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Michigan State University

Guidelines for Creating Systematic & Advanced Reviews


Systematic and advanced reviews are methodologies used to craft comprehensive literature reviews that often also involve quality assessment and additional synthesis measures. They are done in many fields including health sciences, education, and social sciences. This guide was originally created for a health sciences audience but includes information applicable to all disciplines because although the databases and grey literature searched differ between disciplines, the methodology of completing the reviews and gathering evidence is the same.

Basic Steps to Perform a Systematic Review

Conducting a Systematic Review

Systematic Reviews require a large investment of time and human labor to complete - often at least a year and a team of 3-6 people. The IOM and PRISMA guidelines list key components in detail (see "Guidelines & Best Practices", but, in sum, you should:

1. establish a team including experts in the needed clinical content area, review and searching methodologies, and content analysis. Consider using the IOM/HMD guidelines to focus your planning of the SR life cycle.

2. Manage bias with financial, professional, and other conflict of interest disclosures.

3. Formulate a topic including rationale for the need for a SR, develop a clinical question, and refine the rationale and question based on user input.

4. Create an SR protocol based on recognized standards like the PRISMA guidelines that include pertinent details such as your question, inclusion/exclusion criteria, analytical processes, and outcome measures.

5. Submit the protocol to an established SR registrar like PROSPERO (a multi-disciplinary registry including health sciences and social sciences).

6. Work with an expert in searching to create, refine, and perform the literature review in consultation with your team members - recognizing that this is an iterative process and often takes months to complete. The search is translated and documented for each database including the date searched to ensure maximum reproducibility.

7. Once the final search is run and results compiled you will need to perform blinded assessments of the articles for inclusion in the SR based on your pre-determined inclusion/exclusion criteria listed in the protocol. You will need to perform a statistical analysis of your assessments to reduce bias and ensure reviewer inter-reliability.

8. Include tables in your SR including the literature search flow diagram, list of included articles with rationale, and any other relevant analysis.

Attribution, Acknowledgement, Authorship

Since a systematic review is a large, challenging, and time consuming undertaking, the HSG librarians have outlined levels of attribution dependent on level of involvement from the librarian.

Librarian Involvement


Design search, execute search, compile citations, create search strategy appendix, write methods section


Design search, execute search, compile citations

Acknowledgement, but depending on comprehensiveness, co-authorship may be appropriate

Designing simple search strategy for researcher to augment themselves


Reviewing existing search strategy

Acknowledgement appreciated, but not required


Health Sciences Librarians

Michigan State University