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Systematic Reviews: Step 1: Preparation

Subject Guide prepared by QUB Subject Librarians that will help you decide if a systematic review is right for your project, and guide you through the systematic review process
Preparing to undertake a systematic review

2 important things to consider before starting your systematic review are:

  1. What bibliographic databases will you search?
  2. Which reference management tool will you use?
Bibliographic databases 

These contain references and abstracts of articles and other resources, and are the best source of literature relevant to your subject area.

The Library at Queen’s provides access to multidisciplinary databases like Web of Science and SCOPUS, along with a range of subject-specific databases. Find relevant databases in the Subject Guide for your discipline.

Bibliographic databases have different interfaces and search syntax (i.e. search structure and language) rules, so it is a good idea to become familiar with them before embarking on your review.

Searching bibliographic databases for systematic reviews will be covered in more detail in Steps 2 and 3.

Reference management tools

These tools are especially useful if you are conducting a systematic review, as they enable you to store references, format citations automatically in Word documents, and produce reference lists in the style of your choice (e.gg APA, Harvard, Vancouver).

They also make it easier to identify duplicate references, which will be important when it comes to screening and collating records for your review.

The Library's Reference Management guide outlines the various tools available. However, the Library at Queen's only supports EndNote, which is widely used for systematic reviews, and will be covered in more detail in Step 4.

Books on systematic reviews

Understanding as much as possible about the entire systematic review process is crucial before you start your review.

The Library provides access to various books on conducting systematic reviews. Some of these focus on specific disciplines, but the same principles will apply to all systematic reviews, regardless of research area.

Below are some Library books on systematic reviews that you might want to look at. Others are available - search the catalogue on the Library website to find more titles.

E-books
Print books
Books on general literature search skills

If you've decided that you don't need to do a systematic review, but would still like to undertake a general but systematic literature search, then you might find the books below useful (more books are available - check the Library catalogue).

E-books
Print books