Want To Shape The Academic Landscape With Your Own SLR?

Writing a Systematic Literature review (SLR) article in the medical field requires careful planning, thorough research, and adherence to specific guidelines. Here are some general guidelines to help you create a well-structured and informative review article:

1. Abstract

  • The abstract serves the purpose of succinctly conveying your actions and highlighting significant findings to potential readers.
  • Abstract should be a focused, precise, and concise representation of your work, enabling readers to grasp your actions and discoveries without delving into the entire manuscript. Emphasize key results while minimizing experimental details, ensuring clear presentation of the “what has been done” and the “main findings”.
  • A well-written abstract, free from jargon and uncommon abbreviations, that is interesting and easily comprehensible will capture the interest of reviewers and other readers.

2. Keywords

  • Major indexing services like Medline and Google Scholar primarily utilize the words in your manuscript’s title (excluding prepositions) to identify the subject matter in a search. For example: “treatment of acute Guillain-Barré syndrome”, additional key words beyond the title might include plasmapheresis, apheresis, and demyelinating polyneuropathies (AIDP).
  • It’s important to note that abbreviations should not be used as key words unless widely recognized in the relevant field.

3. Introduction

  • The introduction serves the crucial purpose of guiding the reader into the field of work, specifically addressing the problem or knowledge gap your research tackles.
  • It also offers an opportunity to engage the reader, providing enough information for an educated but non-specialized reader to comprehend and follow the logical flow of your article.
  • Importantly, it is not intended to be an exhaustive review of the entire field.
  • It is paramount to avoid creating an excessively long introduction that delves into extraneous information and cites too many unrelated references, as this can frustrate the reader and reviewer.
  • Ideally, a focused introduction will typically span up to three paragraphs on one page, addressing the state of the field, the knowledge gap your study aims to fill, and outlining the hypothesis and questions to be addressed.
  • The introduction should only review the field to the extent necessary to contextualize your study.

4. Define your Research Question or Objective

  • Clearly articulate the research question or objective of your literature review.
  • Be specific about the scope and purpose of your review.
  • well-reasoned protocol and a precisely formulated research question significantly enhance the efficiency of a review process by reducing the time and cost associated with identifying and obtaining relevant literature.
  • Having a clear protocol helps streamline the research process, ensuring that efforts are focused on obtaining the most pertinent information to address the research question.
  • This approach minimizes unnecessary diversions and ensures that the review remains targeted and purposeful.
  • Additionally, a well-formulated research question serves as a guiding beacon, directing the review towards specific objectives and allowing for a more systematic and effective exploration of the literature landscape.
  • Overall, an organized and thoughtful approach, starting with a well-structured protocol and a clearly defined research question, lays the foundation for a more efficient and successful literature review.

5. Selection Criteria

  • Use PICO/PICOS/SPIDER design as a framework to formulate eligibility criteria in SLR.
  • Define inclusion and exclusion criteria for selecting studies. This could include criteria such as publication date, study design, population, and intervention.
  • Apply the criteria consistently during the selection process.

P-Population I-Intervention C-Comparison O-Outcome P-Population I-Intervention C-Comparison O-Outcome S-Study design S-Sample P-Phenomenon of I-Interest D-Design E-Evaluation R-Research type

6. Conduct A Systematic Search

  • Develop a comprehensive search strategy to identify relevant literature.
  • Utilize databases, academic journals, books, and other sources.
  • Use keywords and controlled vocabulary specific to your topic.
  • Use the Boolean operators like “AND”, “OR”, “NOT”
  • Document your search strategy, including databases searched, keywords used, and any limitations.

6.1.  PubMed is a free online database that provides access to a vast collection of biomedical and life sciences literature. It is maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), which is a part of the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM). The database is widely used for literature reviews, staying updated on the latest research, and finding references for academic and clinical work. To access PubMed, you can visit the official website at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/. The search interface allows users to input keywords, author names, or specific terms to find relevant articles. PubMed provides abstracts and, in many cases, links to the full text of the articles.

6.2. Embase is another biomedical and pharmacological database, like PubMed, but it has a more focused coverage on drug and pharmaceutical literature. Embase is produced by Elsevier and is known for its extensive coverage of drug and pharmaceutical research, including information on drug development, clinical guidelines, and pharmacovigilance. Key features of Embase include indexing of a broader range of drug-related literature, including conference abstracts, drug and pharmaceutical patents, and more European and non-English language journals compared to PubMed. It is often used by researchers, healthcare professionals, and information specialists for comprehensive literature searches, especially in the fields of pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmaceutical medicine. Access to Embase may be available through institutional subscriptions, libraries, or other access points. Users can search Embase using specific terms, keywords, or other criteria to retrieve relevant articles and research papers related to drug and pharmaceutical topics.

6.3. Google Scholar is a freely accessible search engine that focuses on scholarly literature, including articles, theses, books, conference papers, and patents. Developed by Google, it provides a convenient way to search for academic information across various disciplines. Google Scholar indexes content from a wide range of sources, including academic publishers, universities, and professional organizations. It is freely accessible to the public, allowing anyone to search for and access scholarly articles without a subscription. Google Scholar provides citation counts for articles, allowing users to see how often a particular work has been cited. It also offers metrics such as the h-index for authors. Users can set up alerts to receive notifications when new articles matching specific keywords or topics are published. While Google Scholar is a valuable tool for quick searches and discovering academic literature, it’s essential to note that its coverage might not be as comprehensive or specialized as dedicated databases like PubMed or Embase in specific scientific or medical domains. Researchers often use a combination of tools, including Google Scholar and domain-specific databases, to conduct thorough literature reviews.

6.4. ClinicalTrials.gov  is a comprehensive and publicly accessible registry and database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies conducted around the world. It is maintained by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States. The purpose of ClinicalTrials.gov is to provide information about clinical trials to the public, healthcare professionals, and researchers. The database is searchable, allowing users to find information about specific clinical trials based on criteria such as condition, intervention, location, and sponsor. ClinicalTrials.gov provides lay-friendly summaries of trials to help potential participants and the general public understand the purpose and design of the studies. Researchers, healthcare professionals, and patients often use ClinicalTrials.gov to identify ongoing or completed clinical trials, gather information about study designs, and access results when available. The database plays a crucial role in promoting transparency and facilitating access to information about clinical research.

6.5. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) is a collection of high-quality, independent evidence to inform healthcare decision-making. It is part of the Cochrane Library, which is produced by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization dedicated to conducting and disseminating systematic reviews of healthcare interventions. Systematic reviews are comprehensive and structured assessments of existing evidence on a particular healthcare question or topic. They aim to synthesize all relevant studies to provide a robust and unbiased summary of the available evidence. The Cochrane Collaboration follows rigorous methodologies in conducting these reviews, which include systematic searching, critical appraisal of studies, and meta-analysis when appropriate. The CDSR includes Cochrane Reviews, which are systematic reviews prepared and maintained by collaborative review groups within the Cochrane Collaboration. These reviews cover a wide range of healthcare topics, including interventions, diagnostic tests, prevention strategies, and more. Access to the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews typically requires a subscription, but some organizations and institutions may have access, and there may be open access options for certain articles. The database is a valuable resource for healthcare professionals, researchers, policymakers, and anyone interested in evidence-based medicine.

6.6. Ovid is a platform that provides access to a variety of databases and resources, particularly in the fields of medicine, healthcare, and biomedical research. It offers a user-friendly interface for searching and retrieving information from its extensive collection of databases. Ovid is widely used by healthcare professionals, researchers, and students to access scholarly literature, journals, books, and other relevant resources. One notable database often accessed through Ovid is the MEDLINE database, which is a comprehensive source of biomedical and life sciences literature. MEDLINE includes citations from a wide range of medical and healthcare journals, covering topics such as clinical medicine, nursing, dentistry, public health, and more. Ovid also provides access to other databases, such as Embase (covering drug and pharmaceutical research), PsycINFO (focused on psychology and related fields), and various full-text journals and books. Users can access Ovid through institutional subscriptions or by utilizing access provided by libraries and educational institutions. It offers advanced search features, allowing users to refine their searches and access a wealth of information in their respective fields of interest.

7. Study Selection

  • Screen the identified articles based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria.
  • Use a systematic approach, such as Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines.
  • PRISMA maps out the number of records identified, included, and excluded, and the reasons for exclusions.
  • PRISMA flow diagram


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  • Insert PRISMA flow diagram and follow checklist; available at docx (live.com)

8. Data Extraction

  • Extract relevant information from each selected study. This may include study design, sample size, methodology, key findings, limitations, and other relevant details.
  • Organize the extracted data in a systematic manner, such as using tables or spreadsheets.
  • Once all exclusion criteria have been employed and the final selection of studies is determined, there are various effective methods for extracting study data.
  • The requirements for data extraction vary between reviews, and extraction forms should be customized to align with the specific review question.
  • The initial step in this process entails a descriptive evaluation of each study, including study details and data for analysis, typically presented in a tabular format.
  • This involves transferring data from each study onto a data extraction sheet, which can be in the form of an electronic spreadsheet such as Excel, Access, or COVIDENCE.
  • It is imperative to utilize a data extraction form, and authors can choose from different checklists available, such as those from the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM), the Cochrane Collaboration, and the Critical Appraisal Skills Program (CASP).
  • The extraction process must involve two independent reviewers, and any discrepancies in their assessments must be resolved.
  • Evaluate the quality of each included study. Consider factors such as study design, methodology, sample size, and potential bias.
  • Use critical appraisal tools if applicable to your field.

9. Data Synthesis

  • Summarize and synthesize the findings from the selected studies.
  • Identify patterns, themes, and commonalities across studies.
  • Consider using thematic analysis or other synthesis methods.
  • To derive valid and coherent conclusions, the extracted data necessitates a comprehensive summary.
  • The synthesis process entails gathering, merging, and condensing the findings from each individual study incorporated in the systematic review.
  • This synthesis can be conducted quantitatively using formal statistical methods like meta-analysis.
  • Alternatively, if a formal grouping of results is deemed unsuitable, a narrative approach can be employed.
  • In the synthesis, it is crucial to assess the strength of the evidence, examine the consistency of observed effects across studies, and explore potential reasons for any discrepancies.

10. Organize the Review

  • Structure your literature review logically. This may include organizing the literature chronologically, thematically, or by methodology.
  • Provide clear headings and subheadings for different sections.

11. Write the Review

  • Start with an introduction that outlines the purpose and scope of the review.
  • Organize the body of the review based on the chosen structure.
  • Summarize key findings from each study and highlight important trends or gaps in the literature.
  • Conclude by summarizing the overall state of knowledge on the topic and suggesting areas for future research.

12. Cite Sources

  • This section, often titled “References,” compiles a list of all the sources cited in the review article text, figures, or tables.
  • Use a consistent citation style throughout your review.
  • Proper citation style ensures uniformity and facilitates readers’ ability to locate and verify the sources.
  • The formatting of these references should adhere to APA style.

For Example
Journal Articles Gal, A., & Burchell, R. K. (2023). Diabetes Mellitus and the Kidneys. Veterinary     Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 53(3), 565-580.
Books Sapra, A., & Bhandari, P. (2023, June 21). Diabetes. In StatPearls. Retrieved from StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan. Medley, D. M. (1983). Teacher effectiveness. In H. E. Mitzel (Ed.), Encyclopedia of educational research (Vol. 4, pp. 1894-1903). New York: The Free Press.
Conferences/meetings Whipple, W. S. (1977, January). Changing attitude through behavior modification. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, New Orleans, LA. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED146500)
Annual Reports American Psychological Association. (2008). Electronic resources. Retrieved June 17, 2008 from http://www.apastyle.org/elecref.html.

  • Identifying the most important references is a somewhat subjective process, but many researchers use article-level metrics to pinpoint the key papers in a research area.
  • As you retrieve and read relevant references, list them in your outline under the appropriate subheading and make notes to keep track of key findings, strengths, weaknesses, controversies, and quotes that might be included in your review.
  • Although the reference list supporting an article is usually positioned at the very end, this section should never be considered an afterthought, and you should build your bibliography as you work.
  • There are many reference management tools available to assist in organizing references, ranging from freely available tools such as Zotero to commercial software such as Endnote. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_reference_management_software)

What if you disagree with reviewer’s comments?

Here are some steps to navigate disagreements:

Stay Calm and Objective:

  • Authors may feel defensive, but remaining calm and objective is crucial.
  • Avoid taking comments personally; remember that the goal is to improve the manuscript.

Analyze the Feedback:

  • Carefully review the reviewer’s comments.
  • Consider whether the feedback is valid and whether it aligns with the manuscript’s goals.

Seek Clarification:

  • If a comment is unclear or seems contradictory, seek clarification from the reviewer.
  • Politely ask for specific examples or further explanation.

Provide a Thoughtful Response:

  • Address each comment individually.
  • Acknowledge valid points and explain any areas of disagreement.
  • Provide evidence or rationale for your perspective.

Propose Revisions:

  • Suggest revisions that address both the reviewer’s concerns and your own perspective.
  • Be open to compromise and find common ground.

Use the Cover Letter:

  • In your response to the editor, use the cover letter to explain your revisions.
  • Highlight changes made based on reviewer feedback and provide context for any disagreements.

Remember the Purpose of Peer Review:

  • Peer review aims to improve the quality of the manuscript.
  • Even if you disagree, consider whether the suggested changes enhance the work.

Be Professional and Grateful:

  • Maintain a professional tone in all communications.
  • Express gratitude to the reviewer for their time and insights.

Remember that respectful dialogue between authors and reviewers contributes to the scholarly process. Ultimately, the goal is to enhance the manuscript and contribute to scientific knowledge.