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Finding, Understanding and Conducting Research Studies


"A systematic review is a form of secondary research, guided by a detailed review protocol, that gathers primary studies and information from other sources on a clinical or policy question of interest and analyzes the data from these multiple studies to reach a conclusion. A systematic review involves the identification, selection, appraisal, and synthesis of the best available evidence for clinical decision making. A properly conducted systematic review uses transparent and reproducible strategies to reduce bias and instill rigor. It synthesizes information from both published and unpublished sources" (Holly, 2017).

In short, a systematic review is a structured study of studies in which only certain material that fits the predetermined inclusion criteria are analyzed. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are often done in tandem and reported in one study.

Finding Systematic Reviews

As with any type of study, one thing that you can do to any of your searches to help narrow down to a systematic review is to add the type of study as a keyword in your search string. See example below:

catheters AND infection AND systematic review

In addition, there are specific databases that you can use to find systematic reviews as well as search strategies in specific databases that can help you limit to these articles as shown below.

Library Databases with Systematic Reviews

CINAHL and Medline Complete: Publication Type Limiter

Systematic Review

CINAHL Complete and Medline Complete are databases that allow you to limit your search results to systematic reviews only.

To find systematic reviews in CINAHL or Medline, follow the steps below:

  1. Enter the databases through the links above. This will take you directly to the advanced search page for both of these databases.
  2. Scroll down to the Limit Your Results section. This is where you can add limits to your search to tell the database that you only want articles that fit specific criteria. 
  3. Locate the Publication Type menu, and select Systematic Review.


PubMed: Clinical Queries Search

To find systematic reviews and meta-analyses in PubMed, follow the steps below:

  1. Enter the database through the link above.
  2. Select Clinical Queries under the Find section.
  3. Search your topic by entering your keywords into the search box and hitting search. 
  4. Results will be provided in three different columns. The middle column will give systematic review and meta-analysis results. Click on the See All link to see all the results.

Note! With any of these searches, you will need to limit to full text to get articles immediately available to you.

Other Resources with Systematic Reviews


Holly, C. (2017). Systematic review. In J. Fitzpatrick (Ed.), Encyclopedia of nursing research (4th ed.). Springer Publishing Company.

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