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An overview of methodological approaches in systematic reviews

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Aim: The aim of this overview is to identify and collate evidence from existing published systematic review (SR) articles evaluating various methodological approaches used at each stage of an SR. Methods: The search was conducted in five electronic databases from inception to November 2020 and updated in February 2022: MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science Core Collection, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and APA PsycINFO. Title and abstract screening were performed in two stages by one reviewer, supported by a second reviewer. Full-text screening, data extraction, and quality appraisal were performed by two reviewers independently. The quality of the included SRs was assessed using the AMSTAR 2 checklist. Results: The search retrieved 41,556 unique citations, of which 9 SRs were deemed eligible for inclusion in final synthesis. Included SRs evaluated 24 unique methodological approaches used for defining the review scope and eligibility, literature search, screening, data extraction, and quality appraisal in the SR process. Limited evidence supports the following (a) searching multiple resources (electronic databases, handsearching, and reference lists) to identify relevant literature; (b) excluding non-English, gray, and unpublished literature, and (c) use of text-mining approaches during title and abstract screening. Conclusion: The overview identified limited SR-level evidence on various methodological approaches currently employed during five of the seven fundamental steps in the SR process, as well as some methodological modifications currently used in expedited SRs. Overall, findings of this overview highlight the dearth of published SRs focused on SR methodologies and this warrants future work in this area.

Funding

The first author is supported by a La Trobe University Full Fee Research Scholarship and a Graduate Research Scholarship.

History

Publication Date

01/03/2022

Journal

Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine

Volume

15

Issue

1

Pagination

(p. 39-54)

Publisher

Wiley

ISSN

1756-5383

Rights Statement

© 2022 Chinese Cochrane Center, West China Hospital of Sichuan University and John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.