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Application of systematic reviews in speech-and-language therapy

Marshall, Julie and Goldbart, Juliet and Pickstone, Caroline and Roulstone, Susan (2015) Application of systematic reviews in speech-and-language therapy. International journal of language & communication disorders, 46 (3). pp. 261-272. ISSN 1368-2822

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Background: Systematic reviews are increasingly being carried out in speech-and-language therapy and are used by practitioners, service commissioners, policy-makers and researchers to inform decision-making, as the body of evidence available about speech-and-language therapy grows. Although systematic reviewing is developing to incorporate new methods of review and synthesis, there are currently limitations in the use of some types of systematic reviews within speech-and-language therapy. Aims: The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the steps involved in the systematic review process and the range of options available. It highlights some challenges to using this process in speech-and-language therapy, with examples based in part on the authors' experiences of involvement in two systematic reviews. A number of developments in systematic review methodology will be outlined and several new approaches to reviewing, both within and outside of speech-and-language therapy, are introduced. These include realist synthesis, evidence-based practice briefs, speech BITE™ and the journal Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention. Main contribution: This paper highlights some of the current benefits and limitations of systematic reviews in speech-and-language therapy. It will facilitate readers to use and carry out systematic reviews in the speech-and-language therapy field. Conclusions: Systematic reviews are useful in speech-and-language therapy, but awareness of their limitations is important to practitioners, commissioners, policy-makers and researchers. New developments may further increase the benefits of systematic reviews.

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