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Systematic Reviews - HEA00036M

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  • Department: Health Sciences
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Catriona McDaid
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Related modules

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
B Spring Term 2019-20

Module aims

  • To help students gain an understanding of the pivotal position of systematic reviews for policy and practice in health and other areas of social action.
  • To introduce the basic principles of systematic reviewing.
  • To provide students with the skills to critically appraise systematic reviews.
  • To provide students with the knowledge and skills to design, conduct, analyse and report on their own systematic reviews which they can use for their dissertation, doctoral research and in future roles as health and social care practitioners, managers and decision makers.

Module learning outcomes

At the conclusion of the module the student will:

  1. Understand the importance of systematic reviews and how to find them.
  2. Understand the key features of a systematic review.
  3. Be able to critically analyse research reviews, identifying possible biases and interpret their findings.
  4. Be able to deploy of a range of searching, appraisal and analytical skills and knowledge in order to: specify a review question, plan and conduct a systematic review of randomised controlled trials, observational studies or qualitative studies.
  5. Be able to synthesise the results of studies identified in a review, narratively, quantitatively and qualitatively and explore sources of heterogeneity.

Module content

Health policy, clinical and public health practice should be informed by the available evidence. Systematic reviews or evidence syntheses are comprehensive, rigorous and critical summaries of the available research evidence on a specific topic. Relevant studies are systematically identified, their data extracted and synthesised in narrative form and, where appropriate, statistically or thematically pooled, taking care to minimise error and bias. This module provides students with appropriate knowledge and training required for finding, interpreting and conducting systematic reviews. The module sessions are as follows:

  • Why systematic reviews are so important and how they have influenced policy and practise. Identifying uncertainties and review questions
  • Databases and searching (where to find systematic reviews, where and how to search for studies (practical session)
  • Study selection, data extraction, primary study validity
  • Narrative synthesis
  • Meta-analysis: methods for quantitative data synthesis
  • Exploring sources of heterogeneity and checking for publication bias
  • Meta-analysis practical session
  • Critical appraisal of systematic review reports
  • Systematic reviews of qualitative studies and qualitative synthesis

Important note: module pre-requisites
Please note that students are required to complete either Randomised Controlled Trials as pre-requisite or Health Research in Practice as co-requisite to this module. It is not necessary for students to complete both Randomised Controlled Trials and Health Research in Practice in order to undertake this module.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay - 2500 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay - 2500 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Written feedback for summative assessment is provided on the standard proforma, within the timescale specified in the programme handbook.

Indicative reading

  • Centre for Reviews and Dissemination. (2009). Systematic Reviews: CRDs guidance for undertaking reviews in health care CRD. University of York. [Online]. Available at:
  • Higgins, J.P.T. and Green, S. (Eds.). (2011). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 [updated March 2011]. The Cochrane Collaboration. [Online]. Available at:
  • Borenstein, M., Hedges L.V., Higgins, J.P.T. (2009). Introduction to Meta-Analysis. Wiley& Sons Ltd.
  • Egger, M., Smith, G.D., Altman, D.G. (Eds). (2001) Systematic reviews in Health Care: Meta analysis in context. 2nd edn. London: BMJ Publications.
  • Gough, D., Oliver, S., Thomas, J. (2017). An Introduction to Systematic Reviews. 2nd edn. Sage Publishing.
  • Petticrew, M. and Roberts, H. (2006). Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide. Blackwell Publishing.
  • Hannes, K. & Lockwood, C. (eds) (2012) Synthesizing Qualitative Research: Choosing the Right Approach. J Wiley – Blackwell
  • Saini, M. & Shlonsky, A. (2012) Systematic Synthesis of Qualitative Research (Pocket Guides to Social Work Research Methods). OUP USA

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.