Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses. The 27 checklist items pertain to the content of a systematic review and meta-analysis, which include the title, abstract, methods, results, discussion and funding.
The PRISMA extension for network meta-analysis, or PRISMA-NMA, provides guidance for reporting systematic reviews comparing multiple treatments using direct and indirect evidence in network meta-analyses. In addition to providing guidance It also highlights educational information related to key considerations in the practice of network meta-analysis.
Writing a literature review for a research paper or as part of your thesis? Even if you’re not performing a full evidence synthesis, completing the items on this checklist and keeping them as record of your planned work (like a study protocol) ensures reproducibility, transparency, and reduction of bias.
Develop the research question
To help formulate your research question, some research question frameworks are listed below.
While PICO is a helpful framework for clinical research questions, it may not be the best choice for other types of research questions, especially outside the health sciences. Here are a few others (for a comprehensive, but concise, overview of the almost 40 different types of research question frameworks, see this review from the British Medical Journal: Rapid review of existing question formulation frameworks)
PICo for Qualitative Studies
I Phenomenon of Interest
P Perspective (for whom)
PI Phenomenon of Interest
R Study Type
Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria
Inclusion and exclusion criteria are developed after a research question is finalized but before a search is carried out. They determine the limits for the evidence synthesis and are typically reported in the methods section of the publication. For unfamiliar or unclear concepts, a definition may be necessary to adequately describe the criterion for readers.
Graph developed by: http://unimelb.libguides.com/c.php?g=492361&p=3368110
Librarians can recommend databases and other sources to search for a systematic review. The sources you choose will depend on your research question and the disciplines in which relevant research may be conducted. Below are some examples of scholarly databases. Check the library's database list for a full list of available sources across all disciplines.
This database covers topics in sports sciences, sports medicine, physical fitness, kinesiology, physical therapy, exercise science, rehabilitation, nutrition, coaching, training, health education and more.
Citation database of scholarly articles spanning the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. Indexing goes back to 1900. This database can also search for articles that cite a particular work or author. Formerly called Web of Knowledge.
Develop search strategy
A search strategy should aim to be exhaustive, encompass multiple databases, when appropriate include grey literature, and be reproducible. PRISMA guidelines state that the full search strategy for at least one major database should be reported in an appendix and published along with the review ( http://www.prisma-statement.org/).
Most databases use a controlled vocabulary (a certain way words and phrases are indexed). This may require using different terms for different databases. Consult with a librarian if you have questions or would like assistance.
Consider and select grey literature
Grey literature is produced outside of traditional publishing and distribution norms. This can include, among other things, white papers, government publications, working papers, preprints, unpublished trial data, and conference proceedings and abstracts. Grey literature can be found in some citation databases, as well as databases dedicated to grey literature.
Some databases dedicated to grey literature include:
Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health provides a practical tool for searching health-related grey literature
It is recommended that you register your protocol prior to conducting your review. This will improve transparency and reproducibility, reduce bias, and will also ensure that other research teams do not duplicate your efforts.
Open Science Framework An open source, multidisciplinary web application that connects and supports the research workflow. Researchers use the OSF to collaborate, document, archive, share, and register research projects, materials, and data. OSF can be used to pre-register a systematic review protocol and to share documents such as a Zotero library, search strategies, and data extraction forms.
"Our mission is to promote evidence-informed health decision-making by producing high-quality, relevant, accessible systematic reviews and other synthesized research evidence. Our work is internationally recognized as the benchmark for high-quality information about the effectiveness of health care."
"The Campbell Collaboration promotes positive social and economic change through the production and use of systematic reviews and other evidence synthesis for evidence-based policy and practice."
Disciplines: Business and Management, Crime and Justice, Disability, Education, International Development, Knowledge Translation and Implementation, Methods, Nutrition, and Social Welfare
"An open community of stakeholders working towards a sustainable global environment and the conservation of biodiversity. CEE seeks to promote and deliver evidence syntheses on issues of greatest concern to environmental policy and practice as a public service."
Disciplines: Environmental issues
An international database of prospectively registered systematic reviews in health and social care. Key features from the review protocol are recorded and maintained as a permanent record. (Does not accept scoping reviews)
Disciplines: Health and Social Care, Welfare, Public Health, Education, Crime, Justice, and International Development
Translate search strategies
Evidence synthesis methods require authors to search multiple databases, and not all databases accept the same search "syntax." Each individual database requires use of specialized search syntax, and therefore evidence synthesis search strategies must be 'translated' between databases.
For example, a search for lung cancer[Title/Abstract] in PubMed will show you all citations with the phrase "lung cancer" in the title, abstract, or keywords, but a search for lung cancer[Title/Abstract] in Scopus will not work at all.
It is very important to keep an accurate record of your searches so that they can be included in your report, enabling someone to reproduce them if necessary.
Keep a record of the date you searched, the name of the database, and the platform.
Start with a title/abstract screening to remove studies that are clearly not related to your topic. Use your inclusion/exclusion criteria to screen the full-text of studies. It is highly recommended that two independent reviewer screen all studies, resolving areas of disagreement by consensus.
Use a spreadsheet, or systematic review software, to extract all relevant data from each included study. It is recommended that you pilot your data extraction tool, to determine if other fields should be included or existing fields clarified.
Synthesize, map or describe the results
Use a Risk of Bias tool (such as the Cochrane RoB Tool) to assess the potential biases of studies in regards to study design and other factors. You can adapt existing tools to best meet the needs of your review, depending on the types of studies included.