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It may be pointless to repeat an existing systematic review. Change in baseline parameters such as blood pressure, weight or cholesterol?Although if an existing systematic review is outdated or features flawed methodology, then a new systematic review on that topic can be justified. Once a well-defined research question has been established, it is important to outline where you will search for the evidence.Before a search can be performed, it is crucial that the research question is explicitly defined. Systematic searches should aim to search as many different sources as possible.
This is all well and good, provided they are conducted appropriately.
To ensure a review can provide high quality, reliable evidence, they must be completed meticulously, following reporting guidelines such as the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) and the Cochrane Handbook (1, 2) A key element of this is a robust search strategy.
However, the authors must ensure that all of the relevant evidence is captured by the search.
Performing an in-depth search is often overwhelming for authors setting out with a systematic review.
Bias will exist if the authors fail to include ALL of the pertinent research.
“” Of course, some articles may be excluded (for instance if they are methodologically flawed) once you come to screening the evidence, especially if this is a meta-analysis.
Most further education courses involve writing essays of this type.
Systematic reviews sit amongst the top of the evidence hierarchy.
This is the best way to maximise sensitivity and reduce your risk of missing relevant articles.
Firstly, it is important that systematic review protocols (including search strategies) are prospectively registered to prevent deviation from the intended methods and minimise bias.