Learning from Research: Systematic Reviews for Informing Policy Decisions

This guide is a short introduction for decision-makers and researchers or anyone else considering whether a systematic review may be appropriate to fill a gap in knowledge or to use as a resource. It will help anybody planning on commissioning a review of what research is already out there. You may be an analyst, evaluator, policymaker or commissioner. The guide is aimed at anybody from central government, local authorities, public service providers, regulatory and advisory bodies, charities or the consultancy sector. We also hope it will inform staff engaged in developing a ‘What Works’ centre; synthesizing research is a core principle of the new independent ‘What Works’ institutions (Cabinet Office, 2013).
For those decision-makers considering commissioning a review of research, Parts One and Four will be most useful: Part One of this guide describes the logic of systematic reviews and how they fit within the broad range of research. Part Four highlights some of the key issues to consider when commissioning or using a review and some of the infrastructure organizations that have been developed to support the us e of research. Parts Two and Three are more technical and will be useful for researchers and others engaged in making a review successful: Part Two describes the main stages of undertaking a systematic review. Part Three explains the wide variation that exists in approaches to reviewing and how to choose between them.
Gough D, Oliver S, Thomas J (2013) Learning from Research: Systematic Reviews for Informing Policy Decisions: A Quick Guide. A paper for the Alliance for Useful Evidence. London:Nesta.
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