Journal of Professional Nursing

The Systematic Review: Not all review articles are born equal

John McArthur, RGON, Grad Dip, MCNA Nursing Service Consultant, Auckland Hospital, Director of New Zealand Centre for Evidence Based Nursing 

Reference:  McArthur, J. (1997) The Systematic Review: Not all review articles are born equal. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 12(3), 10-15. 


Consistent with a move towards evidence based practice, systematic review of research relating to effective health care practices is having an increasing influence on health care decision making at all levels.  This paper explains the systematic review as a specific type of literature review, one that contrasts with less rigorous approaches to assessing current best available research evidence.  The use of this process to achieve effective nursing practice is discussed in the context of systematic review in medicine and health services in general.  It is asserted that, in the ‘informational age’, understanding and being able to assess the quality of systematic reviews is an essential area of nursing research. 

Evidence Based Nursing, Systematic Review, Clinical Effectiveness

Rodgers, Smith, Chick and Crisp (1997) outlined the review article within the broader dimension of all literature reviews.  I would like to build on their work by taking this subset of literature reviews to a further level of specificity, the systematic review.  Systematic review is a method used to search, critically appraise and synthesise scientific evidence using explicit criteria.  It is an approach that results in a generalizable and valid summary of available evidence for health care professionals, policy makers, purchasers and consumers.

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