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Systematic Reviews: Planning

PIECES: Systematic Review Process


Planning the Systematic Review

  1. Determine whether a systematic review is appropriate. What is your reason for conducting the systematic review? Are other review types more suitable for your goals? [See the Home tab for more details about different types of reviews.]
  2. Write a clearly defined and answerable research question. Research questions for systematic reviews are typically specific and narrow in focus.
  3. Conduct a preliminary search of the literature to determine if there are any recently published systematic reviews on your topic.
  4. Search systematic review protocol registries to ensure other researchers are not in the process of reviewing your topic.
  5. Discuss and agree upon the methods of the systematic review; take account of the inclusion and exclusion criteria.
  6. Develop the systematic review protocol. A protocol serves as the study's main planning guide for the review team; it typically includes the research question or objective; inclusion/exclusion criteria; databases to be searched; potential keywords and subject headings, or a preliminary search strategy; methodology for data extraction and analysis; declaration of interests; and time frame.
  7. Register your protocol. Consider publishing the protocol. The review team may need to modify the protocol further in the review process; be sure to clearly justify and document any revisions.
  8. Choose systematic review management tools, such as Covidence, and citation management software, such as EndNote. [See the Collecting/Combining tab for more details about systematic review management software.]


Image adapted from Cochrane Canada 2011. Session three: A 'snapshot' of the steps of conducting a Cochrane Review (part 1)

Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM). (2019). Foster, M. (ed.). The pieces of systematic review by Margaret Foster webinar series. [Video] .


Has this topic already been done or published?: Tip for a Preliminary Search

At article databases or Google Scholar, add the following search terms for systematic reviews and connect a subject keyword, using Boolean operator AND. 

E.g., systematic reviews on the use of the Internet for the prevention of binge drinking among college students

college students AND "binge drinking" AND (“systematic review” OR “systematic literature review” OR “systematic scoping review” OR “systematic narrative review” OR “systematic qualitative review” OR “systematic evidence review” OR “systematic quantitative review” OR “systematic meta-review” OR “ systematic critical review” OR “systematic mixed studies review” OR “systematic mapping review” OR “systematic Cochrane review” OR “systematic search and review” OR “systematic integrative review”) 


Systematic Review Protocol Registries

Tools for Writing a Protocol

  • PRSIMA-Scr
    • PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews published in Annals of Internal Medicine. See the Appendix under Methods for details about Protocol and Registration.

Useful Tools for Database Searching

Systematic Review Management Tools

Other Resources

Interlibrary Loan - A Critical Service to Your Review Project

Use Interlibrary Loan to request journal articles not available online for FSU users. 
Use LEDS  to request print journal articles available in FSU library collection (Faculty & Graduate Students only).
If you have multiple requests of Interlibrary Loan for your systematic review project, please contact Velma Smith, ILL Librarian, for consultation.  

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