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1. Citation: Dijkers, M., Boninger, M., Bushnik, T., Esselman, P., Heinemann, A., Heller, T., Libin, A., Nye, C., Starks, J., Sherer, M., Vandergoot, D., & Wehmeyer, M. (2011). Guidelines for assessing the quality and applicability of systematic reviews (AQASR). Austin, TX: AIR, Center on Knowledge Translation for Disability and Rehabilitation Research
Title: Guidelines for Assessing the Quality and Applicability of Systematic Reviews (AQASR)
Author(s): Dijkers, M.
Boninger, M.
Bushnik, T.
Esselman, P.
Heinemann, A.
Heller, T.
Libin, A.
Nye, C.
Starks, J.
Sherer, M.
Vandergoot, D.
Wehmeyer, M.
Year: 2011
Journal/Publication: AIR

The world’s clinical and scientific literature is growing so fast that it has become impossible even for someone who subspecializes in a particular topic to stay current with everything that is published each month. More and more people are forced to use reviews to stay on top of research and to get recommendations about what they should be doing (or should stop doing) in treating their patients/clients. However, this reliance on reviews creates its own problems. Some reviews are good, some are poor, and the worst ones are poor and biased. The best class of reviews for answering specific clinical questions (on diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, costs, etc.) is systematic reviews systematic reviews, a type of review that has become more common in the last two decades. Systematic reviews approach the examination of a body of literature as if it were a research project, which involves a protocol designed to reduce errors in finding, abstracting and synthesizing information and to optimize the level of objectivity of the results and recommendations.

Many clinicians (and researchers) did not learn about systematic reviews during their schooling or are not confident that they can evaluate the quality of such a review even if they did study the topic during their training. It is one thing to know what a systematic review is; it is quite something else to be able to detect possible weaknesses or biases in a review that recommends a particular course of action, and to evaluate to what extent it can be trusted.

The basic purpose of these guidelines is to help busy clinicians, administrators and researchers to ask the critical questions to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of a review, in general and as relevant to their particular clinical question or other practical concern(s). Its primary audience is clinicians, as most systematic reviews are optimized to answer the clinical questions they have. Systematic reviews addressing the questions of researchers and policy makers may also address focused questions, and follow similar procedures. However, the illustrations and justifications we give here will be based on issues of concern to clinicians.


Type of Item: Evaluation Instrument
Type of KT Strategy: Checklist
Target Group: Administrator
Healthcare Professional
Service Provider
Evidence Level: 3
Record Updated:2013-12-10