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Counseling and Family Therapy

A systematic review...

The purpose of a systematic review is to locate and synthesize all the scholarly research studies on a specific topic. A systematic review uses systematic processes and procedures to find, evaluate, and synthesize the results of the research. Systematic procedures are carefully followed to ensure that the research is transparent and can be replicated. This also minimizes bias.

A systematic review has:

  • Clear inclusion/ exclusion criteria
  • An explicit search strategy
  • Systematic analysis of included studies

What is a systematic review?

Steps in a Systematic Review

Steps in a systematic literature review
  1. Determine your question
  2. Create a review protocol
    • Search strategy (exhaustive)
      • Inclusion and exclusion criteria
      • Data organization
  3. Conduct a thorough search
    • Use core and specialized databases
      • Inclusion and exclusion criteria
      • Reference management (e.g. Zotero)
  4. Assess the quality of the studies
  5. Summarize evidence
  6. Interpret findings.


Exhaustive Searching

Exhaustive searching for a systematic review requires using a variety of search techniques. 

Using PsycINFO Thesaurus

Searching PubMed using MeSH headings

Watch this short video produced by Duke University Medical Center to learn how to search using MeSH headings in PubMed.



If you have a result list, use the Yale MeSH analyzer to see the common MeSH headings.