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Special Contribution
August 1998

Guides for Reading and Interpreting Systematic ReviewsII. How Did the Authors Find the Studies and Assess Their Quality?

Author Affiliations

From the Health Information Research Unit, Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario (Dr Jadad); Thomas C. Chalmers Center for Systematic Reviews, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, Ottawa (Mr Moher and Dr Klassen); and the Departments of Pediatrics and Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario (Mr Moher and Dr Klassen).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;152(8):812-817. doi:10.1001/archpedi.152.8.812

One of the most powerful arguments used by the supporters of systematic reviews is that they overcome most of the limitations of narrative reviews by being the product of a scientific process to reduce bias and imprecision and by providing detailed information to allow replication by others.1,2 Two of the most effective mechanisms for a systematic review to reduce bias and imprecision are including the maximum possible number of relevant individual trials and providing a detailed description of their strengths and limitations. We have structured this article to serve 2 purposes. First, we describe the characteristics of the ideal search, the limitations and decisions that most reviewers face when deciding how to search the literature, and the aspects of a report that readers should evaluate to assess the comprehensiveness and appropriateness of the search strategy. Second, we describe the limitations and decisions that most reviewers face when deciding how to assess trial quality and the aspects of a report that readers should evaluate to determine how trial quality has been assessed and the appropriateness of the assessments.

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