Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Literature Reviews in Medicine and Health

Overview of types of literature reviews

Steps of a Systematic Review

Getting started
  • Identify the team
    • PI
    • 2+ reviewers
    • librarian (search strategy)
    • statistician (meta-analysis)
  • Define roles, responsibilities, expectations
  • Develop a research question using a reliable question framework
    • PICO
    • SPIDER
    • SPICE
Conduct a preliminary literature search
  • Are there existing SRs on the topic?
  • What research exists?
  • What are the gaps?
  • Refine your question as needed
Develop a written protocol
  • Team members
  • Research Question, objectives and rationale for the study
  • Databases and terms/keywords for searching
  • Eligibility criteria
    • Population (age, gender, health status, etc.)
    • Study methodology (RCTs, Case Studies, etc.)
    • Intervention of interest
    • Outcomes of interest
    • Setting (hospital, rural, etc.)
    • Date range
    • Language
  • Define data elements for extraction
  • Identify assessment process and tools
  • Methods for data synthesis and reporting
  • Register the protocol as appropriate
Conduct literature searches
  • Consult/partner with a librarian
  • Search multiple databases as appropriate
  • Use results for further "hand" searching
  • Find gray of unpublished literature
Collect/organize citations
  • Select citation manager
    • Mendeley, Zotero, Endnote
  • De-duplicate citations
  • Upload citations to screening tool as needed
    • Covidence, Rayyan, Abstrackr, HAWC
Screen citations (two or more team members)
  • Review titles & abstracts using protocol inclusions/exclusion criteria
  • Locate full text and review second time using protocol inclusion/exclusion criteria
  • Create PRISMA flow chart
Assess Quality
  • Critically appraise each study in inclusive literature
  • Extract data
  • Create data tables that reflect results
Write the review
  • Consult guidance documentation for writing/reporting standards
  • Write the review
  • Create supplementary materials