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Systematic Review

Systematic Review Guidelines and Rubrics

By the end of the semester, you will produce a systematic review of a biological research topic of your choice. Though the final draft is not due until the last week, you will be working on this project incrementally throughout the semester.

What is a systematic review?

A systematic review is a rigorous evaluation of the existing scientific literature that addresses a clear research question. An extensive search of the primary literature is performed in order to locate and assess research evidence relevant to the research question using a pre-specified protocol. This makes systematic reviews more comprehensive than a literature review.

What are the steps to produce a systematic review?

Through a combination of instructor-led lessons and assignment submissions, students will work through the following steps in order to complete the systematic review process (adapted from Pullin, A., & Gavin B. Stewart. (2006). Guidelines for Systematic Review in Conservation and Environmental Management. Conservation Biology, 20(6), 1647-1656.):

Stage 1: Planning the review

TOPIC: Utilization of CRISPR CAS9 in cancer genes

1.) Question formulation

  • During the early weeks of the semester, you will choose a paper topic and begin to explore the scientific literature relevant to your topic. From there, a reviewable research question can be articulated.
  • A reviewable question is commonly some version of “Does intervention x produce outcome yon subject z?”
  • Example A: Does regular coffee consumption decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease in humans?
  • Example B: Does mercury pollution impact the survivorship of freshwater fish populations?

2.) Developing a review protocol

  • A review protocol is a document developed beforehand that will guide the review process. It should include enough detail to the methodology that someone else could repeat the same review process; the repeatability of search methods is a key characteristic of systematic reviews.
  • The protocol starts by outlining the rationale and objectives of the review.
  • From there, it should detail the methods that will be used including
  • Eligibility criteria – how will you decide which studies to include or exclude?
  • Search strategy – which databases will you use to search for studies? How will you go about your search?
  • Data management – how will your data be organized as it’s collected? Which variables will you be tracking?
  • Data synthesis – how will your collected data be synthesized qualitatively? How will it be synthesized quantitatively?

Assignment Rubrics


Protocol ComponentDescriptionPossible Points
TitleThe title identifies the report as a protocol of a systematic review & clearly indicates the research topic1
Rationale & ObjectivesOutlines the utility of this review. Provides an explicit statement of the question(s) the review will address.3
Eligibility Criteria:Specify the study characteristics (such as PICO, study design, setting, time frame) and report characteristics (such as years considered, language, publication status) to be used as criteria for eligibility for the review8
Search Strategy:Describe the steps to take to search for appropriate articles including databases, search limits, keywords, and study selection.5
Data Management:Describe how the data collected will be extracted and organized in a spreadsheet and/or any other management tools. List and define all variables for which data will be sought.5
Data Synthesis:Outline the steps that will be taken to compare, synthesize, and analyze data8



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Last Updated on January 25, 2022

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