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Getting started

A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias, in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making. (See Section 1.2 in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions).

You might undertake a systematic review under the following circumstances:

  • You want to bring together all the known research on a topic
  • There are conflicting findings in existing research
  • There are underpowered studies with non-significant outcomes in your field
  • You want to see how others have addressed a question
  • Existing systematic reviews don't cover the population/study type you are interested in

Adapted from Salis, A. Systematically review the literature [Webinar]. Salis Institute.

This video from The Evidence Synthesis Academy at Brown University walks you through the basic steps on how to conduct a systematic review.

For more detail, please consult the Systematic Review Process page.

The following resources are essential to a successful systematic review:

Time. Systematic reviews can take between 6-18 months (or more) to complete and publish.

Documentation. Searches must be reproducible, so you'll have to have a documented search strategy and process. You can use something as simple as a notebook or a spreadsheet, although software is available. It is recommended that you register your review ahead of time in a systematic review protocol database such as PROSPERO.

Personnel. The Cochrane Handbook recommends that systematic reviews be undertaken by more than one person. The team should include subject experts as well as those to assist with searching and screening literature. It can be helpful to include an experienced systematic review author on your team. Librarians can provide guidance on search strategies, documentation and resources.

Information resources. Systematic reviews require extensive literature searching of both subscription and free databases, and possibly grey literature.

For more detail, please consult the Systematic Review Process page.

The Systematic Review Toolbox developed by University of York is an online catalogue of tools that support various tasks within the systematic review and wider evidence synthesis process.

Systematic review help

Overview of the Systematic Review Services on offer at the UNDA library

To make a booking with a librarian, visit our pre-appointment checklist and booking page:

A timeline highlighting the stages of a systematic review that the library can help with

Before your appointment: make sure you have read any systematic reviews guidelines provided by your School, read the Systematic literature searching pages in the Library Research guide, and reviewed the Library's Systematic Reviews Service Charter.

Systematic review services are only provided for postgraduates, researchers and academic staff at the University of Notre Dame Australia. Appointments are structured by the two-part process outlined below.

1. Scoping: this session covers the essentials you will need to plan an effective SR. Please bring any planning materials you have created so far, including project proposals, protocols, or outlines. By the end of this session, you will have the tools you need to identify databases, gather keywords and do some scoping and initial line-by-line concept searches.


  • one hour

Please bring (if applicable):

  • Planning materials, e.g. research question, project proposal or protocol
  • Information on any initial searches run
  • Key articles you have already found

2. Searching: this session will help you to refine your preliminary searches towards building a final strategy. We will review your experiences with initial searches and advise on advanced database features, search filters, limiters and text mining tools. We will also cover the effective use of citation management software (e.g. EndNote).


  • one hour (students)
  • two hours (staff)

Please bring (if applicable):

  • Planning materials, e.g. research question, project proposal or protocol
  • Search documentation sheet (from previous session)
  • EndNote or Refworks account login

Learning resources

Research Education & Training Modules

Introduction to Health Research

Literature Searching & Management

Good Clinical Practice in Australia

A Practical Guide to Critical Appraisal

Research with People who Experience Mental Health Illnesses

The Essentials of Writing a Research Protocol

Health Economics Application to Research

Lung Health in First Nations Children: Module 1

Lung Health in First Nations Children: Module 2

Systematic review books