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Systematic Reviews

Systematic reviews A to Z

This page contains key terms used in systematic reviews, with links to relevant sections in this guide.

Term Definition
Citation searching Citation searching is a way of finding relevant research in a field or subject by looking at what an article has referenced and who has since used that article as a reference. 
Data management (see also research data management) Research data management (RDM) is the process of thinking about what will happen to your data throughout the entire research lifecycle (creation, processing, analysis, storage, re-use) 
Database alerts Database alerts can setup on some databases and will automatically send you an email when new content is added to a journal title or in topic areas of your choosing.
Deduplication  Deduplication refers to eliminating duplicate or identical search results.
ECLIPSE (see also frameworks)  ECLIPSE is a model or framework you can use to help structure a research question, which will help when searching for information and evidence. 
Evidence gap This refer to where there is little or no evidence to support an intervention. That is there is insufficient data available to draw conclusions. Systematic reviews can help in identifying where these gaps might be in the research – researchers may sometimes conduct evidence or gap maps to visually represent the availability of rigorous evidence. 
Evidence hierarchy Evidence hierarchy refers to a scale of different types of evidence starting with high quality to lower quality evidence.
Exclusion criteria (see also inclusion criteria)

Inclusion and exclusion criteria are the characteristics of studies that determine if a study should be included or disregarded in a systematic review. These characteristics are defined in the protocol or plan of the systematic review. 

Exporting results Most databases will allow search results to be exported either as an email sent to a nominated inbox or to reference management software, such as Endnote. 
Frameworks Frameworks refers to the different models that can be used to create a research questions. 
Grey literature Literature that is not formally published in conventional and established formats e.g. Government reports, research group reports, dissertations and conference proceedings etc. 
Hand-searching Searching through the contents pages of journals, conference proceedings and abstracts to identify articles which have not yet been included in databases or have not been catalogued or indexed. 
Inclusion criteria (see also exclusion criteria)  Pre-defined characteristics to which literature must adhere to be included in a study. 
Literature review  An examination and critique of the literature on a topic to place research in the wider context and build knowledge. They are less structured and comprehensive than systematic reviews. 
MeSH (see also subject headings) 

Medical Subject Headings. 

Searchable, standardised headings applied to information that tags the content topics. 

Meta-analysis  A type of review that statistically combines results of quantitative studies to provide the precise effects of results. 
PICO (see also frameworks)  Population Intervention Comparison Outcome - a commonly used model to help structure a research question. 
PRISMA (see also Search records)  A system to demonstrate literature search methodology and results. 
Protocol (see also search strategy)  A pre-determined, detailed plan or statement of the approach and methods to be used in carrying out a review. 
Rapid evidence assessment/review  A structured, rigorous but less exhaustive systematic literature search completed in a short time-frame. They are often used to identify areas of further research or to inform policy. 
Reference and key paper searching  The process of using the references of identified papers and key research in your field to locate other information. 
Research data management (RDM) (see also data management)  Research data management (RDM) is the process of thinking about what will happen to your data throughout the entire research lifecycle (creation, processing, analysis, storage, re-use). 
Saving searches 

Some databases allow users to save searches that can be re-run at a future date. 

Scoping review  Scoping reviews often precede a full systematic review and aim to quickly identify key concepts underpinning the research area, as well as map out the primary sources of potential evidence and their availability. 
Screening  The process of using titles and abstracts to quickly measure information against required characteristics to identify whether information is to be included or excluded from a review.  
Search records  Some types of reviews, such as a systematic review, require you to document the search process and results. 
Search strategy (see also protocol) 

Pre-determined plan for how to search and retrieve relevant literature in your area of study, allowing a consistent approach to literature searching. 

SPICE (see also frameworks)  Setting Population/perspective Intervention Comparison Evaluation- a commonly used model to help structure a research question. 
SPIDER (see also frameworks)  Sample Phenomenon of Interest Design Evaluation Research type- a commonly used model to help structure a research question. 
Subject headings (see also MeSH)  Searchable, standardised headings applied to information that tags the content topics. 
Systematic literature review  A literature review where principles of systematic reviews are applied to create a more robust approach, but in a less rigorous, time intensive way. 
Systematic review  A structured literature review on an explicit, highly focused research area, undertaken according to a pre-determined plan or protocol.