There is increasing impetus to improve the quality of research and scientific writing. Systematic reviews provide Class 1 research evidence, are based upon an established rigor and communicate results in a comprehensive manner, and are therefore particularly relevant to clinicians and researchers. Clinician requirements for quality systematic reviews are twofold: to keep up to date with research and to make informed decisions including those required for diagnoses, disease or risk assessment, and treatment. Researchers rely upon quality systematic reviews to compete for diminishing research funds, prove efficacy for intervention trials, and to meet increasing demand for evidence based intervention. However, insufficient systematic reviews are undertaken, and the methodological rigor and quality are often variable. The aim of this article is to guide researchers through the iterative systematic review process in order to improve quality and thereby increase publication rates. The step by step guide provides a road map through the EQUATOR network and practical suggestions in order to meet the guidelines of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) (Moher et al. 2009) as well as encouraging high standards through the use of quality rating scales. Lastly, information is provided to encourage quantitative analysis to improve the synthesis of results and qualitative interpretation, such as calculating effect sizes or conducting a meta-analyses as the ultimate goal of a systematic review.
- Systematic review