarians from the Health Sciences Library Research Hub provide support for systematic reviews as part of the research lifecycle. For more information on the Research Hub, visit our webpage or Ask Us a question!

SR Workshop Videos

The Introduction to Conducting a Systematic Review workshop, offered in October 2020, covered recommended standards, methods, and tools for completing a systematized, scoping, or systematic review at UNC. This workshop recording is available as a series of short videos on the process of conducting a review. It is recommended for those who have not yet conducted such a review, but are planning to do so. 

A Simplified Process Map

Systematic Reviews: A Simplified, Step-by-Step Process  Step 1: Pre-Review. Common tasks include formulating a team, developing research question(s), and scoping literature for published systematic reviews on the topic. Librarians can provide substantial support for Step 1.  Step 2: Develop Protocol. Common tasks include determining eligibility criteria, selecting quality assessment tools and items for data extraction, writing the protocol, and making the protocol accessible via a website or registry.  Step 3: Conduct Literature Searches. Common tasks include partnering with a librarian, searching multiple databases, performing other searching methods like hand searching, and locating grey literature or other unpublished research. Librarians can provide substantial support for Step 3.  Step 4: Manage Citations. Common tasks include exporting citations to a citation manager such as Endnote, preparing a PRISMA flow-chart with numbers of citations for steps, updating as necessary, and de-duplicating citations and uploading them to a screening tool such as Covidence. Librarians can provide substantial support for Step 4.   Step 5: Screen Citations. Common tasks include screening the titles and abstracts of citations using inclusion criteria with at least two reviewers and locating full-text and screen citations that meet the inclusion criteria with at least two reviewers.  UNC Health Sciences Librarians (HSL) Librarians can provide support with using AI or other automation approaches to reduce the volume of literature that must be screened manually. Reach out to HSL for more information.  Step 6: Conduct Quality Assessment. Common tasks include performing quality assessments, like a critical appraisal, of the included studies.  Step 7: Complete Data Extraction. Common tasks include extracting data from included studies and creating tables of studies for the manuscript.  Step 8: Write Review. Common tasks include consulting the PRISMA checklist or other reporting standard, writing the manuscript, and organizing supplementary materials. Librarians can provide substantial support for Step 8.

What is a systematic review?

From the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions:

"A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing more reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made" (Antman 1992, Oxman 1993). The key characteristics of a systematic review are:

  • a clearly stated set of objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies;

  • an explicit, reproducible methodology;

  • a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria;

  • an assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies, for example through the assessment of risk of bias; and

  • a systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies"

Higgins, Julian. Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 7 October 2014.