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Systematic Reviews

Team Members

While a systematic review team should have at least two members, a well-rounded team will include the following members:

  1. Subject matter expert
  2. Systematic Review methodology expert
  3. Evidence search expert
  4. Quantitative methods expert

The WHSC Library Systematic Review Team can provide you with SR searching and methodology expertise.


Selecting the proper databases to search for the evidence is a key decision for the Systematic Review team. While health sciences databases such as PubMed (Medline) and Embase are essential to systematic review searching, subject-specific databases can provide you with relevant and timely evidence.

Subject-specific databases include ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature), PsycInfo, and Environment Complete.

The WHSC Library's Systematic Review Team can assist with database selection.

Search Limits

Consider what types and whether limits are necessary when writing your protocol.

  • Time Period (Ex. Last 5 years, 2000-2010)
  • Study Populations: Consider age ranges as well as special populations.
  • Humans only: Are there any studies that might feature both humans and animals?
  • Language: To avoid bias consider what languages your team members can read and review.
  • Study Methodology: Are you only interested in randomized controlled trials? Cohort studies? Based on the methodology what type of reporting guidelines will you use?

Project Timeline

A project timeline should be established within your protocol. Cochrane's estimated timeline for completing a systematic review is below.

Month Activity
1-2 Preparation of protocol
3-8 Searches for published and unpublished studies
2-3 Pilot test of eligibility criteria
3-8 Inclusion assessments
3 Pilot test of 'Risk of bias' assessment
3-10 Validity assessments
3 Pilot test of data collection
3-10 Data collection
3-10 Data entry
5-11 Follow up of missing information
8-1 Analysis
1-11 Preparation of review report
12- Keeping the review up-to-date



Higgins J.P.T., Green S. (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 [updated March 2011]. The Cochrane Collaboration, 2011. Available from

Institute of Medicine. 2011. Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Ensuring SR Rigor