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Evidence-Based Practice Research in Nursing

Information and resources for research in Evidence-Based Practice

Systematic Reviews and Meta Analyses

When searching for evidence-based information, one should select the highest level of evidence possible. Systematic reviews and meta analyses are considered to be the gold standard for healthcare decision-making as they are known to include the best available evidence to answer health research questions. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses, have all gone through an evaluation process: they have been "filtered." Information that has not been critically appraised is considered "unfiltered." When searching for evidence-based practice articles in the AU Libraries' databases, you will be able to select articles that focus on the specific type of EBP study design (such as a systematic review) that you need for your research.

Systematic Reviews focus on a specific clinical question. A systematic review attempts to collate empirical evidence that fits prespecified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question. An extensive literature search is undertaken to identify all studies utilizing sound methodology on the topic of interest. The studies are reviewed, assessed, and the results are summarized according to the predetermined criteria of the review question. Systematic reviews are more exhaustive than literature reviews as they include both published and unpublished literature (also known as "grey literature."), and they attempt to eliminate bias. 

A Young Researcher's Guide to a Systematic Review

Morton, S.C. (2013). Introduction to systematic review and meta-analysis: A health care perspective [PowerPoint slides]. Department of  Biostatistics. University of Pittsburgh.

A short video explaining systematic reviews from The Cochrane Library:


Meta Analysis  is a specialized subset of systematic reviews. Meta-analysis is the use of statistical techniques in a systematic review to integrate the results of included studies to conduct statistical inference. Not all systematic reviews include meta-analysis, but all meta-analyses are found in systematic reviews. A systematic review refers to the entire process of selecting, evaluating, and synthesizing all available evidence, while the term meta-analysis refers to the statistical approach to combining the data derived from a systematic-review. Conclusions produced by meta-analysis are statistically stronger than the analysis of any single study, due to increased numbers of subjects, greater diversity among subjects, or accumulated effects and results.

Source: North Central University Library