The Systematic Review Toolbox: an updated resource to support evidence synthesis
2School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), The University of Sheffield, UK
3York Health Economics Consortium, University of York, UK
Background: In 2014, the Systematic Review (SR) Toolbox was developed to gather tools that could support researchers undertaking an SR. As the breadth of evidence synthesis methodologies have expanded greatly since this time, we updated the SR Toolbox in 2022 to reflect these developments. We also analysed the software tools and guidance within the SR Toolbox at the time to identify gaps that could potentially be filled by new tools and guidance in future.
Objectives: To describe the process and present the results of updating the SR Toolbox and analysing its content.
Methods: In February 2022, we manually extracted all guidance documents and software tools within the SR Toolbox to that point on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet categorised records by types of evidence syntheses records as described by Sutton et al. (2019) and by the stage of process in undertaking evidence syntheses (e.g., searching, screening, and data extraction). A single reviewer extracted and analysed these records, with a second reviewer checking a proportion for accuracy. By using this spreadsheet and Microsoft Access, we updated the SR Toolbox and performed a simple quantitative analysis on the included records.
Results: On 13 May 2022, we launched the updated SR Toolbox. At the time, 235 software tools and 112 guidance documents were included. Most guidance documents (N = 78) and software tools (N = 223) were applicable to systematic reviews of interventions. However, there were fewer included tools and documents that related to reviews of reviews (N = 66 software tools and N = 22 guidance documents) and qualitative evidence syntheses (N = 19). Most documents provided guidance on critical appraisal and quality assessment (N = 70), with software mainly focusing on searching (N = 84) and data synthesis (N = 82). However, there were very few tools or guidance documents that related specifically to stakeholder engagement (N = 5).
Conclusions: The SR Toolbox can support those looking to undertake different types of evidence syntheses. However, there are currently gaps in the guidance and software tools available, which may warrant further research.
Patient, public and/or healthcare consumer involvement: None.