Current issues of ACP Journal Club are published in Annals of Internal Medicine

Resource Corner

Systematic Reviews To Support Evidence-Based Medicine: How To Review and Apply Findings of Healthcare Research


ACP J Club. 2004 Jan-Feb;140:A15. doi:10.7326/ACPJC-2004-140-1-A15

This compact book attempts to guide the reader through the process of appraising and conducting a systematic review of the literature. It is divided into 3 sections: an introduction, the steps of a systematic review, and case studies. The introduction describes the goals of the book and how to use it. It provides a list of sources of systematic reviews and guidelines with relevant Web addresses. The next section is divided into 5 chapters that address framing a question, identifying the relevant literature, assessing the quality of literature, summarizing the evidence, and interpreting the findings. Each chapter provides an explanation of how to appraise and conduct studies, including discussion of key sources of potential bias. At the end of each chapter, key points about appraising and conducting systematic reviews are provided. For example, in the chapter describing identification of relevant literature, a 1-page summary is provided to illustrate examples of study selection criteria.

The application of the material discussed in the first section of the book is highlighted in section 3 using case studies. This section allows the reader to apply what was learned in the first section. Each case consists of a scenario requiring evidence from reviews, a demonstration of review methods, and a proposed resolution to the scenario. The topics for the case studies include identifying and appraising systematic reviews, reviewing evidence on the safety of a public health intervention, reviewing evidence on the effectiveness of therapy, and reviewing evidence on diagnostic test accuracy. The book also includes a glossary of useful terms and a list of additional resources that the reader can refer to.

Systematic Reviews to Support Evidence-Based Medicine provides a concise overview of how to conduct and appraise a systematic review. However, it may not provide sufficient detail for the novice interested in conducting a systematic review and it may provide more details than necessary for appraising a systematic review. It is very clearly written and illustrated with useful examples.

Sharon E. Straus, MD, MSc, FRCPC
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Darlyne Rath, MSc
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Clinical Usefulness: 3 of 5 stars

Systematic Reviews to Support Evidence-Based Medicine can be purchased online at for £17.50.