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CMAJ. 1988 Apr 15;138(8):697-703.

Guidelines for reading literature reviews.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Epidemiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont.


One strategy for dealing with the burgeoning medical literature is to rely on reviews of the literature. Although this strategy is efficient, readers may be misled if the review does not meet scientific standards. Therefore, guidelines that will help readers assess the scientific quality of the review are proposed. The guidelines focus on the definition of the question, the comprehensiveness of the search strategy, the methods of choosing and assessing the primary studies, and the methods of combining the results and reaching appropriate conclusions. Application of the guidelines will allow clinicians to spend their valuable reading time on high-quality material and to judge the validity of an author's conclusions.

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