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Table 4 Guidance recommendations for methodological areas in using existing systematic reviews

From: Integration of existing systematic reviews into new reviews: identification of guidance needs

Methodological area Guidance status Recommendations/Further work needed
Locating existing reviews Current guidance is time intensive Narrow search to locate only highly relevant, well-done, very recent, existing reviews; consider narrowing further to specific sources like EPC or Cochrane. Empiric study of comprehensive versus limited consideration of specific sources may be warranted. Consider how much documentation of search strategies and yields is required for transparency.
Assessing relevance Guidance exists Follow current guidance
Assessing review quality Current tools, such as AMSTAR, have limitations and none consider primary literature included in the reviews Empiric evidence of quality rating approaches is needed. Consider which currently available (or soon to be available) tools best fit the EPC program’s needs.
Determining use   
 Scanning references Guidance exists Follow current guidance
 Search strategy/results of existing searches Guidance exists Empiric evidence for considering searches from >1 review and considering excluded studies is needed
 Data abstraction Current guidance is limited Guidance needed for specific scenarios and for confirming accuracy of abstracted data
 Study-level risk of bias assessments Guidance available for primary studies Guidance is needed for when to accept or repeat assessments from existing reviews
 Synthesis Current guidance is limited Guidance needed for specific scenarios and for assessing strength of evidence when integrating existing review
Methods and results reporting Guidance exists Guidance needed on level of detail necessary for all aspects, and options with worked examples needed for evidence tables
  1. AMSTAR, A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews; EPC, Evidence-based Practice Center.