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Systematic Reviews: Glossary of terms

Overview of systematic review methodology and key strategies for searching and reporting to the Cochrane Collaboration's Gold Standard

Heading: Glossary of terms

Frequently used systematic review terms

These are some of the commonly used terms associated with systematic reviews.

Note: This is not intended to be a comprehensive list.




 An online tool which helps reviewers undertake the screening process.

Critical appraisal

 (Also 'quality assessment') A process by which methodological quality and risk of bias is assessed in individual studies.

Data extraction

 Pulling out the useful data from individual studies.

Evidence-based practice

(Also 'EBP') "The conscientious use of current best evidence in making decisions about patient care" (Sackett, Straus, Richardson, Rosenberg, & Haynes, 2000). Systematic and scoping reviews are two publication types that adhere to EBP principles.

Grey literature

 Non published, or ephemerally released evidence, e.g. Government policy document / report


(Also 'forest plot')  A form of data synthesis that typically appears as data table accompanying an SR. Shows the degree of effect of each included study, as well as an ‘overall average’.


 The typical framework for breaking down a systematic review question. Stands for population, intervention, comparison, outcome. Can include timeline where relevant.


 Preferred reporting guidelines for systematic reviews and meta-analysis (There is a also "PRISMA-P" for Protocol guidelines).


 An online registry for SR Protocols.


 The ‘recipe’ for how the review will be undertaken. Often published.

Scoping review

Like a systematic review, but a quality assessment is typically not done. (Note: not the same as "scoping out the literature")


 A two part process where articles are assessed for their suitability for inclusion in the review.

Systematic review 

(Also 'SR') 'A review that uses explicit, systematic methods to collate and synthesise findings of studies that address a clearly formulated question.' -- PRISMA statement