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J Music Ther. 2014 Spring;51(1):4-38. doi: 10.1093/jmt/thu002.

The systematic review as a research process in music therapy.

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University of Kansas University of Missouri-Kansas City
University of Kansas University of Missouri-Kansas City.



Music therapists are challenged to present evidence on the efficacy of music therapy treatment and incorporate the best available research evidence to make informed healthcare and treatment decisions. Higher standards of evidence can come from a variety of sources including systematic reviews.


To define and describe a range of research review methods using examples from music therapy and related literature, with emphasis on the systematic review. In addition, the authors provide a detailed overview of methodological processes for conducting and reporting systematic reviews in music therapy.


The systematic review process is described in five steps. Step 1 identifies the research plan and operationalized research question(s). Step 2 illustrates the identification and organization of the existing literature related to the question(s). Step 3 details coding of data extracted from the literature. Step 4 explains the synthesis of coded findings and analysis to answer the research question(s). Step 5 describes the strength of evidence evaluation and results presentation for practice recommendations.


Music therapists are encouraged to develop and conduct systematic reviews. This methodology contributes to review outcome credibility and can determine how information is interpreted and used by clinicians, clients or patients, and policy makers.


A systematic review is a methodologically rigorous research method used to organize and evaluate extant literature related to a clinical problem. Systematic reviews can assist music therapists in managing the ever-increasing literature, making well-informed evidence based practice and research decisions, and translating existing music-based and nonmusic based literature to clinical practice and research development.


music therapy; systematic review

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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