Inclusion & exclusion criteria: 3 tips to choose studies for systematic review process

To synthesise information and present it to your target audience, you have to review the previous studies in your study domain. In academics, you often find different types of literature review process, of which includes, meta-analysis, systematic and narrative review. Among these, the most widely used is systematic review process. The reason behind being, although it has a defined structure, it compares and answers the research question as well as describes methodological approach.  However, performing a systematic review process is a tough row to hoe. It stages involved in the process are inclusion of research question, location of data sources, study evaluation, data collection, analysis & interpretation. Among the various stages, the most challenging step is locating and choosing the studies for the review process. 

The search of multiple databases to locate a study that is used to determine the effectiveness of intervention is the first step in the systematic review process. However, the search process will be based on the eligibility criteria a reviewer establishes before starting with the process of identifying, locating, and retrieving the study required to address the problem of evidence-based practice. 

The eligibility criteria specifies which study can be included and which must be excluded from the systematic review. As per the PhD dissertation consultants in US, some of the key elements to be considered while choosing the study for your review process are:

  • Apply inclusion or exclusion criteria to titles & abstracts – The search process produces a bibliography of studies including titles and abstracts of relevant studies. The integrity of the study selection task is analysed by (1) assessing the inclusion/exclusion criteria from the bibliography of studies, and (2)  inspecting the reliability of evaluator’s decisions. The result of piloting, the inclusion/ exclusion criteria can be modified to identify relevant studies and are subject to change throughout the selection process.
  • Eliminate studies that meet one or more exclusion criteria – Here, the emphasis is on excluding studies that meet the exclusion criteria. Bibliography of studies must be eliminated if the titles as well as abstracts disqualify them. The abstracts in journal databases consist of (1) a statement of the problem, (2) details about participants, and (3) specification of the experimental design. 
  • Include studies that meet inclusion criteria but not exclusion criteria – As per the consultants at PhD writing coach, evaluate the studies to make sure that individual study meets all the inclusion criteria and none of the exclusion criteria. If the studies report incomplete or ambiguous approaches, you can seek further details from the original authors. However, if essential information is not available, a decision to exclude such studies can be justified. 

The concept of inclusion and exclusion of studies in a systematic review offers a basis on which you can draw valid and reliable conclusions regarding the review process. If you need some assistance in choosing the studies for your review process, take help from PhD dissertation consultants in US.

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