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Systematic Reviews

This guide is intended to help the Cal State LA community with conducting systematic reviews and accessing help from librarians with systematic reviews.

What is a Systematic Review?

"A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing more reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made. The key characteristics of a systematic review are:

  • a clearly stated set of objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies;
  • an explicit, reproducible methodology;
  • a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria;
  • an assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies, for example through the assessment of risk of bias; and
  • a systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies.

Many systematic reviews contain meta-analyses. Meta-analysis is the use of statistical methods to summarize the results of independent studies (Glass 1976). By combining information from all relevant studies, meta-analyses can provide more precise estimates of the effects of health care than those derived from the individual studies included within a review . They also facilitate investigations of the consistency of evidence across studies, and the exploration of differences across studies."
(Sally Green, Julian PT Higgins, Philip Alderson, Mike Clarke, Cynthia D Mulrow and Andrew D Oxman. (2011) "1.2.2 What is a Systematic Review?" Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. Version 5.1.0. Accessed from: http://handbook.cochrane.org/)

Do I need a Systematic Review?

Systematic reviews and literature reviews are easy to get mixed up but are two very different types of research. Use the chart below to consider and confirm what type of review you are interested in.

Chart comparing systematic review to literature review.

Kysh, Lynn (2013): Difference between a systematic review and a literature review. [figshare]. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.766364

John F. Kennedy Memorial Library
California State University, Los Angeles
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032-8300
323-343-3988