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ENVS 7997: Step 1: Planning

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

Methods for Systematic Reviews of Public Health Interventions

Reporting Standards

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.

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:

  • Rationale, background
  • The potential contribution of the review to clinical decision making
  • Is there enough relevant literature to merit a systematic review/meta-analysis of studies
  • Inclusion/exclusion criteria
  • PICOS of interest (Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcomes, Study types to be reviewed)
  • Sources you will use to search the literature (& search syntax if possible)
  • Screening methods
  • Data extraction methods
  • Methods to assess for bias
  • Contact details

 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:

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