How to get started with a systematic review in epidemiology: an introductory guide for early career researchers.
Denison HJ., Dodds RM., Ntani G., Cooper R., Cooper C., Sayer AA., Baird J.
Systematic review is a powerful research tool which aims to identify and synthesize all evidence relevant to a research question. The approach taken is much like that used in a scientific experiment, with high priority given to the transparency and reproducibility of the methods used and to handling all evidence in a consistent manner.Early career researchers may find themselves in a position where they decide to undertake a systematic review, for example it may form part or all of a PhD thesis. Those with no prior experience of systematic review may need considerable support and direction getting started with such a project. Here we set out in simple terms how to get started with a systematic review.Advice is given on matters such as developing a review protocol, searching using databases and other methods, data extraction, risk of bias assessment and data synthesis including meta-analysis. Signposts to further information and useful resources are also given.A well-conducted systematic review benefits the scientific field by providing a summary of existing evidence and highlighting unanswered questions. For the individual, undertaking a systematic review is also a great opportunity to improve skills in critical appraisal and in synthesising evidence.