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What is a Systematic Review?

A systematic review is an attempt to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. As its name suggests, a systematic review uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing more reliable findings from which to draw conclusions and make decisions.

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.

Many systematic reviews contain a meta-analysis, which is the use of statistical methods to summarize the results of independent studies. By combining information from all relevant studies, meta-analyses can (a) provide more precise estimates of the effects of health care than those derived from the individual studies included within a review, and (b) facilitate investigations of the consistency of evidence across studies, as well as the nature of differences across studies.

-- Adapted from 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

Systematic Reviews at the Texas Medical Center (TMC) Library



Location: 1133 John Freeman Blvd., Houston, TX 77030; (713) 795-4200

For general reference assistance, visit: Ask Us!

For consultation services, visit: Consult With A Librarian

For general help conducting a systematic review, visit the TMC Library's research guide on systematic reviews, which provides detailed information about its library services related to systematic reviews.  

For specific help conducting a systematic review, contact the TMC liaison librarians assigned to UTHealth School of Public Health:
Head of Research and Instruction
(713) 799-7169
Liaison Librarian
(713) 799-7166
Liaison Librarian
(713) 500-9122


The following guides provide help on conducting a systematic review: