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Systematic Reviews and Meta Analysis

A resource for finding data sources, filters, and standards to support systematic searches of the biomedical literature.


Cochrane Handbook

The Cochrane Handbook isn't set down to be a standard, but it has become the de facto standard for planning and carrying out a systematic review. Chapter 6, Searching for Studies, is most helpful in planning your review.

Scoping Reviews, JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis

The Joanna Briggs Institute provides extensive guidance for their authors in producing both systematic and scoping reviews. Their chapter on scoping reviews provides a succinct overview of the scoping review process. JBI maintains a page with other materials for scoping reviewers.

Methods Guide for Effectiveness and Comparative Effectiveness Reviews

Very good chapters on conducting a review, most of which were published as articles in the Journal of Clincal Epidemiology.

Institutes of Medicine Standards for Systematic Reviews

The IOM standards promote objective, transparent, and scientifically valid systematic reviews. They address the entire systematic review process, from locating, screening, and selecting studies for the review, to synthesizing the findings (including meta-analysis) and assessing the overall quality of the body of evidence, to producing the final review report.

Systematic Reviews: CRD's Guidance for Undertaking Reviews in Health Care

Provides a succinct outline for carrying out systematic reviews and well as details about constructing a protocol, testing for bias, and other aspects of the review process. Includes examples.

Systematic reviews to support evidence-based medicine how to review and apply findings of healthcare research

Khan, K., & Royal Society of Medicine. 2nd ed,  2013. London [England]: Hodder Annold. [Harvard ID required]

Systematic reviews to answer health care questions

Nelson, H. (2014). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. [Harvard ID required]

Systematic Review Toolbox

Not a guide or standard but a clearinghouse for all things systematic review. Check here for templates, reporting standards, screening tools, risk of bias assessment, etc.

Reporting Standards: PRISMA and MOOSE

You will improve the quality of your review by adhering to the standards below. Using the approriate standard can reassure editors and reviewers that you have conscienciously carried out your review.

The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses. A 27-item checklist,  PRISMA  focuses on randomized trials but can also be used as a basis for reporting systematic reviews of other types of research, particularly evaluations of interventions. PRISMA may also be useful for critical appraisal of published systematic reviews, although it is not a quality assessment instrument to gauge the quality of a systematic review.

Consider using PRISMA-P when completing your protocol. PRISMA-P is a 17-item checklist for elements considered essential in protocol for a systematic review or meta-analysis. The documentation contains an excellent rationale for completing a protocol, too.

Use PRISMA-ScR, a 20-item checklist, for reporting scoping reviews. The documentation provides a clear overview of scoping reviews.

Further Reading:

Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG; PRISMA Group. Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. PLoS Med. 2009 Jul 21;6(7):e1000097. Epub 2009 Jul 21. PubMed PMID: 19621072.  

Liberati A, Altman DG, Tetzlaff J, Mulrow C, Gøtzsche PC, Ioannidis JP, Clarke M, Devereaux PJ, Kleijnen J, Moher D. The PRISMA statement for reporting  systematic reviews and meta-analyses of studies that evaluate health care interventions: explanation and elaboration. PLoS Med. 2009 Jul 21;6(7):e1000100. Epub 2009 Jul 21. PubMed PMID: 19621070

Shamseer L, Moher D, Clarke M, Ghersi D, Liberati A, Petticrew M, Shekelle P, Stewart LA; PRISMA-P Group. Preferred reporting items for systematic review andmeta-analysis protocols (PRISMA-P) 2015: elaboration and explanation. BMJ. 2015 Jan 2;349:g7647. doi: 10.1136/bmj.g7647. PubMed PMID: 25555855.

Moher D, Shamseer L, Clarke M, Ghersi D, Liberati A, Petticrew M, Shekelle P, Stewart LA; PRISMA-P Group. Preferred reporting items for systematic review andmeta-analysis protocols (PRISMA-P) 2015 statement. Syst Rev. 2015 Jan 1;4:1. doi: 10.1186/2046-4053-4-1. PubMed PMID: 25554246.

Tricco AC, Lillie E, Zarin W, O'Brien KK, Colquhoun H, Levac D, Moher D, Peters MDJ, Horsley T, Weeks L, Hempel S, Akl EA, Chang C, McGowan J, Stewart L, Hartling L, Aldcroft A, Wilson MG, Garritty C, Lewin S, Godfrey CM, Macdonald MT, Langlois EV, Soares-Weiser K, Moriarty J, Clifford T, Tunçalp Ö, Straus SE. PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR): Checklist and Explanation. Ann Intern Med. 2018 Oct 2;169(7):467-473. doi: 10.7326/M18-0850. Epub 2018 Sep 4. PMID: 30178033.

Also published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, BMJ, and the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology.

MOOSE Guidelines
Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology checklist contains specifications for reporting of meta-analyses of observational studies in epidemiology. Editors will expect you to follow and cite this checklist.  It refers to the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale for assessing the quality of non-randomized studies, a method of rating each observational study in your meta-analysis.

Further Reading:

Stroup DF, Berlin JA, Morton SC, Olkin I, Williamson GD, Rennie D, Moher D, Becker BJ, Sipe TA, Thacker SB. Meta-analysis of observational studies in epidemiology: a proposal for reporting. Meta-analysis Of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) group. JAMA. 2000 Apr 19;283(15):2008-12. PubMed PMID: 10789670.

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