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Systematic Reviews for Social Sciences & Education

Evidence Synthesis Overview

This guide primarily focuses on evidence synthesis resources for Social Science and Education. Evidence synthesis refers to the research process of identifying, selecting, and combining results from multiple studies and other sources to inform debates, decisions and policy on specific issues. 

Evidence synthesis includes a range of review types: 

  • Systematic Review aims to be comprehensive, adhere to transparent procedures, and provide evidence synthesis that may be used in health interventions or policy decisions.
  • Meta-Analysis uses statistical procedures to synthesize quantitative results from multiple studies. 
  • Rapid Review  applies systematic review methods but sets a time limit for locating and appraising sources for a shorten timeframe.
  • Scoping Review  explores research questions to map key concepts, evidence, and gaps in the literature.
  • Umbrella Review  compiles evidence from multiple reviews based on a broad problem for which there are competing interventions.

Systematic Reviews

What is a systematic review? 

Systematic reviews seek to be comprehensive by identifying, appraising, and synthesizing relevant research and other sources and adhering to protocols and transparent processes for conducting and reporting reviews. Organizations such as, Cochrane and Campbell Collaborative each provide guidance for conducting evidence synthesis research and publish reviews.

"A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing more reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made (Antman 1992, Oxman 1993). Cochrane Handbook

"Systematic reviews use transparent procedures to find, evaluate and synthesize the results of relevant research. Procedures are explicitly defined in advance, to ensure that the exercise is transparent and can be replicated. This practice is also designed to minimize bias. They answer pre-defined research questions, attempt to be comprehensive, screen published and unpublished sources, follow clear inclusion and exclusion criteria, provide explicit search strategies, and synthesize the best available sources" Campbell Collaboration