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Nursing Resources

Systematic Reviews

What is a Systematic Review


Healthcare decision makers in search of reliable information comparing health interventions increasingly turn to systematic reviews for the best summary of the evidence.

Systematic reviews identify, select, assess, and synthesize the findings of similar but separate studies and can help clarify what is known and not known about the potential benefits and harms of drugs, devices, and other healthcare services.

Systematic reviews can be helpful for clinicians who want to integrate research findings into their daily practices, for patients to make well-informed choices about their own care, and for professional medical societies and other organizations that develop clinical practice guidelines.

Institute of Medicine.(March 2011) .Report Briefs: Finding what works in healthcare standards for systematic reviews. 

Types of Designs?


A way of combining data from many different research studies. A meta-analysis is a statistical process that combines the findings from individual studies.


Deriving consensus on the characteristics of advanced practice nursing: meta-summary of more than 2 decades of research. 
UI: 24589642



Systematic Review

A summary of the clinical literature. A systematic review is a critical assessment and evaluation of all research studies that address a particular clinical issue. The researchers use an organized method of locating, assembling, and evaluating a body of literature on a particular topic using a set of specific criteria. A systematic review typically includes a description of the findings of the collection of research studies. The systematic review may also include a quantitative pooling of data, called a meta-analysis.


A systematic review of the effectiveness of advanced practice nurses in long-term care. Donald F. Martin-Misener R. Carter N. Donald EE. Kaasalainen S. Wickson-Griffiths A. Lloyd M. Akhtar-Danesh N. DiCenso A. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 69(10):2148-61, 2013 Oct.[Journal Article. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't. Review] UI: 23527481



Randomized Controlled Trial

A controlled clinical trial that randomly (by chance) assigns participants to two or more groups. There are various methods to randomize study participants to their groups. 


Assessment of proprioceptive exercises in the treatment of rotator cuff disorders in nursing professionals: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Martins LV. Marziale MH.Revista Brasileira de Fisioterapia. 16(6):502-9, 2012 Nov-Dec.[Comparative Study. Journal Article. Randomized Controlled Trial] UI: 23117648



Cohort Study (Prospective Observational Study)

A clinical research study in which people who presently have a certain condition or receive a particular treatment are followed over time and compared with another group of people who are not affected by the condition.



Central venous catheter placement by advanced practice nurses demonstrates low procedural complication and infection rates--a report from 13 years of service*. Alexandrou E. Spencer TR. Frost SA. Mifflin N. Davidson PM. Hillman KM. Critical Care Medicine. 42(3):536-43, 2014 Mar. [Journal Article. Observational Study] UI: 24145843


Case-control Study

Case-control studies begin with the outcomes and do not follow people over time. Researchers choose people with a particular result (the cases) and interview the groups or check their records to ascertain what different experiences they had. They compare the odds of having an experience with the outcome to the odds of having an experience without the outcome. 


Nonuse of bicycle helmets and risk of fatal head injury: a proportional mortality, case-control study. Persaud N. Coleman E. Zwolakowski D. Lauwers B. Cass D. CMAJ Canadian Medical Association Journal. 184(17):E921-3, 2012 Nov 20. [Journal Article. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't] UI: 23071369



Cross-sectional study

The observation of a defined population at a single point in time or time interval. Exposure and outcome are determined simultaneously. 


Fasting might not be necessary before lipid screening: a nationally representative cross-sectional study. Steiner MJ. Skinner AC. Perrin EM. Pediatrics. 128(3):463-70, 2011 Sep.[Journal Article. Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural] UI: 21807697



Case Reports and Series

A report on a series of patients with an outcome of interest. No control group is involved.


A case study of pediatric pneumonia with empyema. Waldrep VB. Sloand E. Journal of Pediatric Nursing. 28(2):167-70, 2013 Apr.
[Case Reports. Journal Article] UI: 22771429



 Ideas, Editorials, Opinions

Put forth by experts in the field. 


Preparing for leadership. Newland J.Nurse Practitioner. 39(2):6, 2014 Feb 15.[Editorial] UI: 24407246



 Animal Research Studies

Studies conducted using animal subjects. 


Perfusion defatting at subnormothermic temperatures in steatotic rat livers. Liu Q. Berendsen T. Izamis ML. Uygun B. Yarmush ML. Uygun K. Transplantation Proceedings. 45(9):3209-13, 2013 Nov. [Journal Article. Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't] UI: 2418278



Test-tube Lab Research

"Test tube" experiments conducted in a controlled laboratory setting.

What are the Steps?

  1. Develop an answerable question 
  2. Check for recent systematic reviews  
  3. Agree on specific inclusion and exclusion criteria 
  4. Develop a system to organize data and notes
  5. Devise reproducible search methods 
  6. Launch and track exhaustive search 
  7. Organize search results 
  8. Reproduce search results 
  9. Abstract data into a standardized format
  10. Synthesize data using statistical methods (meta-analysis)  
  11. Write about what you found  

What are they used for?

Systematic reviews are used to assist group and individuals make decisions to improve peole's health. That includes

  • Recommendations and guidelines
  • Benefit design, coverage and policy decisions
  • Public Policy
  • Performance Measures
  • Research Agendas
  • Individual Patient are
  • Patient Decisions