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I got asked to review a systematic review in a peer-reviewed Pubmed-indexed journal. However, based on the author’s inclusion/exclusion criteria, they only review one article.

Isn't that peculiar? As a reviewer, how should I respond to this? Is this acceptable, only one article...?

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    What does it mean to review a review? – David Ketcheson Feb 26 '17 at 16:52
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    I'm not in a discipline where the concept of systematic reviews applies, so I'm willing to leave some room for doubt, but honestly... let's call a spade a spade here: a systematic review of only one review is simply absurd and it's hard to imagine how it can contribute meaningfully to scientific knowledge. So no, it is almost certainly not acceptable. – Dan Romik Feb 27 '17 at 9:48
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If it’s a systematic review, it is weird that there is only one article to include. However I think it could happen. After having applied inclusion criteria to all articles first retrieved, only one was left. I also think there’s a lesson out of this issue that the authors of the review should address.

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Is it peculiar? Yes. How should you respond? Ask yourself if the "review" of only one paper adds anything meaningful to the literature on the subject. Perhaps the answer is 'yes' -- e.g. if the authors make a strong case that the subject is very under-explored, such that only one paper on it exists though many important questions exist to be answered. Or perhaps the answer is 'no.'

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If there are a considerable amount of other works which were excluded using the criteria, resulting in one included work, then I would expect a justification for the exclusion criteria (perhaps it was too extreme?).

If there are not a lot of other works in this field, I would expect a justification of why the authors conducted a systematic review in this particular field (as hinted by @Raghu Parthasarathy).

In any case, I would expect the author to clearly acknowledge and explain this odd situation somewhere in the paper.

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I think it depends very much on the exclusion criteria, and what the authors make of the single paper. For example, if it's just a review of that paper...it might not be particularly useful. However, many systematic reviews discuss the literature in the context of the field as a whole - is it surprising that this field only has one paper when a given exclusion criteria is applied? Is it possible the field is accidentally ignoring something because it's similar to something else?

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