Wednesday, 16 April 2014

What makes a review systematic?

The first of the three elements of the OKIS project is to carry out a systematic review of the existing evidence on orthotics for knee instability in adults. But what exactly is a systematic review? The short answer is that it’s a rigorous way of identifying, evaluating and summarising all the relevant research papers on a given topic. So far so good, but what makes a review ‘systematic’? It’s because it follows a strict protocol or plan where the research methods are set out in advance and are stuck to throughout the review.

The first step of a systematic review is to specify the research question in terms of the study participants, the intervention, the outcomes and the types of study to be included. This is essential information in the protocol. We then conduct a thorough search of electronic databases and other sources for all the relevant literature to answer the research question. We extract data from the relevant studies and assess their quality and finally synthesise the results. We’ll post information about what’s involved and what we find at each of these stages as we reach them.

At the end of this systematic review we should have an unbiased assessment of the existing evidence on the effectiveness of orthotic devices for knee instability. This will, we anticipate, show us what best practice is and where further research is needed to improve knowledge in this area.

Over the course of these blogs we’ll tell you more about the systematic review process and keep you up to date with how we’re getting on. I have conducted reviews on many topics but I’m particularly excited about this one as the results of it will be combined with the views and experiences of health professionals fitting orthotics and the views and experiences of those who have been fitted with an orthotic device for knee instability. This should make sure the project overall provides robust information useful to practitioners, patients and those commissioning and providing services.

Blogger: Debra Fayter

P.S. If you're keen, you can see the detailed protocol for this project on our funders' website: 

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