A review of primary literature in health and health policy that attempts to identify, appraise, and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Its conduct uses explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias in order to produce more reliable findings regarding the effects of interventions for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation that can be used to inform decision making. (NLM Mesh Definition)
“A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question. It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing reliablefindings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made.”
(LiberatiA, Altman DG, TetzlaffJ, Mulrow C, GøtzschePC, Ioannidis JPA, et al. (2009) The PRISMA Statement for Reporting Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses of Studies That Evaluate Health Care Interventions: Explanation and Elaboration. PLoSMed, 6(7): e1000100. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000100)
A systematic review summaries the results of available carefully designed healthcare studies (controlled trials) and provides a high level of evidence on the effectiveness of healthcare interventions. judgements may be made about the evidence and inform recommendations for healthcare.
(Cochrane Handbook for systematic reviews of interventions)
Works consisting of studies using a quantitative method of combining the results of independent studies (usually drawn from the published literature) and synthesizing summaries and conclusions which may be used to evaluate therapeutic effectiveness, plan new studies, etc. It is often an overview of clinical trials. It is usually called a meta-analysis by the author or sponsoring body and should be differentiated from reviews of literature. (NLM Mesh Definition)