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Systematic Reviews: Introduction

Learn how to conduct a systematic review

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. The key characteristics of a systematic review are:

  • a clearly defined question with inclusion & exclusion criteria;
  • rigorous & systematic search of the literature;
  • critical appraisal of included studies;
  • data extraction and management;
  • analysis & interpretation of results;
  • and report for publication.


Tip: watch this video


This LibGuide is bases on the Libguide Systematic Reviews from the Vrije Universiteit medical library, Amsterdam

Assistance with literature searches


You can make an appointment with a medical information specialist for advise on developing a systematic search strategy.
We offer support on two levels: regular advice and collaboration.

Regular advice: you can contact us with questions about:

  • Search strategy for Systematic Reviews, Scoping reviews, Guidelines or PICO-CAT.
  • Biomedical databases, database syntax, translating a search strategy
  • Updating a search strategy, deduplication of results, reporting the methodology, search peer review
  • all other search and database related questions: we are happy to help!

What to expect: We can help with a first draft of the search strategy, or we will check your search strategies for errors, and we give suggestions for testing and further developing your search strategy. We can also refer you to relevant websites or articles. 
Be prepared that developing a search strategy requires research, time and efforts. It is advisable to invest time in this (it pays off!) and that you will end up with a robust, transparent and reproducible search strategy. 

You can ask one of our information specialists to join your systematic review team (as a co-author). In that case, we will take responsibility for developing the search strategy conform PRISMA or other recommendations, the translation of the search to other databases, for documentation (search-log), saving and deduplicating the database results and for the reporting of the search methodology in the manuscript, in cooperation with the other team members. 
If you are interested we are happy to email a detailed overview of the role and tasks of a (co-authoring) information specialist in a systematic review.

For questions, mail to: 

To see the appointment-calendar: go to Make an appointment 

How can the Central Medical Library help?

Research librarians can partner with you on systematic reviews.

Add us to your author team and we will design and manage complex, thorough searches in multiple databases. We will also provide you with:

  • advise on reference management (EndNote),

  • tables with detailed search strategies,

  • a narrative of the search methodology.


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Sjoukje van der Werf
+31 (0)50 361 6197/ 6200