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Systematic Reviews and Evidence Synthesis

Course Type
Postgraduate, Module

Module outline

A systematic review is a review of literature that adopts explicit and standardised methods for the qualitative and quantitative synthesis of evidence to minimise potential biases and improve the trustworthiness of its findings. The methodology has been widely adopted, e.g. by the Cochrane Collaboration, for summarising best available evidence to support health care decision-making (including health technology assessment) and to guide future research. The main aims of the module are to provide you with an understanding of contemporaneous methods used in systematic reviewing and evidence synthesis and the rationale behind these methods, and to equip you with the fundamental skills required to carry out a systematic review relating to a range of health care related questions (for example, effectiveness, diagnostic accuracy and qualitative research questions).

This module covers the key methodological stages of undertaking a systematic review, namely how to:

  1. Formulate a structured review question
  2. search for most relevant and reliable literature
  3. Critically appraise and assess the risk of bias of different types of studies (e.g. randomised controlled trials, observational studies)
  4. Synthesise the identified evidence either qualitatively (narratively) or by meta-analysis
  5. Present the findings.

Through a combination of lectures, practical exercises and hands-on computer sessions, this module will take you through the journey of planning and conducting a systematic review.

Module outcomes

By the end of the module you will be able to:

  • Describe the key steps in undertaking a systematic review and evidence synthesis.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the rationale behind the steps and methods for undertaking a systematic review.
  • Formulate a clear research question and systematically search relevant repositories of evidence.
  • Understand the similarities and differences in the approaches to synthesising different types of evidence (e.g. clinical effectiveness, diagnostic test accuracy, qualitative evidence).
  • Critically appraise different types of evidence using suitable tools.
  • Use appropriate software to carry out meta-analysis and interpret the results.
  • Understand the importance and the process of developing a plan for carrying out a systematic review.


20 credits

Module attendance required

2 block weeks of teaching

Module dates 2022/23

  • Week 1: 21 to 25 November 2022
  • Week 2: 5 to 9 December 2022


  • An assignment based on skills taught during the module (50%)
  • Open book examination (50%)

Module coordinators

Dr David Moore and Ms Janine Dretzke

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