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Systematic Reviews

PICO or topic statement

Search using PICO: this is a template to formulate a clinical question

  • Patient, Population or ProblemPICO stands for Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome
    • What are the characteristics of the patient or population?
    • What is the condition or disease you are interested in?
  • Intervention or exposure
    • What do you want to do with this patient (e.g. treat, diagnose, observe)?
  • Comparison
    • What is the alternative to the intervention (e.g. placebo, different drug, surgery)?
  • Outcome
    • What are the relevant outcomes (e.g. morbidity, death, complications)?
  • T is sometimes included, but it can mean Time, Type of study, or Type of question

Protocol and Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria

Determine inclusion/exclusion criteria before searching.  What kind of studies will be included? What kind of studies will be excluded? Some examples are:

  • Date of publication (5 years, 10 years, unlimited)
  • Language of publication
  • Methodology, quantitative or qualitative or mixed method
    • Randomized controlled trials only
    • Other: cohort, case-control
    • Qualitative: Interviews, focus groups, ethnography
  • Age of subjects
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Socioeconomic level

Joanna Briggs Manual for Evidence Synthesis; Chapter 3.2.4 Inclusion Criteria

Cochrane Handbook for Systematic reviews of Interventions; Part 2,  Chapter 3  Defining the criteria for including studies

Protocol tools to help develop the steps:


PRISMA Outline

  • PRISMA Checklist 27-item checklist addressing the introduction, methods, results and discussion sections of a systematic review report.
  • The 2020 PRISMA Flow Diagram