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Systematic Review Program: Methodology & Reporting

Six steps to a systematic review

Step 1: Initiate the process, organize the review team, develop a process for gathering user and stakeholder input, formulate the research question, and implement procedures for minimizing the impact of bias and conflict of interests (see standards in Chapter 2).

Step 2: Develop the review protocol, including the context and rationale for the review and the specific procedures for the search strategy, data collection and extraction, qualitative synthesis and quantitative data synthesis (if a meta-analysis is done), reporting, and peer review (see standards in Chapter 2).

Step 3: Systematically locate, screen, and select the studies for review (see standards in Chapter 3).

Step 4: Appraise the risk of bias in the individual studies and extract the data for analysis (see standards in Chapter 3).

Step 5: Synthesize the findings and assess the overall quality of the body of evidence (see standards in Chapter 4).

Step 6: Prepare a final report and have the report undergo peer review (see standards in Chapter 5)."

Conceptual Framework. Fundamentals of Systematic Reviews. IN: Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews (full report). Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, The National Academy Press. pp. 26-27


Book cover reprinted with permission from Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews,  2011  by the National Academy of Sciences, Courtesy of the National Academies Press, Washington, D.C



The protocol

Well-designed systematic reviews begin with creation of a protocol, a detailed description of the objectives and methods of the review. IOM 2.6; 2.8

Librarians can provide resources on developing  protocols and assist in developing the literature search section of the protocol. 

Investigators should consider registering their protocols.

For more information on Protocols  see our guide

  Working with the HSLS Systematic Review Program

Reporting standards


 PRISMA Transparent Reporting of Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA Statement Website) 

  The above site  Includes:

Additional standards & guidelines

EQUATOR Network is an international initiative that seeks to improve the reliability and value of published health research literature by promoting transparent and accurate reporting and wider use of robust reporting guidelines. EQUATOR organises courses and workshops and provides freely available resources including the following:

Image used with permission by the EQUATOR Network.

Request systematic review help

To request a systematic review consultation:

What consultation services can be provided? see HSLS Support

Who's eligible?

  • faculty, staff and students in the Schools of the Health Sciences, University of Pittsburgh
  • UPMC Residents and Fellows
  • UPMC physicians with University of Pittsburgh faculty appointments

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