Any complex project flows more smoothly with forethought and careful planning. Researcher experiences indicate that the following are worth serious consideration before beginning:
1. Study team
a. Number:: Minimum of 2 reviewers of abstracts and full-text. Ideal: Input from a 3rd achieving consensus.
a. Overall - A full systematic review will probably take about 18 months from conception to submission for publication.
b. Individual time commitments:
1) Depend upon the number of studies being reviewed and the tasks.
a) 1st round of reviews (titles and abstracts) UF libraries experience estimates 2-15 hours
b) 2nd round of reviews (full-text) - possibly twice the above estimate
2) Depend on the experience of the reviewers: Horton et al* found that median data extraction time varied from 171 minutes per selected article for experienced data extractors to 246.
* Horton J, Vandermeer B, Hartling L, Tjosvold L, Klassen TP, Buscemi N. Systematic review data extraction: cross-sectional study showed experience did not increase accuracy. J Clin Epi 63 (2010): 289-298.
3) Most of the projects with which UF HSCL librarians have been involved have stalled when study team reviewers faced the time-consuming processes of reviewing or extracting data.
A written protocol lays out the methods, facilitating writing up that section when the team begins to draft for publication and clarifying to the entire team what the project will entail. In the event new team members are recruited, the written protocol can bring them up to speed quickly. The protocol should address the following issues:
Registering your protocol for a systematic review on PROSPERO , an international registry of proposed systematic reviews, provides documented proof of your intent to write on the research question. This may discourage others from embarking on the same project and possibly getting it published before yours.
Look closely at the sections of the PRISMA flow chart to see the counts and rationales that may be expected or required at various points in the project.
Investigate the Equator Network’s reporting standards for criteria you may need to report on when you finally write up the project.