Systematic Review Flowcharts

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The human ability to trust represents one of the core values of civilization. Builders of empires in bygone eras relied on trust to architect their creations. Statecraft and military affairs hinged on the ability of the sovereign to trust his or her advisers, noblemen, and men of war to design and execute systems, maneuvers, defenses, and machinations. In recent times, the concept of systematic review redefines the paradigm of trust in certain sections of academia. “The purpose of a systematic review is to deliver a meticulous summary of all the available primary research in response to a research question. A systematic review uses all the existing research and is sometime called secondary research”. In this context, the modern flowchart diagram has emerged as a critical device to guide the efforts that culminate in a systematic review. These inter-linked illustrations depict a working model (or technique) that allows researchers to filter vast amounts of information, extract useful data, and boost the quality of evidence in aid of research projects.

The visual representation of a flowchart that maps the development of a systematic review may manifest in the form of a pyramid; this signals a marked departure from flowchart design orthodoxy. In fact, said review may represent the apex of the structure that rests on broad, multiple stages of filtering available data and information. The wide base of this flowchart may comprise a body of appropriate case series and case reports. This stage dominates the entire flowchart in terms of the sheer volume of information. The subsequent stages may include case control studies, cohort studies, information from a selection of controlled trials, followed by the actual systematic review. Observers may note the initial stage of this flowchart comprises low quality of information despite their numerically heavy representation. The progression of the flowchart entails a process of filtration that implies fewer articles in each successive stage of the diagram. The systematic review at the far-end of this flowchart is instrumental in generating a series of evidence-based guidelines. This instance clearly illuminates the utility of using a flowchart diagram to effect a systematic review.

Scholars and researchers that seek to develop original and insightful theses may rely on flowchart diagrams to guide their academic efforts. These diagrams can serve as templates designed to promote the ultimate aim of including relevant references through the process of a systematic review. The initial stage of the flowchart may include academic papers that have been identified through a rigorous screening of available databases. The second stage is primarily designed to remove duplicate articles; this is critical to ensure the inclusion of bona fide reference materials in the research effort. The subsequent stages further the cause of filtration by screening research paper abstracts, an advanced analysis of these abstracts, followed by reviewing the full text of the relevant articles and publications. Once this stage is complete, the final papers emerge for inclusion in new theses. The gradation of this flowchart diagram points to the various efforts that drive the identification, screening, and analyses processes.

Institutional guidance is central to the successful execution of a rigorous systematic review. Scholars may refer to the AMSTAR checklist in a bid to ensure the quality of said reviews. The use of AMSTAR allows scholars to evaluate the efficacy of different sets of information and data. In light of this, flowchart diagrams must prominently position the checklist within the depicted lines of progression. For instance, an enterprising scholar may elect to create two separate flowcharts; the first incorporates said checklist and the second proceeds without AMSTAR. The outcome of such a project allows the scholar to arrive at an informed decision leading to a successful systematic review. In addition, the checklist must serve as a lodestone that guides the future academic ventures of a student or group of students and scholars.

The detection of inconsistencies lies at the heart of any effort to create a flawless process or system. This is viral because inconsistencies can disrupt the quality of academic investigations and degrade scholarly pursuits. Flowcharts that map the progress of a systematic review can be used to detect any gaps in scholarship and extant literature. Students, scholars, and their academic guides can locate these gaps and may work to direct future research efforts to address said gaps. In essence, the flowchart serves as a diagnostic framework that helps identify lacunae in any field of academic study. In this context, scholars may design additional flowchart diagrams in a bid to analyze gaps and create stratagems to ford said inconsistencies. These diagrams may contain the nucleus of a research strategy, thereby creating fresh impetus to resolve a given problem. The emergence of such additional scope clearly points to the potential for flowchart diagrams to drive the creation of new research initiatives.

The search strategy that drives a systematic review must remain flexible in the interests of promoting useful outcomes. Flowcharts devised for the purpose must include operational aspects such as search definitions, search strings, exclusion criterion, etc. These factors may populate individual stages within the diagram, or may comprise a separate series of sub-stages. A central stage in said flowchart may propose a strategy wherein, multiple sets of researchers attend to the screening effort in a bid to extract refined and relevant results. The outcome of this stage may connect directly to the systematic review. In addition, the list of material refinements in search strategies may figure as a separate section of the flowchart. This list allows all concerned to review the rigor of multiple search mechanisms. In time, scholars and their guides may collaborate to refine the search mechanisms with a view to arrive at a refined and robust search mechanism.

Reference management represents a central aspect of an effective systematic review flowchart. This centrality emerges from the fact academic works and the published outcomes of rigorous scholarship must feature authentic and relevant references only. Ergo, scholars must create flowcharts that place reference management efforts at the center of said diagram. The sequence of stages that surround the center may include scoping searches, full search patterns, title and abstract screening, full-text screening, additional searches, etc. Each stage must connect to the center, thereby creating additional impetus for scholars and academic workers to pursue rigorous referencing practices. The outcomes of such efforts may include outstanding lists of references that may distinguish any work of modern scholarship.

The foregoing paragraphs have examined a series of instances wherein flowchart diagrams bolster the contemporary practices that attend the creation of a systematic review. Each field of academic inquiry may encourage scholarly interactions with such flowcharts as part of concerted efforts to elevate the quality of academic discourse. The active use of flowchart diagrams may also encourage the exploration of new search parameters. This will likely widen the surveys undertaken by students and scholars into their respective domains. Flowcharts may also spur the average student or scholar to direct deeper levels of attention to the proverbial nuts and bolts associated with contemporary scholarship. In addition, the flexibility inherent in modern flowcharts empowers academia to introduce the use of numerical values inside systematic reviews. This may boost both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of said reviews, thereby ensuring the preservation of high standards in academia.

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