Standard practices of the systematic review methodology, regardless of the disciplines, are gathered and presented as Good Practice points throughout this guide and for both planning and conduct stages of the SR methodology to highlight the importance and encourage following these practices in producing transparent and reproducible knowledge from systematic review studies. It is recommended that reviewers read and apply these key points before and in preparation for conducting systematic review studies.
1. Do you have access to the most relevant and necessary databases for literature searching?
Comprehensive literature searching is necessary to address the risk of publication bias. Securing access to the most and best relevant databases can help you make the most of your valuable time in search for relevant literature. See Appendix A for a detailed list of databases available for food research. You may need to consider the cost of subscription to relevant databases in budget planning.
Depending upon your affiliation, you may have access to many databases through a university library or other organisations. For researchers in Lower- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) it is worth checking if your research organisation is eligible for membership in Research4Life, which provides free or low-cost access to over 154,000 resources, including many databases.
2. What tools do you need to help you with data management and reporting?
Reference management tools: for most systematic reviews the data processing and documentations are extensive and involve searching multiple literature databases and sharing data between different reviewers. Planning to use an appropriate reference management tool is critical for recording and managing references from the beginning of the project. See Appendix B for details.
Document management tools are necessary in conducting well documented reviews. To ensure data is consistently collected, organised, cleaned, and stored and made accessible to others (users and for future verification), identifying the appropriate data management tools and methods are necessary before conduct. These may include conventional word processing tools like Microsoft Word and Excel, available process management and screening tools for systematic reviews, and available templates and forms for protocol, searching strategies and data extraction. See Appendix A for example templates designed specifically for this guide. You can find a list of supportive and automation tools in Appendix B.
Process management tools: currently a fair number of software packages designed for conducting systematic reviews is available which can help you with automation and speed up the process. You can find a list of available tools and their function and features in Appendix B.
Quality management tools: depending on the study design, discipline, domain and data or review type you may need to use different risk of bias assessment tools, grading and reporting checklists. Make sure to identify and use the appropriate tools for your field of study. See Appendix B for details.
3. What expertise you may need?
For the review of policies, practice, and regulations a team of reviewers with knowledge of different topics, data specialists and statisticians are formed to support different requirements of the process including framing and developing the question, literature search and screening and data analysis. Students should seek support from their supervisors, librarians, statisticians, and reviewers with topic expertise and previous knowledge or experience of the methodology.
The overview below shows what expertise and processing tools are required for each step of the review and the documentations that are generated at the end of each step.