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Public Health Resources: What is a Systematic Review?
Review vs. systematic review. What is the difference?
Review articles are generally an examination of the literature from the author's perspective. Sometimes they are called a literature review.
A systematic review can be thought of as a study design that includes some or all of the following characteristics:
One or more questions or hypotheses are posed at the start of the review.
Publications/study results in the subject area are collected, often limited to a particular type (e.g., literature reviews, randomized controlled trials).
Criteria are used to include or exclude studies found in point #2 for the actual review. This step is often referred to as the "study selection" and can be found under "Methods" or "Aims".
Data extracted from the selected studies are combined and compared. I the data cannot be combined, the strength of the evidence is assessed and used to evaluate results.
Conclusions are made based on results and/or the presence or absence of supporting evidence.
In a nutshell: A systematic review combines several similar studies such as, randomized control trials using similar participant characteristics and then rates the evidence as a whole.
Meta-analyses are often considered a type of systematic review and are distinguished by the application of quantitative and statistical methods for combining and examining results. Often, a systematic review will include a meta-analysis.