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HSLS Systematic Review Program

Who's eligible to use the HSLS Systematic Review Program?

  • faculty, staff and students in the Schools of the Health Sciences, University of Pittsburgh
  • UPMC Residents and Fellows
  • UPMC physicians with University of Pittsburgh faculty appointments

What is a systematic review?

"A scientific investigation that focuses on a specific question and that uses explicit, planned scientific methods to identify, select, assess, and summarize the findings of similar but separate studies. It may or may not include a quantitative synthesis of the results from separate studies (meta-analysis) depending on the available data." IOM p 1 .

What do systematic reviews accomplish?

"Well-conducted systematic reviews systematically identify, select, assess, and synthesize the relevant body of research, and will help make clear what is known and not known about the potential benefits and harms of alternative drugs, devices, and other healthcare services. Thus, systematic reviews of comparative effectiveness research (CER) can be essential for clinicians who strive to integrate research findings into their daily practices, for patients to make well-informed choices about their own care, for professional medical societies and other organizations that develop clinical practice guidelines (CPGs), and for payers and policy makers.SRs can also inform medical coverage decisions and be used to set agendas and funding for primary research by highlighting gaps in evidence." IOM p. 17.

Working with the HSLS Systematic Review Program

Finding What Works in HealthcareFinding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews (full report). Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, The National Academy Press.

Report at a Glance: IOM Standards for Systematic Reviews. (brief list)

Assembling the pieces of a systematic review : a guide for librarians/ edited by Margaret J. Foster, Sarah T. Jewell. Lanham : Rowman & Littlefield, [2017]

Comprehensive systematic review for advanced nursing practice / Cheryl Holly, Susan W. Salmond, Marie K. Saimbert. New York : Springer Pub., c2012

Doing a systematic review: a student’s guide / edited by Angela Boland, M. Gemma Cherry & Rumona Dickson. London : SAGE, 2014. Location: Falk Library - Current Collection - 200 Scaife Hall Call Number: R853.S94 D65 2014

Umscheid CA. A Primer on Performing Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses. Clin Infect Dis. 2013 Sep;57(5):725-34. doi: 10.1093/cid/cit333. Epub 2013 May 22.

How long does it take to complete a systematic review?

The Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions provides the following table showing estimated time for each task.

Month Activity
1–2 Preparation of protocol.
3–8 Searches for published and unpublished studies.
2–3 Pilot test of eligibility criteria.
3–8 Inclusion assessments.
3 Pilot test of ‘Risk of bias’ assessment.
3–10 Validity assessments.
3 Pilot test of data collection.
3–10 Data collection.
3–10 Data entry.
5–11 Follow up of missing information.
8–10 Analysis.
1–11 Preparation of review report.
12– Keeping the review up-to-date.

Table used with permission. Green S, Higgins JPT (editors). Chapter 2: Preparing a Cochrane review. In: Higgins JPT, Green S (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 (updated March 2011). The Cochrane Collaboration, 2011. Available from