Methodology used to develop the CareSearch review collection 

Systematic reviews play an important role in informing healthcare delivery and practice. They are ranked, in healthcare, as one of the highest levels of evidence on which to base a decision. [1,2] A rigorous search for all relevant studies helps to reduce possible bias, as does the meta analytic techniques. [3]

Systematic reviews also provide the opportunity to identify possible effects and variables within the topic. In effect they can offer knowledge support as well as well decision support on the effectiveness of an intervention. [4]

With the continuing growth in research in palliative care there has been an increasing interest in the role and contribution of systematic reviews to palliative care. [5]

There is increasing awareness of the need for explicit descriptions of the systematic review process in publications. [6] In a multidisciplinary field such as palliative care, non-medical disciplines may not use the same methodology in reviewing research studies on a specific topic. For example, the Joanna Briggs Institute has developed a Model of Evidence-Based Health Care that examines findings from qualitative and quantitative research, opinion and economic analyses. Further, the capacity to integrate findings from diverse study designs is challenging. [7] However, identifying the knowledge from the broad range of professions and disciplines contributing to palliative care is critical to its practice and development.

Given these considerations, a broad approach was used to identify and include relevant reviews in this collection. Four bibliographic databases were searched – CINAHL, Ovid Medline, Embase and PsycINFO. These provided access to the literature of non-medical disciplines such as psychology, nursing and allied health. Two broad inclusion criteria were applied, based on the review's methodology and relevance.

Methodological criteria

A review is included if it:

  • Reports multiple studies
  • Describes search strategy used
  • Describes data methods.

In a case where the description of data methods is limited but where the apparent approach to data methods can be determined from the article, it may be included.


Determining relevance to palliative care can be difficult. Palliative care is a referral based area of practice and provides care across many disease trajectories. It utilises different treatments in the management of these complex care needs, that encompass spiritual, emotional and social needs as well as the management of physical symptoms. As a result the boundaries of its practice can be ambiguous and intersect with other medical specialties and academic disciplines.

A pragmatic approach to inclusion on the basis of relevance was determined. If an article meets the methodological criteria, then a palliative care clinician or researcher examine the articles to determine its relevance.

Page authored by Colleen Gibbs (CATSINaM), Donna Murray and Anna Leditschke (IAHA), in conjuction with the CareSearch Team.
Last updated 19 August 2021.

  1. National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). A guide to the development, implementation and evaluation of clinical practice guidelines (427kb pdf). Canberra: NHMRC; 1999.
  2. Pearson A. Balancing the evidence: incorporating the synthesis of qualitative data into systematic reviews. JBI Reports. 2004 Mar;2(2):45-64.
  3. Moher D, Cook DJ, Eastwood S, Olkin I, Rennie D, Stroup DF. Improving the Quality of Reports of Meta-Analyses of Randomised Controlled Trials: The QUOROM Statement. Onkologie. 2000 Dec;23(6):597-602.
  4. Mays N, Pope C, Popay J. Systematically reviewing qualitative and quantitative evidence to inform management and policy-making in the health field. J Health Serv Res Policy. 2005 Jul;10 Suppl 1:6-20. Review.
  5. Anderson WA, McNamara MC, Arnold RM. Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. J Palliat Med. 2009 Oct;12(10):937-46.
  6. Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG, The PRISMA Group. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses: The PRISMA Statement. PLoS Med. 2009 Jul 21;6(7):e1000097. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000097. Epub 2009 Jul 21.
  7. Popay J, Roen K. Using evidence from diverse research designs. SCIE Report No 3. London: Social Care Institute for Excellence; 2003 Nov.

Last updated 19 August 2021