Systematic reviews are conducted to answer specific research questions and use transparent and pre-determined scientific methods to identify, select, and synthesize findings from similar but separate studies.

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Banana Pattern


Systematic Reviews



  • Systematic reviews have a rigorous and clear process to identify, critically appraise, and distill information from individual studies to provide recommendations to inform future practice

  • Systematic reviews aim to answer a well-defined question, which helps readers identify if the content is applicable to their situation or context

  • Clear guidance exists for the conduct and reporting of systematic reviews, which facilitates the review process, decreases bias, and increases research transparency and reproducibility


  • Narrow focus of systematic reviews may not capture a comprehensive overview of a topic (narrative or scoping reviews may be better approaches)

  • Systematic reviews do not answer questions about how/why an intervention does or does not work (realist reviews may be a better approach)

  • Systematic reviews include primary studies and do not cover emerging topics published as commentaries or perspectives articles

  • Systematic review require a significant body of evidence about a topic in order to be conducted

  • Systematic reviews are a major undertaking that are resource and time intensive (i.e., 6 months to 2 years to conduct)


Supporting Documents to Download



Green Typewriter



Business Plan


Systematic Reviews

Navigating in Woods


Aromataris E, Munn Z, eds. JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis. JBI, 2020. Available from

Gordon M, Gibbs T. STORIES statement: publication standards for healthcare education evidence synthesis. BMC medicine. 2014 Dec 1;12(1):143.


Higgins JPT, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.1 Cochrane, 2020. Available from

Page MJ, Moher D, Bossuyt PM, et al. PRISMA 2020 explanation and elaboration: updated guidance and exemplars for reporting systematic reviews. BMJ. 2021 29;372.

Gordon M, Grafton-Clarke C, Hill E, Gurbutt D, Patricio M, Daniel M. Twelve tips for undertaking a focused systematic review in medical education. Med Teach. 2019;41(11):1232-1238.

Doctor's Desk


Bearman M, Dawson P. Qualitative synthesis and systematic review in health professions education. Med Educ. 2013;47(3):252-260.

Best Evidence in Medical Education Collaboration website:

Cook DA, West CP. Conducting systematic reviews in medical education: a stepwise approach. Med Educ. 2012;46(10):943-952.

Choi AR, Cheng DL, Greenberg PB. Twelve tips for medical students to conduct a systematic review. Med Teach. 2019;41(4):471-475.

Gordon M, Vaz Carneiro A, Patricio M, Gibbs T. Missed opportunities in health care education evidence synthesis. Med Educ. 2014;48(6):644-645.

Gordon M, Grafton-Clarke C, Hill E, Gurbutt D, Patricio M, Daniel M. Twelve tips for undertaking a focused systematic review in medical education. Med Teach. 2019;41(11):1232-1238. 

Maggio LA, Tannery NH, Kanter SL. Reproducibility of literature search reporting in medical education reviews. Acad Med. 2011;86(8):1049-1054.

Maggio LA, Thomas A, Chen HC, et al. Examining the readiness of best evidence in medical education guides for integration into educational practice: A meta-synthesis. Perspect Med Educ. 2018;7(5):292-301.

Sharma R, Gordon M, Dharamsi S, Gibbs T. Systematic reviews in medical education: a practical approach: AMEE guide 94. Med Teach. 2015;37(2):108-124.

Shea BJ, Reeves BC, Wells G, et al. AMSTAR 2: a critical appraisal tool for systematic reviews that include randomised or non-randomised studies of healthcare interventions, or both. BMJ. 2017;358:j4008.

Book of Laws


Birden H, Glass N, Wilson I, Harrison M, Usherwood T, Nass D. Teaching professionalism in medical education: a Best Evidence Medical Education (BEME) systematic review. BEME Guide No. 25. Med Teach. 2013;35(7):e1252-1266.

Blackmore C, Austin J, Lopushinsky SR, Donnon T. Effects of Postgraduate Medical Education "Boot Camps" on Clinical Skills, Knowledge, and Confidence: A Meta-Analysis. J Grad Med Educ. 2014;6(4):643-652.

Busireddy KR, Miller JA, Ellison K, Ren V, Qayyum R, Panda M. Efficacy of interventions to reduce resident physician burnout: a systematic review. J Grad Med Educ. 2017;9(3):294-301.

Johnson J, Panagioti M. Interventions to Improve the Breaking of Bad or Difficult News by Physicians, Medical Students, and Interns/Residents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Acad Med. 2018;93(9):1400-1412.

Maggio LA, Aakre CA, Del Fiol G, Shellum J, Cook DA. Impact of Clinicians' Use of Electronic Knowledge Resources on Clinical and Learning Outcomes: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Med Internet Res. 2019;21(7):e13315. 

Paterson QS, Thoma B, Milne WK, Lin M, Chan TM. A systematic review and qualitative analysis to determine quality indicators for health professions education blogs and podcasts. J Grad Med Educ. 2015;7(4):549-54.

Sadowski B, Cantrell S, Barelski A, O'Malley PG, Hartzell JD. Leadership training in graduate medical education: a systematic review. Journal of graduate medical education. J Grad Med Educ. 2018;10(2):134-48.

Skjevik EP, Boudreau JD, Ringberg U, Schei E, Stenfors T, Kvernenes M, Ofstad EH. Group mentorship for undergraduate medical students-a systematic review. Perspect Med Educ. 2020;9(5):272-280.  



Lauren Maggio, PhD, is a professor of medicine and health professions education at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU).  Dr. Maggio is also the Associate of Research at the USU Center for Health Professions Education. Her research examines the creation, dissemination, and utilization of research, with a focus on evidence based medicine, knowledge syntheses, and scholarly communication.



Anita Samuel, Ph.D., is Assistant Director of Distance Learning and Assistant Professor in the Center for Health Professions Education at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. She received her doctorate in Adult and Continuing Education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her expertise is online and adult learning and she teaches courses on distance learning, instructional technology, and organizational change.



Elizabeth Stellrecht, MLS, is an associate librarian in the University Libraries at the University at Buffalo where she is the Head of Health Sciences Library Services. Liz also serves as the liaison librarian to the School of Dental Medicine and assists faculty, staff, and students with their research needs. Her research explores the ways librarians collaborate with clinicians, faculty, and students in the evidence-based practice process.