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Systematic Review

Resources for conducting a systematic review research.

Introduction to Systematic Review

Cover page of the book an Introduction to Systematic reviews

What is a systematic review?

A "high-level overview of primary research on a focused question" utilizing high-quality research evidence through:

  • Identifying
  • Selecting
  • Synthesizing
  • Appraisal

Source: Kysh, Lynn (2013): Difference between a systematic review and a literature review. [figshare]. Available at: 

Depending on your learning style, please explore the resources in various formats on the tabs above.

For additional tutorials, visit the SR Workshop Videos from UNC at Chapel Hill outlining each stage of the systematic review process.

Know the difference! Systematic review vs. literature review

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It is common to confuse systematic and literature reviews as both are used to provide a summary of the existent literature or research on a specific topic. Even with this common ground, both types vary significantly.  Please review the following chart (and its corresponding poster linked below) for a detailed explanation of each as well as the differences between each type of review.

Source: Kysh, L. (2013). What’s in a name? The difference between a systematic review and a literature review and why it matters. [Poster]Retrieved from

Questions? Check the website from UNC at Chapel Hill, What Type of Review is Right for you?


Types of literature reviews along with associated methodologies

JBI Manual for Evidence SynthesisFind definitions and methodological guidance.

- Systematic Reviews - Chapters 1-7

- Mixed Methods Systematic Reviews - Chapter 8

- Diagnostic Test Accuracy Systematic Reviews - Chapter 9

- Umbrella Reviews - Chapter 10

- Scoping Reviews - Chapter 11

- Systematic Reviews of Measurement Properties - Chapter 12

Systematic reviews vs scoping reviews - 

Grant, M. J., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information and Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91–108.

Gough, D., Thomas, J., & Oliver, S. (2012). Clarifying differences between review designs and methods. Systematic Reviews, 1(28).

Munn, Z., Peters, M., Stern, C., Tufanaru, C., McArthur, A., & Aromataris, E. (2018). Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach. BMC medical research methodology, 18(1), 143. Also, check out the Libguide from Weill Cornell Medicine for the differences between a systematic review and a scoping review and when to embark on either one of them.

Sutton, A., Clowes, M., Preston, L., & Booth, A. (2019). Meeting the review family: Exploring review types and associated information retrieval requirements. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 36(3), 202–222.

Temple University. Review Types. - This guide provides useful descriptions of some of the types of reviews listed in the above article.

UMD Health Sciences and Human Services Library. Review Types. - Guide describing Literature Reviews, Scoping Reviews, and Rapid Reviews.

Whittemore, R., Chao, A., Jang, M., Minges, K. E., & Park, C. (2014). Methods for knowledge synthesis: An overview. Heart & Lung: The Journal of Acute and Critical Care, 43(5), 453–461.


Differences between a systematic review and other types of reviews

Armstrong, R., Hall, B. J., Doyle, J., & Waters, E. (2011). Scoping the scope’ of a cochrane review. Journal of Public Health, 33(1), 147–150.

Kowalczyk, N., & Truluck, C. (2013). Literature reviews and systematic reviews: What is the difference? Radiologic Technology, 85(2), 219–222.

White, H., Albers, B., Gaarder, M., Kornør, H., Littell, J., Marshall, Z., Matthew, C., Pigott, T., Snilstveit, B., Waddington, H., & Welch, V. (2020). Guidance for producing a Campbell evidence and gap map. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 16(4), e1125. Check also this comparison between evidence and gaps maps and systematic reviews.

Rapid Reviews Tutorials

Rapid Review Guidebook by the National Collaborating Centre of Methods and Tools (NCCMT)

Hamel, C., Michaud, A., Thuku, M., Skidmore, B., Stevens, A., Nussbaumer-Streit, B., & Garritty, C. (2021). Defining Rapid Reviews: a systematic scoping review and thematic analysis of definitions and defining characteristics of rapid reviews. Journal of clinical epidemiology129, 74–85.

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Find Existing Systematic Reviews under the Searching the Literature tab on the left side menu.

Systematic Review

Scoping Review

Qualitative Systematic Review/Meta-Synthesis

Books on Systematic Reviews

Books on Meta-analysis



Research Tutorials from Other Libraries

Guidelines for a systematic review as part of the dissertation

Further readings on experiences of PhD students and doctoral programs with systematic reviews

UMD Doctor of Philosophy Degree Policies

Before you embark on a systematic review research project, check the UMD PhD Policies to make sure you are on the right path. Systematic reviews require a team of at least two reviewers and an information specialist or a librarian. Discuss with your advisor the authorship roles of the involved team members. Keep in mind that the UMD Doctor of Philosophy Degree Policies (scroll down to the section, Inclusion of one's own previously published materials in a dissertation) outline such cases, specifically the following: 

"It is recognized that a graduate student may co-author work with faculty members and colleagues that should be included in a dissertation. In such an event, a letter should be sent to the Dean of the Graduate School certifying that the student's examining committee has determined that the student made a substantial contribution to that work. This letter should also note that the inclusion of the work has the approval of the dissertation advisor and the program chair or Graduate Director. The letter should be included with the dissertation at the time of submission.  The format of such inclusions must conform to the standard dissertation format. A foreword to the dissertation, as approved by the Dissertation Committee, must state that the student made substantial contributions to the relevant aspects of the jointly authored work included in the dissertation."

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Online Tutorials

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"How to" Readings


Environmental Sciences

Engineering Education

  • Borrego, M., Foster, M. J., & Froyd, J. E. (2014). Systematic literature reviews in engineering education and other developing interdisciplinary fields. Journal of Engineering Education, 103(1), 45–76.

Public Health

Social Sciences

Software Engineering & Computer Science
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