Monday, 4 August 2014

Being picky: study selection for the systematic review

The OKIS systematic review will bring together the results of all the previous research on the benefits and any harms from using orthotic devices for knee instability in adults with neuromuscular disease. This will tell us what is currently known about the usefulness of the devices. In previous posts, Rocio described search terms and where to search how she went about identifying all the existing studies. In this post I describe what we’re doing with what she found.

Rocio’s searches of a wide range of databases gave us 4233 references to potentially relevant studies.  She put these references into a reference manager program called ‘Endnote’. Alison, Joanne and I sifted through the references to determine which were obviously irrelevant from the information given and which needed to be read as full papers to determine their relevance. To ensure nothing was missed, two of us looked at every reference independently. As a result we identified 485 papers that we need to read in full.

The next job is to evaluate each of the 485 studies against our predetermined review inclusion criteria for participants, interventions, outcomes and study designs as mentioned in a previous post. We will document our decision to include or exclude each study with a reason. Again, two of us will do this and where there is disagreement on the relevance of a study we will discuss it and either arrive at a consensus or seek advice from a third member of the project team. This process of study selection is one of the aspects that makes a review systematic and ensures transparency.

It is too early to say how many studies will ultimately be included in the OKIS review. The above process is time-consuming, but as systematic reviewers we have to be patient! We’ll have our results soon enough!

Blogger: Debra Fayter

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