A systematic review is a type of review that makes use of repeatable analytical methods to collect secondary data and analyze it. It is a type of evidence synthesis that formulates research questions that are broad or narrow in scope and are characterized by how the researcher identifies and synthesizes data that relates directly to the systematic review question.
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A lot of people often conflate the term systematic review with the term meta-analysis, there are several kinds of review that can be defined as systematic ones that do not involve a meta-analysis. Some systematic reviews appraise research studies critically and synthesize their findings quantitatively and qualitatively. Systematic reviews are often created to provide an exhaustive summary of current evidence that is relevant to a research question. For example, systematic reviews of controlled medical trials are an important way of informing evidence-based medicine, and a review of existing studies is often faster and cheaper than embarking on a new study.
While a systematic review is often applied in the biomedical or healthcare context, it can be used in other areas where an assessment of a precisely defined subject would be helpful, like in the context of academics. Systematic reviews might examine
- Clinical tests
- Public health interventions
- Pedagogical interventions
- Environmental interventions
- Social interventions
- Adverse effects
- Qualitative evidence syntheses
- Methodological reviews
- Policy reviews
- Economic evaluations.
An understanding of systematic reviews and how they are to be implemented in practice is highly recommended for professionals who are involved in the delivery of health care, public health, the teaching field, and public policy.
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