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Systematic Reviews


This unit looks at the critical appraisal of systematic reviews.

By the end of this unit you will:

  • Understand why systematic reviews are so important for health care decision makers
  • Understand what procedures minimise bias in a systematic review and make it more trustworthy
  • Have critically appraised a systematic review


It is not necessary to have completed any of the other units prior to doing this unit. However, you will get much more out of this module if you have read the General Introduction to Critical Appraisal. It is also easier to understand about avoiding bias in systematic reviews if you have completed the Critical Appraisal of Randomised Controlled Trials unit as you will understand about the importance of assessing the quality of primary studies. It is also helpful to have reviewed the Making Sense of Results module, in particular the section on blobbograms.


In this unit you will find:

  1. An introduction to the critical appraisal of systematic reviews. It should take you about an hour to complete this introduction.
  2. A paper to read and critically appraise. This can take anywhere between 45 to 60 minutes, depending on how thorough you are.
  3. A CASP checklist to help you read the paper critically. You should attempt to read the paper using the CASP checklist on your own first.
  4. A guided critical appraisal of the same paper that you can work through to evaluate the answers you gave on your own. Note there can be more than one interpretation of some of the questions - the answers we give are only our opinion, not necessarily "The Truth". (If you think our answers are wrong do please email us by clicking here.)
  5. A CASP checklist with our answers that you can download.
  6. A quiz section with answers and feedback for you to test yourself - if cannot access this option then please create an account or login.
  7. A selection of useful texts and resources you may wish to read to enhance your knowledge and understanding.

The components of this unit follow a logical sequence and you should work through them in the order they appear. You can, however, test yourself with the quiz section before or afterwards depending on whether you want to check you baseline understanding beforehand, or your understanding after you have completed the module.