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Formulating a Research Question using PICO(T)

P=Population or problem or patient

  • What are the characteristics of the patient or population? What is the condition?

I=Intervention or issue of interest

  • What do you want to do with/for the patient or population?

C=Comparison

  • What is the alternative to the intervention?

O=Outcome

  • What are the relevant outcomes?

T=Time

What is a Systematic Review?

A systematic review is a scientific study of all available evidence on a certain topic. It requires the most exhaustive literature search possible, not only in published literature, but also in gray literature. It may also require searches in disciplines outside the researchers primary area of study.

Types of Systematic Reviews

  • Qualitative: In this type of systematic review, the results of relevant studies are summarized but not statistically combined.
  • Quantitative: This type of systematic review uses statistical methods to combine the results of two or more studies.
  • Meta-analysis: A meta-analysis uses statistical methods to integrate estimates of effect from relevant studies that are independent but similar and summarize them.

The PRISMA Checklist and Diagram

Anybody writing a systematic literature review should be familiar with the PRISMA statement. The PRISMA Statement is a document that consists of a 27-item checklist and a flow diagram. It is designed to guide authors on how to develop a systematic review and what to include when writing the review.

A protocol will include:

  • Databases to be searched and additional sources (particularly for grey literature)
  • Keywords to be used in the search strategy
  • Limits applied to the search.
  • Screening process
  • Data to be extracted
  • Summary of data to be reported

The Systematic Review Process

The essence of a systematic review lies in being systematic. A systematic review involves detailed scrutiny and analysis of a huge mass of literature. To ensure that your work is efficient and effective, you should follow a clear process:

1. Develop a research question

2. Define inclusion and exclusion criteria

3. Locate studies 

4. Select studies

5. Assess study quality

6. Extract data

7. Analyze and present results

8. Interpret results

9. Update the review as needed

It is helpful to make notes at each stage. This will make it easier for you to write the review article.

Structuring a Systematic Review Article

A systematic review article follows the same structure as that of an original research article. It typically includes a title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and references.  

Title: The title should accurately reflect the topic under review. Typically, the words “a systematic review” are a part of the title to make the nature of the study clear.

Abstract: A systematic review usually has a structured Abstract, with a short paragraph devoted to each of the following: background, methods, results, and conclusion. 

Introduction: The Introduction summarizes the topic and explains why the systematic review was conducted. There might have been gaps in the existing knowledge or a disagreement in the literature that necessitated a review. The introduction should also state the purpose and aims of the review.

Methods: The Methods section is the most crucial part of a systematic review article. The methodology followed should be explained clearly and logically. The following components should be discussed in detail:

  • Inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • Identification of studies
  • Study selection
  • Data extraction
  • Quality assessment
  • Data analysis

Results: The Results section should also be explained logically. You can begin by describing the search results, and then move on to the study range and characteristics, study quality, and finally discuss the effect of the intervention on the outcome.

Discussion: The Discussion should summarize the main findings from the review and then move on to discuss the limitations of the study and the reliability of the results. Finally, the strengths and weaknesses of the review should be discussed, and implications for current practice suggested.

References: The References section of a systematic review article usually contains an extensive number of references. You have to be very careful and ensure that you do not miss out on a single one. You can consider using reference management software to help you tackle the references effectively. 

Finding the Right Journal for Publication

Enter your manuscript's title and abstract and other requested information and these systems will identify journals that are best suited for publishing.  Each resource provides journal information and additional information such as impact factors, publishing model, time to publication, etc.

These tools search the journals of the individual publisher.  

Sources

 

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