Systematic Reviews in Intervention Research

Systematic reviews play a crucial role in this era of Evidence Based Medicine and clinical guidelines. Systematic reviews use a systematic and transparent approach to identify all relevant articles, appraise the risk of bias, examine sources of variation, and, if appropriate, meta-analyse the results of the primary studies. This course will offer a mix of lectures and practicals that will help the student to perform all of these steps in practice. In addition, specific challenges to systematic reviews and new developments will be highlighted.

Systematic Reviews in Intervention Research one of the online medical courses that is part of MSc Epidemiology Postgraduate Online; the online MSc program in Epidemiology offered by Utrecht University, University Medical Center Utrecht, MSc Epidemiology and Elevate Health.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Explain the rationale for performing a systematic review
  • List the key steps of a systematic review
  • Formulate a proper review question addressing a therapeutic dilemma
  • Understand the design of a comprehensive and efficient search strategy to identify relevant  RCT’s in electronic bibliographic databases
  • Explain the main types of bias in a therapeutic study
  • Assess primary studies (RCT) for their risk of bias and report these findings
  • Explain the difference between  fixed and random effects approach and their assumptions
  • Perform & interpret the findings of a meta-analysis (fixed & random approach)
  • Interpret the different measures of heterogeneity
  • Interpret the results of a meta-regression model
  • List and explain the different types of reporting bias
  • Critically appraise systematic reviews


As this is a university course, it is covered by academic accreditation. Upon passing the final exam, you will receive a recognized certificate from Utrecht University and the UMC Utrecht. 

Course Deadlines

Please note that you are required to hand in assignments during some of the learning units in this course:

Week 0
Sunday before start date - introduce yourself

Week 1
Thursday – submit review question
Friday – submit critical appraisal
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 1

Week 2
Tuesday – assess critical appraisal
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 2

Week 3
Wednesday – submit Summary of Findings Table
Friday – provide peer feedback on Summary of Findings Table
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 3

Completing all required assignments and meeting the deadlines are requirements to take the final exam.


This course includes a multiple-choice exam, which is the only part of the course that is not online. If you are able and willing to take the exam in Utrecht, the Netherlands, we are available to proctor the exam for you without any costs. If you have to take the exam from a different location, you need a proctor. This proctor may ask you to pay for their expenses. Please read more about proctoring on our specific webpage.

Prior to the exam, there will be a synchronous Q&A session via video conferencing. During this session we will discuss remaining questions. If you have any remaining questions, you can ask them before the Q&A session at the discussion forum at the end of the course. Please be advised that it is not required to attend this synchronous meeting.

Exam February 2019 edition
The exam will take place on March 11th, 2019. The re-exam will take place on April 15th, 2019. The time and location of the exams will be announced here, nearer the exam dates.

Exam November 2019 edition
The exam will take place on November 25th, 2019. The re-exam will take place on January 6th, 2020. The time and location of the exams will be announced here, nearer the exam dates.

Taking the exam is not compulsory. However, if you want to receive the Course Certificate and the credits, it is obligatory to take the exam. You are allowed to redo the exam once.

It might be that, due to a force majeure situation, you cannot be present during the first exam moment. You must then, preferably prior to the first exam option, ask the academic counsellor for permission to be absent. Please note that the academic counsellor can ask for some form of proof of your absence (e.g. in case of illness) to establish if you are applicable for authorized absence. Jaco de Fockert-Koefoed, MSc is the academic counsellor you need to turn to

In short, as of now, it is no longer possible to skip the first exam option and -automatically- enrol in the second (re-sit) exam. Unauthorized absence during the first exam period results in no longer being able to finish the course that college year.

Study Materials

Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. Available for free.

Review Manager software (RevMan). Available for free.

Entry Requirements

To enroll in this course, you need:

  • A BSc degree in biomedical sciences, pharmaceutical sciences, medicine or veterinary medicine, or a comparable degree
  • Basic knowledge about epidemiology and statistical data analysis. Elevate courses offering this knowledge include Introduction to Epidemiology and Introduction to Statistics
  • Basic understanding of the principles of clinical epidemiology, regarding the design, conduct & analysis of a therapeutic randomized controlled trial. 
  • Sufficient proficiency in English reading and writing

Please note
This is an online course, so you need access to an internet connection in order to be able to follow lectures, complete assignments and communicate with fellow participants. The only part of the course that is not online is the final examination. This course is offered through the MSc Epidemiology program developed by the UMC Utrecht and Utrecht University.

The entire course is also available face-to-face.  For more information about this option, please visit the MSc Epidemiology website.

Course staff


Pick a date for this course:
(Enrollment deadline: 28 October 2019 - 23:59 CET)
135 days left.

Quick overview

  • 18 Feb 2019 – 10 Mar 2019
  • 3 weeks
  • 14 hrs/wk
  • Academic Certificate
  • 1.5 EC
  • Online learning with guidance and support
  • English
  • Lectures, individual assignments, group assignments
  • Desktop, Laptop, Smartphone, Tablet
  • 785

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