Finding and Understanding Evidence-Based Practice and Research

What is a Systematic Review?

"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 It synthesizes information from both published and unpublished sources" (Holly, 2017).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.

Find 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

Publication Type Filter

CINAHL and Medline 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 database you want to search through the links above. You will be taken directly to the advanced search page. Enter your keyword (s) into the search boxes. 

2. Scroll down to the Limit Your Results section. This is where you can add filters 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.

Systematic Review publication type limiter in CINAHL and Medline


Systematic Review Filter

To find systematic reviews in PubMed, follow the steps below:

1. Enter the database through the link above.

2. Search your topic by entering your keywords 

3. Once you have your results, select Systematic Review under Article Type on the left-hand side of the page.  

Systematic Review article type limiter in the PubMed

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

Example of a Systematic Review


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