Systematic review

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A systematic review, also English review systematic or simply Review, is a scientific work in the form of a literature review that tries on a particular subject by suitable methods to gather all available knowledge to summarize and evaluate critical. The specialist literature that has already been published forms the basis of every review.

Reviews can be supplemented by a meta-analysis , especially in the case of quantitative information . Reviews have a variety of intentions, including:

  • The reader is to be given an up-to-date overview of a specific scientific topic. Reviews appear more frequently than specialist books on the same topic, and the effort required to create the overview article is less. After all, some topics are so specialized that publishing a book would not be worthwhile.
  • The review format makes it possible to put smaller, little noticed and little meaningful studies into context. This is particularly common in medicine, where there are often only individual case reports on rare diseases and complications , which are then summarized and critically assessed every few years in the light of more recent findings.
  • Furthermore, review articles also serve to describe gaps in knowledge or deficiencies in the previous databases. In the same breath, new research approaches are also proposed.

Systematic reviews have the highest evidential value of all scientific papers, as the authors have no personal reference to the original articles ( conflict of interest ). In addition, the purpose of a review is precisely to critically assess older specialist work.


Technical progress made it much easier to create systematic reviews. This is mainly due to the databases in which published scientific papers are registered and can be found using search terms. In the past, various catalogs had to be checked by hand:

A clear definition of the topic and the creation of relevance criteria for the specialist articles are essential for review articles. This results in a selection of the databases and catalogs to be used ( Web of Science , Embase , Google Scholar , Scopus , PubMed ,  ...) and, if necessary, a comprehensible restriction to certain years (e.g. "Literature from the last 20 years"). It has to be clarified to what extent so-called gray literature ( diploma theses , other unpublished works at university level) should be included.

The search results need to be filtered as not all studies are relevant to the chosen topic. A multi-stage procedure is common:

  1. Reading through the titles of all articles
  2. if found relevant in step 1: read the abstract
  3. if found relevant in step 2: read through the entire paper
  4. Extraction of the relevant information and data

If a work has finally been rated as relevant, its bibliography can be searched for further relevant literature (so-called snowball technique). Depending on the question, the literature identified as relevant can finally be weighted according to qualitative criteria in order to rule out methodologically inadequate studies. In the health sector, for example, this is done according to the guidelines of the GRADE Working Group .

In addition, the publication bias must be determined, since not all research papers are published, while the review article is intended to give a complete picture of all research papers.

Review articles according to scientific areas (selection)

One highlight here is Annual Reviews , a publisher that publishes annual reviews for more than 30 subject areas.


Examples of journals that publish abstracts on larger areas of work are Accounts of Chemical Research , Angewandte Chemie , Chemical Reviews , Chemical Society Reviews , Synlett , Synthesis , Tetrahedron and Uspechi Chimii / Russian Chemical Reviews . In some of these journals, original works appear at the same time.


In evidence-based medicine , systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are ascribed the highest weight of evidence for demonstrating therapeutic efficacy . The largest publisher of systematic reviews in medicine is the Cochrane Collaboration .


In physics, there are a variety of journals for the publication of review articles. Reviews of Modern Physics is one of the oldest and most respected journals.

Economics and Social Sciences

Systematic literature analyzes only found widespread use in economics and social sciences late. Durach et al. have presented methodological steps that can be helpful in carrying out a systematic literature analysis in these sciences.


Individual evidence

  2. Heinz GO Becker and others: Organikum . 23rd edition. Wiley-VCH Verlag, 2009, ISBN 978-3-527-32292-3 , p. 132.
  3. Durach, CF, Kembro, J. & Wieland, A. (2017). A New Paradigm for Systematic Literature Reviews in Supply Chain Management . Journal of Supply Chain Management, 53 (4), doi : 10.1111 / jscm.12145