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Identify Research Question and Define inclusion and exclusion criteria
Identify your research question. Formulate a clear, well-defined research question of appropriate scope. Define your terminology. Find existing reviews on your topic to inform the development of your research question, identify gaps, and confirm that you are not duplicating the efforts of previous reviews. Consider using a framework like PICO (see below) to define you question scope.
Define inclusion and exclusion criteria. This is also known as creating a review protocol. Clearly, state the criteria you will use to determine whether or not a study will be included in your search. Consider study populations, study design, intervention types, comparison groups, measured outcomes.
Guidelines and Resources for Reviews in Environment
Guidance from the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD), a world renowned institute that produces policy relevant research and innovative methods that advance the use of research evidence to improve population health.
The Community Guide conducts systematic reviews of interventions in many topic areas to learn what works to promote public health.
There are a number of reporting standards for systematic reviews. These can serve as guidelines for protocol and manuscript preparation, and journals may require that these standards are followed for systematic reviews.
PRISMA is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses. PRISMA focuses on the reporting of reviews evaluating randomized trials, but can also be used as a basis for reporting systematic reviews of other types of research, particularly evaluations of interventions.
Reporting public health, health systems, and social and environmental policy interventions.
Registering your protocol
It is recommended that you register your systematic review protocol prior to conducting your review. This will improve transparency and reproducibility, but will also ensure that other research teams do not duplicate efforts.
A protocol documents the key points of your systematic review. A protocol should include a conceptual discussion of the problem and include the following:
The potential contribution of the review to clinical decision making
Is there enough relevant literature to merit a systematic review/meta-analysis of studies
PICOS of interest (Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcomes, Study types to be reviewed)
Sources you will use to search the literature (& search syntax if possible)
Data extraction methods
Methods to assess for bias
If you are working with the Cochrane or Campbell Collaborations, you will publish your protocol with those organizations. If you are working independently, consider registration with:
An open source web application that connects and supports the research workflow. Researchers use the OSF to collaborate, document, archive, share, and register research projects, materials, and data. OSF can be used to pre-register a systematic review protocol and to share documents such as a Zotero library, search strategies, and data extraction forms.