The Cochrane Collaboration identifies a systematic review as an attempt to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. The systematic review uses explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias, in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making. (See Section 1.2 in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.) The systematic review is the highest level of evidence in the practice of evidence-based medicine. Completing a systematic review takes a great deal of time, planning, and dedication.
A key piece of the process is the review protocol. A systematic review protocol should describe the proposed approach for the review and the details for how the review will be conducted. The protocol should:
Researchers can register their protocols of research they are undertaking. Some of the places you can find protocols are:
The PRISMA statement for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses of studies that evaluate health care interventions: explanation and elaboration is an article that can help you create your protocol.