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Evidence Synthesis

Explore this guide of curated library and web resources for those working on systematic reviews and other evidence synthesis projects.

Preparing for a Review

When preparing for an evidence synthesis review project, it is important to:

  • Establish a research team of at least two people, or ideally three
  • Develop a shared understanding of the various types of reviews
  • Search for any existing reviews on your topic
  • Have an approximate timeline for the review
    • PredictER is a tool that can approximate the length of time you will need to conduct your review
  • Determine what tools you will use throughout the process
    • SR Toolbox is an online catalog of tools to help with various stages of evidence synthesis projects

Research Questions

Formulating a research question is key to an evidence synthesis project. It will be the foundation upon which the rest of the research is built. At this stage in the process, you will have identified a knowledge gap in your field, and you are aiming to answer a specific question. For example:

In ___________[population], what is the effect of ____________[intervention] on ______________[outcome]?

In college students, what is the effect of mindfulness practices on academic achievement?

How do(es) ___________ [intervention] influence ____________ [outcome] in ________________[population]?

How do social media image filters influence eating disorders in adolescent girls?  

What are the best practices for ____________[outcome] in _________________[population]?

What are the best practices for the social integration of English language learners in elementary school? 

Developing a research question takes time. You will likely go through different versions before settling on a final question. Once you've developed your research question, you will use it to create a search strategy.

Research question frameworks can help to break your question into parts so you can clearly see the elements of your topic. There are dozens of frameworks you can use to formulate your specific and answerable research question. Visit the University of Maryland's Systematic Review guide to view several frameworks that may be helpful.

Conducting Guidelines

These guidelines can be considered the "playbook" for researchers to use when conducting evidence synthesis projects. They offer guidance on establishing inclusion and exclusion criteria, best practices for screening studies, performing data extraction, and more.

Developing a Protocol

A protocol is a detailed explanation of your research project that should be written before you begin searching. It reduces the impact of review authors' biases, promotes transparency in methods and processes, and allows for peer review of the planned methods.

It will likely include your research question, objectives, and search methodology. The protocol will act as a map for you and your team, and will be helpful in the future if you or any other researchers want to replicate your search. Protocol registries and conventions will vary by discipline; your liaison librarian can help you identify relevant resources. 

To help with transparency and accountability of your review, you can share your protocol through an established registry like those below.