Completing a high quality systematic reviews depends upon a number of factors. Here are some systematic review characteristics that will increase the likelihood of success.

Team

Your team should include:

  • a content expert
  • an experienced searcher
  • a bio-statistician
  • a methodologist (A methodologist is someone with a thorough grounding in the methods involved in the processes of developing a review. One of the team members already covering a role mentioned above can also be the methodologist.)

Experience and Knowledge

All team members should be familiar with using systematic reviews and have knowledge of systematic review methodology. At least one team member should have previous experience conducting a review or have received in-depth training.

All team members should have experience using specialized software required for the tasks corresponding to their role, e.g. EndNote, RevMan, etc.

Additional information on specialized systematic review software and training opportunities can be found in our systematic review advisory resources

Timelines, Responsibilities, Commitment

The team should set realistic timelines for tasks and target key stages e.g. completion of record screening. It should be clear which team members are responsible for each task.

Each team member should be aware of the workload and time involved to complete a systematic review and be able to commit to the whole project from start to finish.

Determine if your team is ready

Use our self-assessment checklist to determine if your team is prepared for success and to clarify what skills or knowledge you may yet need to acquire.

Team readiness self-assessment checklist

Question

Clearly define your research question. It should have no more than 7 main outcomes. The outcomes should be appropriate to answer the research question and divided into primary (no more than 3) and secondary outcomes.

Protocol

The review should state the objective of the review and set out a priori the methods which will be used.

Guidance and Reporting

Guidance

Following the established guidelines for systematic review development will ensure that it is conducted to the highest standards. You should also check for specific instructions from the organization or target journal to which your review is being submitted.

Reporting

Many organizations and journals demand rigorous reporting standards such as those outlined in the PRISMA checklist. The methods of your review should be transparent and reported in detail. 

Refer to our Resources for developing a systematic review page for an overview of systematic review standards and guides.