Systematic Review Articles / Metanalysis

Systematic review articles analyze and summarize carefully selected published research (usually controlled trials) on a particular topic to produce high quality evidence (usually on the effectiveness of an intervention). Recommendations are made based on the generated evidence. Systematic reviews are usually characterized as either qualitative or quantitative (using meta-analysis), and attempt to reduce bias by addressing the methodological selection, assessing the quality of the study (critical appraisal), and analyzing the literature.

Systematic review articles shall have a structured abstract (Objective, Design, Data sources, Studies selection, Methods, Results, Conclusions) of not more than 300 words and three to six keywords.

The main manuscript (excluding abstract, references and tables) shall be not more than 3000 words and shall have the following sections: Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results & Discussion.

Introduction section should be organized without sub-headings into four parts. The first part should provide short description of the medical problem its importance in terms of disease burden and policy relevance.  The second should describe the intervention under consideration with all possible alternatives. This may also include key features of intervention such as its clinical presentation and management. The third part of the introduction may include the efficacy of the intervention/therapy on the target population. The last part of the introduction may provide justification to carry out the systematic review. It should identify how much is already known and what needs to be known.

Materials and Methods section shall have the following components.

  • Inclusion and exclusion criteria for studies
  • Information sources / identification of studies
  • Studies selection
  • Data extraction
  • Quality assessment
  • Data synthesis / analysis

Systematic reviews, with or without a meta-analysis, must be reported in accordance with PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines.

Authors must provide a PRISMA flow chart as a figure in the manuscript and attach the completed PRISMA checklist. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses that determine diagnostic accuracy should be reported according to QUADAS (Quality Assessment of Studies of Diagnostic Accuracy included in Systematic Reviews). It is recommended that all systematic reviews be registered a priori with PROSPERO

The results section shall have details under the following sub-headings:

  • Results of search
  • Studies range and characteristics
  • Studies quality
  • Effect on intervention on outcome

Discussion section shall start by summarizing the major findings from review in a logical order. This should be followed by description of limitations of the included studies and of the systematic review and hence the reliability of results. The third paragraph should describe the strengths and weaknesses of the review methods. The fourth paragraph should set the results in context of other knowledge on the topic, e.g. comparing the review with previous systematic reviews or current opinions and guidelines.  The last paragraph should provide conclusions, and then any implications for current practice and particularly for future research.

A declarations section (with the following subheadings: Authors’ contributions, Conflict of interest, Funding, Acknowledgments) shall be placed after Discussion section and before References.

A systematic review article / metanalysis shall be supported by not more than 40 references. A maximum of six authors can get credit for a systematic review article.