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Systematic Reviews


A number of organizations have developed guidelines for systematic reviews and meta-analyses to improve their rigor, consistency, and transparency. The original guidelines were for medical systematic reviews, but now they are also available for social science reviews.

Many journals require or recommend the use of standards and protocols. Be sure to check the requirements of your target journal before starting a systematic review. And whether required or not, using these guidelines will help you organize a systematic review and produce a higher quality study.


PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses)

PRISMA is a list of minimum requirements for reporting a review and/or analysis. See the Key Documents to get started, especially the PRISMA 2020 checklist and flow diagram. Some journals require authors to submit both documents with their manuscripts. PRISMA was developed by an international group in 2009 for medical systematic reviews, but is now also used in the social sciences.

Campbell Collaboration

The Campbell Collaboration

The Campbell Collaboration is an international organization that "promotes positive social and economic change through the production and use of systematic reviews and other evidence synthesis for evidence-based policy and practice" (Campbell's Vision, Mission, and Key Principles). The organization publishes the open access journal, Campbell Systematic Reviews. The journal requires authors to register their study in advance and use a number of standards and checklists, which are also helpful for anyone doing a systematic review in the social sciences.


Cochrane, originally the Cochrane Collaboration, is "an independent, diverse, global organization that collaborates to produce trusted synthesized evidence, make it accessible to all, and advocate for its use" (About Us, Cochrane). The organization focuses on systematic reviews in the health sciences and publishes the Chocrane Library, which includes the journal, Cochrane Reviews. Authors must register their studies with Cochrane Reviews in advance and follow their standards for conducting systematic reviews. Whether you're publishing with Cochrane or not, these standards are helpful for producing a high quality review in the health sciences.

Research Question Frameworks

The frameworks are strategies for designing specific research questions that focus your review and help with literature searching. There are a several, both for health and social sciences.

PICO (Patient/Problem, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome)

PICO is a commonly used strategy to design a focused clinical research question and guide literature searching in a systematic review. The strategy can also be used for reviews in the social sciences.

PCC (Population or participants/Concept/Context)

PCC is a framework used to design research questions and guide search strategies in social science reviews. It is used mainly for scoping reviews that investigate models, concepts and other non-intervention topics.

Frameworks for Reviews of Qualitative Studies

PEO, SPICE, and other frameworks are useful for qualitative research topics.

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This work is a derivative of "Systematic Reviews", created by [author name if apparent] and © University of North Texas, used under CC BY-NC 4.0 International.

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