Toward a comprehensive evidence map of overview of systematic review methods: Paper 1-purpose, eligibility, search and data extraction

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Background: Overviews of systematic reviews attempt to systematically retrieve and summarise the results of multiple systematic reviews. Methods for conducting, interpreting and reporting overviews are in their infancy. To date, there has been no evidence map of the methods used in overviews, thus making it difficult to determine the gaps and priorities for methods research. Our objectives were to develop and populate a comprehensive framework of methods for conducting, interpreting and reporting overviews (stage I) and to create an evidence map by mapping studies that have evaluated overview methods to the framework (stage II). Methods: We searched methods collections (e.g. Cochrane Methodology Register, Meth4ReSyn library, AHRQ Effective Health Care Program) to identify eligible studies for both stages of this research. In stage I, cross-sectional studies, guidance documents and commentaries that described methods proposed for, or used in, overviews were used to develop and populate the framework of methods. Drafts and multiple iterations of the framework were discussed and refined by all authors. In stage II, we identified and described studies evaluating overview methods and mapped these evaluations to the framework. Results: In this paper, we present results for the four initial steps of conducting an overview: (a) specification of the purpose, objectives and scope, (b) specification of the eligibility criteria, (c) search methods and (d) data extraction. Twenty-nine studies mentioned or described methods relevant to one or more of these steps. In the developed framework, identified methods and approaches were grouped according to the steps an overview author would need to undertake. Fifteen studies evaluated identified methods, all of which mapped to the search methods step. These studies either reported the development and evaluation of a new search filter to retrieve systematic reviews or compared the performance of multiple filters. Conclusion: Gaps in the evaluation of methods were found for the majority of steps in the framework. More empirical studies are needed to evaluate the methods outlined and provide a comprehensive evidence map. The framework is useful for planning these evaluations and for planning methods required to deal with challenges that arise when conducting an overview.

Original languageEnglish
Article number231
Number of pages27
JournalSystematic Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2017


  • Evaluation of methods
  • Evidence mapping
  • Evidence synthesis
  • Meta-review
  • Overview
  • Overview methods
  • Overviews of systematic reviews
  • Review of reviews
  • Systematic review methods
  • Umbrella review

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