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Systematic Reviews: Standards and Guidelines

Why follow a standard?

Systematic reviews are vital to evidence based practice, so it's important that they be conducted well to ensure their results are as accurate as possible. Many organizations and international collaborations have developed standards and guidelines to help researchers produce the best systematic reviews possible. 

Recommended Standards

Finding What Works in Health Care (National Academy of Medicine)

Standards for systematic reviews of effectiveness of therapeutic and surgical interventions.  Covers the entire systematic review process (searching, screening, selecting studies, synthesizing the findings (including meta-analysis), assessing the overall quality of the body of evidence, and reporting the results.


PRISMA Guidelines

PRISMA 2020 Checklist and Flow Diagram 

The PRISMA checklist and diagram were updated in March 2021. The checklist contains 27 items to include in your published systematic review. The flow diagram depicts the flow of information through the different phases of the systematic review process.  Many journals now require PRISMA. 

Recommended Helpguides



AHRQ Methods Guide for Effectiveness and Comparative Effectiveness Reviews

(US DHHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)

Guidelines on conducting systematic reviews or effectiveness, comparative effectiveness, comparative harms, medical tests. Most of the chapters were published as articles in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology

Systematic Reviews: CRD's guidance for undertaking reviews in Health Care

(Centre for Reviews and Dissemination)

Manual on entire process with additional sections on reviews of clinical tests, public health interventions, adverse effects, economic evaluations, and using qualitative research in or alongside effectiveness reviews.

JBI Method for Systematic Review Research Quick Reference Guide

(Joanna Briggs Institute)

Manual for authors of JBI systematic reviews.  Includes specific guidance on systematic reviews of qualitative evidence, effectiveness, prevalence and incidence, economic evidence, etiology and risk, mixed methods, diagnostic test accuracy, umbrella and scoping reviews

Campbell Collaboration: guidelines and other information for systematic reviews of social interventions

EPPI-Centre: guidelines and other tools for systematic reviews in education, health, social care, developing economies, and more


Cochrane Guidelines

Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions
The manual for authors of Cochrane systematic reviews. It provides detailed information on planning a review, searching, selecting studies, data collection, risk of bias assessment, statistical analysis, GRADE and interpreting results, as well as more specialized topics (non-randomized studies, adverse effects, economics, patient-reported outcomes, individual patient data, prospective meta-analysis, qualitative research, reviews in public health and overviews of reviews. 


Methodological Expectations of Cochrane Intervention Reviews (MECIR)

Describes Cochrane's standards for conducting Cochrane systematic reviews of interventions.