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Syracuse University Libraries

Systematic Reviews

General procedures to help guide researchers through the elements of a systematic review

Librarian Expertise

Systematic reviews, scoping reviews, and related evidence synthesis studies are a significant undertaking and require both time (typically 18 months) and specific training, skills, and resources to complete. Conducting and reporting guidelines standardize the research process and recommend having a team of at least 3 researchers to complete a systematic review or related evidence synthesis study. Librarians are frequently involved with the process of completing a systematic review, from acting as an expert consultant to occasionally, acting as a full member of the review team. 

Librarians have a unique grasp of the information landscape which makes them invaluable partners who can help identify core databases to use, develop inclusive search strategies based on the research question, and identify different ways to manage the workflow associated with systematic reviews and other evidence synthesis studies.

Did you know that having librarians participate in systematic reviews are correlated with higher quality reported search strategies? The Institute of Medicine recommends that a librarian or information specialist be involved in the systematic review process. In fact, this study published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, Rethlefsen, et al. demonstrates that librarian involvement in systematic reviews improves both the quality and the reproducibility of the literature search. 

The Librarian's Role at SU

The Role of SU Libraries in Evidence Synthesis Reviews/Studies


SU Libraries are committed to supporting researchers who choose to participate/take on a systematic review or related study. SU Libraries provides significant resources in support of the completion of systematic reviews and other evidence synthesis studies through the procurement of literature databases needed to complete the comprehensive searching component, some of which include Scopus, Web of Science, Dimensions, and other subject specific literature indexes like ComDisDome, PsycINFO, Social Services Abstracts, and more.

Additionally, SU librarians trained in systematic reviews and evidence synthesis practices, have developed this extensive guide to help researchers navigate the systematic review process. 

Librarians' Expertise and Availability

Currently there are three SU Librarians who have been trained in the methods, tools, and guidelines necessary to complete a evidence synthesis work, Each of these librarians has participated in evidence synthesis related studies (scoping review, rapid review, etc.) in varying degrees depending on their bandwidth. Please note that the availability of these three librarians to support and/or participate is limited.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal to have one of these three librarians support and/or participate in your evidence synthesis project, please fill out the below form "Submit a Proposal for Librarian Support", to provide basic information about your study and indicate the level of support you would like to receive from one of these librarians. The ability of the librarian to participate, and at what level, is dependent on their availability and any prior research proposals requests received. Before submitting a proposal to request support, read through the Attribution for Librarians information included below. 


Attribution for Librarians

Attribution for Librarians Based on Level of Involvement 

Level 1 - Librarian as Basic Consultant (1 to 4 hours total time contributed over the course of the review) 

A librarian’s input is often beneficial during the early stages of study development. Discussions with the librarian may focus on the following: 

  • Provide background information and resources to help identify the best research method for your project (i.e. systematic review, scoping review, rapid review, etc.) 
  • Advise on the existing guidelines, workflow, and tools used for a systematic review and/or related evidence synthesis method
  • Provide guidance on appropriateness and formatting of the research question(s)
  • Recommend databases, grey literature, and other information sources to be used in the comprehensive literature search

  • Provide guidance during the review phases of the study

The librarian may provide one or more basic consultations about the systematic review and/or evidence synthesis process throughout the duration of the study. These consultations should not exceed 4 hours in total. This level does not include work on search strategy or continued guidance throughout the duration of the study. 

Level 2 - Librarian as Participating Investigator (3 to 8 hours total time contributed over the course of the review) 

The librarian may provide two or more consultations and/or attend occasional meetings of the review team. These consultations should not exceed 8 hours in total time contributed over the duration of the review. Note that if a librarian becomes regularly involved with the study team, beyond occasional contributions/consultations, then they should be considered a co-author on the study. Additionally, acting as a participating investigator does not include development and/or translation of the search strategy across resources. See this basic guidance on participating investigator attribution: International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE): Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors.   

Contributions may include the Basic Consultant Level of service in addition to some of the following. 

  • Assistance with a probing literature search to determine if a systematic review has already been done on a proposed research question
  • Providing training and/or guidance for research team members on developing search strategies or inclusion/exclusion criteria,  
  • Discussing the nuances of different literature databases and resources for a better understanding of the types of studies included in each, along with providing strategies and guidance for completing comprehensive searches in those resources 
  • Identifying, applying, and/or interpreting evidence synthesis guidelines and other resources throughout the life of the project
  • Assisting with the selection and implementation of common systematic review tools, such as CADIMA, Covidence, Zotero, EndNote, etc  (add link to tools in guide)., to help the team with workflow management and adherence to best practices and guidelines

Level 3 - Librarian as Co-Author (8 or more hours total time contributed over the course of the review, and/or assists with the creation and execution of the search strategy used in the study, which should be documented in the final publication) 

The librarian may be semi-regularly involved at different stages throughout the systematic review/evidence synthesis study, from study design to manuscript completion, in many cases the librarian will also develop portions of the search strategy for one or more database searches, and will write or assist with developing the methods section and/or tables/graphs that document the search strategy for the resulting manuscript/publication, this may also include development of the PRISMA flow diagram, or related supplemental materials. At this level, the librarian will be included as a co-author on the final publication, and their level of contribution and involvement with the study should be reflected in the submitted author order. 

Contributions may include the Basic Consultant Level and the Participating Investigator Level in addition to some of the following: 

  • Collaborate with the team to translate the research question into reproducible search strategies for each relevant databases
  • Develop search strategies and carry out comprehensive literature searches across one or more databases/resources
  • Deliver search results in formats that can work with citation management tools and other systematic review software
  • Maintain records of search steps and results that are often included as a table or supplemental material, in addition to being detailed in the methods section of the manuscript
  • Write or edit relevant portions of the methods section
  • Update searches as needed throughout the duration of the study

Submit a Proposal for Librarian Support