Systematic literature review is defined as a peer-reviewed critical summary of a substantial body of literature relevant to the question of research, involving methodical location, verification and assessment of data. In conditions of extensive and steadily rising application of evidence-based research in medicine, systematic reviews are becoming indispensable to scientific approach and prove to be much more efficacious than traditional reviews. Systematic review enables clinicians to make a comprehensive and unbiased analysis of numerous individual expert reports, synthesize them systematically and apply conclusions in their own medical practice.
Making a systematic literature review requires much rigor and impartiality. It is advisable that the procedure should be guided by a peer-reviewed protocol. The first step is fundamental, and it lies in accurate definition of medical question involved. Setting the clear purpose helps outline the appropriate group of objects and setting of the research as well as define kinds of evidence needed. Then one proceeds to carefully studying the sources, the quantity of which should be enough to make unbiased conclusions. Nowadays, the search of relevant reports is alleviated greatly by numerous medical databases, but it is also possible to use unpublished sources if this information can be verified. In the next stage, the evidence is assessed in respect of eligibility and methodological quality: inappropriate data (e.g. reports with undesirable outcome, different setting or conditions of medication) is excluded. The included evidence then undergoes the process of evidence synthesis if the researcher deals with qualitative data. Otherwise, the quantitative pooling of data, called meta-analysis, is conducted. Even the most rigorous research still needs to be supervised by or discussed with other experts in terms of its reliability and applicability. If the data was thoroughly chosen, the researcher can now answer the posed question whether it concerns clinical effectiveness, feasibility of medication or other issues.
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