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Guidelines & Resources

These organizations provide rich resources and training for researchers interested in conducting a systematic review. 

There are a series of iterative steps involved in a systematic review. The process includes project planning, identifying & evaluating (search evidence), collecting, appraising, combining (data or findings), and synthesizing and explaining (results).  This process could also be divided into small steps as listed below.  The process needs to clearly documented and reported in the final research report to ensure transparency.

  • Define the research question
  • Develop a search protocol
  • Run searches
  • Retrieve and de-duplicate references
  • Screen studies against inclusion/exclusion criteria
  • Extract data and assess studies for risk of bias
  • Clean and manage data
  • Conduct qualitative synthesis
  • Conduct meta-analysis if appropriate
  • Write a report 
  • (Update systematic review)

Researchers in different disciplines have developed frameworks to help to break a review question down into sub-questions. These frameworks are helpful in terms of guiding you to clearly and specifically state the question. Among existing frameworks, PICO (Patient, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome) is most commonly known, but there are others you could consider according to your study's purpose and topic. The information provided in this table is from the second chapter of Assembling the Pieces of Systematic Review: A Guide for Librarians, edited by Margaret J. Foster, and Sarah T. Jewell. 

Framework Stands for Subject/Disciplines
PICO Patient, Intervention, Comparator, Outcome Clinical Medicine
CHIP Context, How, Issues, Population Psychology, Qualitative Studies
PICOT Population, Intervention, Comparator, Outcome, Time frame  Health Sciences, Social Sciences
SPIDER Sample, Phenomenon of Interest, Design, Evaluation, Research Type Social Sciences, Education, Qualitative Studies
PICOC Patient, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, Context Social Sciences


Registering protocols helps to ensure a level of transparency and accountability for research, and avoid repetition among studies. You could go to these sites to register your own study protocols and run searches if there are similar studies are being conducted.