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Systematic Reviews: Getting Started

Key Characteristics of a Systematic Review:

  • a clearly stated set of objectives with an explicit, reproducible methodology;
  • a systematic search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria;
  • an assessment of the validity of the findings of the included studies, for example through the assessment of risk bias; and
  • a systematic presentation, and synthesis, of the characteristics and findings of the included studies.”

Roles of Librarians in Systematic Reviews

Level 1: Consultant

  • Meet 2-3 times to discuss the process
  • Advise on databases and keywords
  • Suggest tools and resources

Level 2: Facilitator

  • Acknowledgement required
  • May include multiple consultations
  • Advise on review type, search terms, citation management, protocol development
  • Suggest tools and resources

Level 3: Collaborator

  • Co-authorship required
  • May include several consultations with research team
  • Advise on review type, citation management, and protocol registration & development
  • Develop and run search strategies, perform document retrieval
  • Writing the methods section of final manuscript

Please note:


Studies show that librarian involvement in systematic reviews improves the quality and reproducibility of the literature search (Rethlefsen et al., 2015).  

  • It is recommended that you ask for librarian involvement early on in the process. 
  • Developing and running search strategies may take a month or longer. 
  • There may be a waitlist for librarian assistance.
  • Please contact us well in advance of any deadlines so that we may coordinate librarian workloads.

Introduction to Systematic Reviews:

Literature Searches vs. Systematic Reviews:

New PubMed for Systematic Reviews:

Translating Searches for Systematic Reviews:

Systematic Reviews Q&A:

Systematic Review Automation Tools:

Rethlefsen ML, Farrell AM, Trzasko LC, Brigham TJ. Librarian co-authors correlated with higher quality reported search strategies in general internal medicine systematic reviews. Journal of clinical epidemiology. 2015 Jun 1;68(6):617–26. pmid:25766056