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Real world reviews: a beginner’s guide to undertaking systematic reviews of public health policy interventions

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Clare Bambra

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Abstract

Background: The systematic review is becoming an increasingly popular and established research method in public health. Obtaining systematic review skills are therefore becoming a common requirement for most public health researchers and practitioners. However, most researchers still remain apprehensive about conducting their first systematic review. This is often because an ‘ideal’ type of systematic review is promoted in the methods literature. Methods: This brief guide is intended to help dispel these concerns by providing an accessible overview of a ‘real’ approach to conducting systematic reviews. The guide draws upon an extensive practical experience of conducting various types of systematic reviews of complex social interventions. Results: The paper discusses what a systematic review is and how definitions vary. It describes the stages of a review in simple terms. It then draws on case study reviews to reflect on five key practical aspects of the conduct of the method, outlining debates and potential ways to make the method shorter and smarter—enhancing the speed of production of systematic reviews and reducing labour intensity while still maintaining high methodological standards. Conclusion: There are clear advantages in conducting the high quality pragmatic reviews that this guide has described: (1) time and labour resources are saved; (2) it enables reviewers to inform or respond to developments in policy and practice in a timelier manner; and (3) it encourages researchers to conduct systematic reviews before embarking on primary research. Well-conducted systematic reviews remain a valuable part of the public health methodological tool box.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Bambra C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health

Year: 2011

Volume: 65

Issue: 1

Pages: 14-19

Print publication date: 01/01/2011

Online publication date: 02/12/2010

ISSN (print): 0143-005X

ISSN (electronic): 1470-2738

Publisher: BMJ Group

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jech.2009.088740

DOI: 10.1136/jech.2009.088740


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