1. Read this first 1 item
    1. Here are some useful resources if you are undertaking a systematic review (SR).


      • Section 1 - a quick introduction to what an SR is
      • Section 2 - more detailed descriptions of the process of doing an SR.    
      • Section 3 - systematic review manuals for health care researchers.
      • Section 4  - material about SRs in areas outside healthcare.  
      • Section 5  - material about other types of reviews, including realist and critical realist reviews.   
      • Section 6  - other resources which you may need when working on your review.    You are advised to read this section as early in your work as you can.


      We have also developed a resource list relating to Critical appraisal, at

      The list has been compiled by Keith Nockels of the University of Leicester Library.   If you have found a useful book or website and want to share it, let him know and it can be added to the list.  If you have questions or need advice about the literature searching and reference management aspects of a systematic review, please contact us, at

  2. 1. What is a systematic review? 11 items
    1. Here are some very short introductions about systematic reviews, some chapters within books about evidence based practice or research, and one web resource. 

    2. Short introductions 3 items
      1. Learning from research: systematic reviews for informing policy decisions. A paper for the Alliance for Useful Evidence - David Gough, Sandy Oliver, James Thomas 2013

        Webpage  Published by the Alliance for Useful Evidence, which champions the use of evidence in social policy and practice.

      2. Systematic reviews - Sense about Science 2009

        Webpage Background

    3. Chapters 6 items
      1. A beginner's guide to evidence-based practice in health and social care professions - Helen Aveyard, Pam Sharp 2013

        Book Background Pages 51-57 discuss systematic reviews (and other "good quality literature reviews"). There is a list of the features of an SR on page 54. Chapter 6, "How do I analyse my findings", is a good introduction to synthesis of evidence.

      2. Clinical epidemiology: the essentials - Robert H. Fletcher, Suzanne W. Fletcher 2013

        Book Background Chapter 13 includes a information about systematic reviews, which gives a good brief introduction to what they are.

      3. Clinical epidemiology: how to do clinical practice research - R. Brian Haynes 2006

        Book Background Chapter 2 of this famous book (the second author of the book is the late David Sackett) is "Conducting systematic reviews", and covers what they are, the types of questions they can answer and conducting them. An appendix shows you a example of a search strategy, and a data extraction form.

      4. Systematic reviews - Lesley Smith, Lorraine Dixon

        Chapter Background Good brief introduction to what a systematic review is, although some of the references have since had new editions.

      5. Users' guides to the medical literature: a manual for evidence-based clinical practice - Gordon H. Guyatt 2008

        Book Background Part F is "Summarizing the evidence" and describes the differences between narrative and systematic reviews. Figure 19-1 shows the process for conducting a systematic review.

      6. Users' guides to the medical literature: essentials of evidence-based clinical practice - Gordon H. Guyatt 2008

        Book Background This book is a shorter version of Users' guides to the medical literature: a manual for evidence-based clinical practice, listed elsewhere in this list.

    4. Web resources 1 item
      1. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses: a step-by-step guide

        Webpage  From the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.

  3. 2. Conducting a systematic review 12 items
    You do not need to read all the things in this list. But you probably should read more than one.
    1. Systematic approaches to a successful literature review - Andrew Booth, Anthea Sutton, Diana Papaioannou 2016

      Book  Not a book about "systematic reviewing", but about having a systematic approach to all sorts of different reviews. But having said that, a lot of the book will be relevant. We also have the previous edition, 2012.

    2. Systematic reviews and qualitative methods - Mary Dixon-Woods


    3. Synthesising qualitative and quantitative evidence: a review of possible methods - Mary Dixon-Woods, Shona Agarwal, David Jones, Bridget Young 01/01/2005


    4. Finding the evidence to support your research question - Mary Edmunds Otter, Christine Keen


    5. Systematic reviews in health care: meta analysis in context - Matthias Egger, George Davey Smith, Douglas G. Altman 2001

      Book  Ebook also available.

    6. An introduction to systematic reviews - David Gough, Sandy Oliver, James Thomas 2017

      Book  Written from a social science perspective but still applicable to health care. Chapter 1 (Introducing systematic reviews) and Chapter 5 (Finding relevant studies) worth reading, but other chapters, on other parts of the process, very useful too.

    7. Statistics for systematic review authors - Catalin Tufanaru, Ovid Technologies, Inc 2012 (electronic resource)


    8. Reviewing research evidence for nursing practice: systematic reviews - Christine Webb, Brenda H. Roe 2007


  4. 3. Cochrane, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination and Institute of Medicine handbooks 3 items
    You may be required to use the methods of one of these, but even if not, they will help if you have very specific questions.
    1. Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions - Julian P.T. Higgins, Sally Green March 2011

      Website  These are the procedures followed by members of the Cochrane Collaboration. But there is much useful advice on search sources, the location of clinical trials registries, search strategy, and more.

    2. Finding what works in health care: standards for systematic reviews - Institute of Medicine. Committee on Standards for Systematic Reviews of Comparative Effectiveness Research 20/06/2011

      Book  Read online at the NCBI Bookshelf URL, download a PDF from the NAP URL.

    3. Systematic reviews: CRD's guidance for undertaking reviews in health care - Centre for Reviews and Dissemination January 2009

      Webpage  The 3rd edition of CRD's guidance, and still the latest edition. Includes a detailed general chapter on conducting an SR, and chapters on conducting SRs of specific things, plus an appendix on documenting the search process. The Library has a print copy of this.

  5. 4. Systematic reviews in areas other than healthcare 6 items
    Several books below relate to social sciences, but there are also titles relating to social work, life and environmental sciences. For some topics in health, the social sciences books may be useful.
    1. Social research methods - Alan Bryman 2016

      Book  There is some discussion in chapter 5 about systematic reviews, from a social science perspective.

    2. An introduction to systematic reviews - David Gough, Sandy Oliver, James Thomas 2017

      Book  This is relevant to health care, but has a very social science based perspective, which is why it is included in this section as well. The authors are at the Social Science Research Unit at the Institute of Education in London. The Library also has the 2012 edition.

    3. Handbook of meta-analysis in ecology and evolution - Julia Koricheva, Jessica Gurevitch, Kerrie L. Mengersen 2013


    4. Systematic reviews and meta-analysis - Julia H. Littell, Jacqueline Corcoran, Vijayan K. Pillai 2008

      Book  This discusses systematic reviews and meta-analysis in social work.

    5. Systematic reviews in the social sciences: a practical guide - Mark Petticrew, Helen Roberts 2006

      Book  Ebook also available. Chapter 6 discusses synthesis of evidence.

  6. 5. Other types of reviews, including realist reviews and critical realist reviews 5 items
    1. A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies - Maria J. Grant, Andrew Booth 06/2009

      Article  A good concise introduction to other types of review.

    2. Critical realist review: exploring the real, beyond the empirical - Alison Edgley, Theodore Stickley, Stephen Timmons, Andy Meal 29/09/2014


    3. Realist review - a new method of systematic review designed for complex policy interventions - Ray Pawson, Trisha Greenhalgh, Gill Harvey, Kieran Walshe 15/07/2005


    4. Evidence-based policy: a realist perspective - Ray Pawson 2006


  7. 6. Miscellaneous advice about writing up, search filters, and reference management 1 item
    If you are working on a systematic review, read this information as soon as you can.
    1. Page What to include when writing up your systematic review PRISMA, the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses, is reporting guidelines for systematic reviews, a list of things you must include in your review.   Read PRISMA befor... click to read more
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