Definition #1: It is a review of the evidence on a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select and critically appraise relevant primary research studies, and to extract and analyze data from the studies included in the review. If a meta-analysis follows, the systematic review provides the data needed for the meta-analysis.
Definition #2: It is a rigorous review of the literature in which your goal is to find all studies conducted on a given research topic.
Systematic reviews done with or without meta-analyses aim to identify, evaluate and summarize the findings of relevant individual studies on a health-related issue, making the available evidence more accessible to decision-makers, including clinicians, administrators and healthcare policy makers.
Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are conducted primarily in the clinical sciences, psychology and public health but are becoming used more often in the biological, physical and other social sciences.
It is the use of statistical techniques to combine the results of quantitative research studies addressing the same question into a summary measure. If a meta-analysis is done, a systematic review has to precede it.
For clinicians, it can be used to determine the most effective course of treatment.
Systematic reviews with or without a meta-analysis are considered the best source of clinical evidence (See Sackett’s Levels of Evidence pyramid below.) The Cochrane Library is the best database source for systematic reviews/meta-analyses on healthcare topics.
For researchers, it can be used to plan new studies, justify these studies (for example, in grant applications), put these studies in context (for example, in the introductory section of a manuscript) and get publications.
Dr. Gordon Warren
Dr. Gordon Warren’s primary role in the SRMA Initiative is to provide the technical expertise necessary to carry out a rigorous, high-quality systematic review and meta-analysis (SRMA). He also provides and oversees SRMA-trained graduate research assistants who are available to assist college faculty in carrying out their SRMAs. If desired, he is available to provide guidance in the preparation of the product resulting from a SRMA project (for example, a manuscript or poster).
The expectations for the faculty is that they have:
1) a quality research question answerable from the literature
2) content expertise in the question’s field
3) a willingness to work hard with the SRMA Initiative team
Dr. Gordon’s research over the last 30 years has been focused primarily on skeletal muscle physiology and the various injury- and exercise-related factors affecting strength. These studies have been carried out using models ranging from the single muscle cell all the way up to human and animal models. In 2006, he received his initial training in SRMA techniques from the Cochrane Collaboration, the parent organization for the Cochrane Library. This has been followed up with training in more advanced SRMA techniques, including network meta-analysis from a course taken at the University of Bristol in England. Dr. Gordon has passed on this knowledge by conducting workshops and seminars on SRMAs throughout the university. His SRMA publications are listed here.