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Systematic Reviews

This guide describes all steps involved in the conduct of a systematic review

1: The systematic review and PRISMA standard

When writing up findings, systematic reviews commonly include an Introduction, Method, Results and Discussion/Conclusion.

The following articles may help you structure and write a systematic review:

Page MJ, McKenzie JE, Bossuyt PM, Boutron I, Hoffmann TC, Mulrow CD, Shamseer L, Tetzlaff JM, Akl EA, Brennan SE, Chou R, Glanville J, Grimshaw JM, Hróbjartsson A, Lalu MM, Li T, Loder EW, Mayo-Wilson E, McDonald S, McGuinness LA, Stewart LA, Thomas J, Tricco AC, Welch VA, Whiting P, Moher D. The PRISMA 2020 statement: An updated guideline for reporting systematic reviews. PLoS Med. 2021 Mar 29;18(3):e1003583.  doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003583 .

Higgins JPT, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.3 (updated February 2022). Cochrane, 2022. Available from  doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003583

You will improve the quality of your systematic review by adhering to the PRISMA standard ( PRISMA Statement ). Using the PRISMA standard can reassure editors and reviewers that you have conscientiously carried out the review. PRISMA primarily focuses on the reporting of reviews evaluating the effects of interventions, but can also be used as a basis for reporting systematic reviews with objectives other than evaluating interventions (e.g. evaluating aetiology, prevalence, diagnosis or prognosis). Use The  EQUATOR Network , to seek guidelines which are specified for other evaluating interventions. The   EQUATOR Library provides an up-to-date collection of guidelines and policy documents related to health research reporting.

2: PRISMA flow diagram

PRISMA 2020 flow diagram template for systematic reviews (adapted from flow diagrams proposed by Boers131 and Mayo-Wilson et al.65 and Stovold et al.132). The boxes in grey should only be completed if applicable; otherwise they should be removed from the flow diagram. Note that a “report” could be a journal article, preprint, conference abstract, study register entry, clinical study report, dissertation, unpublished manuscript, government report or any other document providing relevant information.


The PRISMA flow diagram visualizes the study selection process. Read the following information in the PRISMA 2020  Explanation and Elaboration Document .

There is an online tool available to help you construct the PRISMA flow diagram here: PRISMA Flow Diagram ( 

3: Appendix

All data that was not addressed in the systematic review can be included in the Appendix section. Keep in mind, always check the submission criteria of your journal of interest. Depending on the journal, your entire search strategy (in sufficient detail to allow others to be able to reproduce the search) is reported in the appendix.

In your review's appendix, you include all data regarding your review that was not addressed in the main report. This includes your entire search strategy in sufficient detail to allow others to be able to reproduce the search. We recommend that you use your logbook as a template for this. At minimuim it must contain:

  • Provider (Web of Science)
  • Database and platform (eg. OVID/Embase, Web of Science Core Collection/Medline) )
  • Date of the search  
  • Search history, including the combination of Subject headings and keywords and whether terms were exploded, truncated, etc
  • Number of results retrieved 


Also, every checklist used for critical appraisal, and a checklist for guidelines like the PRISMA statement should be added here.