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Systematic Reviews

Why a Librarian?

Medscape article: “An author list that includes a medical librarian will probably produce a more comprehensive search algorithm that is less likely to miss relevant studies.” Labos, C. (2018, November 5). Meta-analyses: 5 things to know. Medscape.

Rethlefsen, Melissa L; Farrell, Ann M; Osterhaus Trzasko, Leah C; Brigham, Tara J. Librarian co-authors correlated with higher quality reported search strategies in general internal medicine systematic reviews. J Clin Epidemiol. 2015 Jun;68(6):617-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2014.11.025. Epub 2015 Feb 7. PubMed PMID: 25766056

Librarian Help

Consultations on systematic reviews can be for individuals or groups working on a review project. Consultations are meant to supplement training by focusing on specific needs of the project. Individuals/groups will be advised on which training resources best would meet their needs. One meeting will typically not suffice the needs of the project. The timing of follow-up meetings will be discussed in the initial meeting.

Consultation Terms

Depending on the level of assistance requested, the librarian will either be listed as a contributor to the project or as an author. (Why a librarian as coauthor?) For graduate students working on thesis/dissertation, a librarian will provide appropriate level of service to support student's research. During the initial visit, the terms of the consultation will be discussed using the following guidelines, which are based on rules for authorship from (Baerlocher, Newton, Gautam, Tomlinson, & Detsky, 2007; Rennie, Yank, & Emanuel, 1997)

  • Services with librarian as consultant:
    (example:graduate thesis or dissertation)
    • guidance with systematic review steps
    • guidance on databases/sources to be searched
    • tips on searching techniques and methods
    • tips on information management
  • Services with librarian as contributor:
    • guidance with systematic review steps
    • design search strategy
    • consultation(s) on information management
  • Services with librarian as author:
    • project management throughout systematic review
    • design search strategy and complete searches
    • management of search results
    • obtaining full text of the literature
    • documentation of entire process
    • write up methods section concerning the search (using PRISMA)
    • creating appropriate tables/figure about the process of the review (using PRISMA)
    • (optional) critical appraisal

Information adapted from the following:

Margaret Foster's guide to Systematic Reviews

Rethlefsen, M. L., Farrell, A. M., Osterhaus Trzasko, L. C., & Brigham, T. J. (2015). Librarian co-authors correlated with higher quality reported search strategies in general internal medicine systematic reviews. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 68(6), 617-26. doi:10.1016/j.jclinepi.2014.11.025

Instruction sessions can be provided to your class or group:

  • In-class presentations: In-class sessions are available for courses. The presentation can be customized to match the needs of the curriculum.
  • Workgroups: Groups such as labs or research teams can request training for specific research projects.  Training will be customized for the needs of the project.


Some options for instruction include

  • Bootcamps - extensive one- to three-day sessions covering systematic review methods
  • Scaffolded training [recommended] - several instruction sessions spread through a degree program building skills over time
  • Presentations - a one-time visit with an overview of systematic reviews or discussion of a specific topic (see examples) within the realm of systematic reviews, where the presentation is one hour or less. Examples:
    • Customizing RefWorks for systematic reviews
    • Systematic searching methods
    • Documenting a systematic review
    • Advanced systematic review trainging using Cochrane review methods
    • and more



Caçola, P., Miller, H., &  Ossom Williamson, P. (2017).  Behavioral comparisons in Autism spectrum disorder and developmental coordination disorder: A systematic literature review. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 38, 6-18. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2017.03.004

Offor, N., Ossom Williamson, P., & Caçola, P. (2016). Effectiveness of interventions for children with developmental coordination disorder in physical therapy contexts: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis. Journal of Motor Learning and Development, 4(2), 169-196. doi:10.1123/jmld.2015-0018


In Progress:

Haykowsky, M., Tucker, W., Wang, J., Ossom Williamson, P., Scalf, H., Seo, Y., Stehling, E., & Pandey, A. (2018). Improvement in peak VO2 and its determinants with exercise training in heart failure and preserved Ejection Fraction (HFpEF): a systematic review and meta-analysis. PROSPERO 2018 CRD42018094482. Available from:

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