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Systematic Reviews: Timeline

A guide to understanding and creating systematic reviews.

Average Time Needed to do a Systematic Review

The average systematic review may require 12 months of work. This, or course, depends on many variables: how many databases you search, how many documents you retrieve, how many people you have working on the review, your amount of experience, etc. TMC librarians can save you months of work by formulating your search terms, running your searches in multiple databases, de-duplicating results, and many other services.

Cochrane's estimated timeline for completing a systematic review
Month Activity
1 - 2  Preparation of protocol
3 - 8  Searches for published and unpublished studies
2 - 3  Pilot test of eligibility criteria
3 - 8 Inclusion assessments
Pilot test of 'Risk of bias' assessment
3 - 10  Validity assessments
Pilot test of data collection
3 - 10 Data collection
3 - 10 Data entry
5 - 11 Follow up of missing information
8 - 10 Analysis
1 - 11 Preparation of review report
12 -  Keeping the review up-tp-date


From: Higgins JPT, Green S (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 [updated March 2011]. The Cochrane Collaboration, 2011. Available from