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What is a systematic review?

A systematic review is a type of research study that asks a clearly defined question and conducts a thorough analysis of existing relevant literature to determine if a significant conclusion can be made. 

When would you use a systematic review?

A systematic review is often used to create a comprehensive understanding of all of the primary evidence that currently exists in order to establish a conclusion that answers a specific research question. Systematic reviews are often used when conflicting evidence exists. 

What are the advantages of a systematic literature review?

Systematic literature reviews are a research method which allows a large amount of data to be accumulated and compared so that a more thorough conclusion can be made. It also allows the reader to assess the methods that were used across studies, summarize evidence, and stay-up-to date.

What are the disadvantages of a systematic literature review?

Systematic literature reviews are often very time-consuming due to the large amount of primary studies that need to be evaluated in order to appropriately draw conclusions. This typically also requires a good amount of resources. Since a systematic review relies on other primary studies in order to answer the question they can be limited by the quality and quantity of the available studies. Another potential pitfall is that conclusions may be over-simplified which can lead to important information being left out as well as make it difficult to apply the findings to real-life settings or situations. 

Learn more about Systematic Review:

Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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