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Systematic Reviews

Defining Roles

Librarians are often an under-used resource in the evidence synthesis process, however it is recommended that the disciplinary experts on the author team manage certain steps that require specific content-area and quantitative methods expertise. Librarians who write the search methodology section of the synthesis should be included as a co-author. Librarians who collaborate on search strategy formation and/or citation management should be acknowledged in the final publication. See Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors by The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors to learn more about the role of authors and contributors

Tasks & Timelines

A systematic review will typically require a year or more to complete, and librarians’ availability may vary, so please plan ahead and reach out to us as early as you can.

Below is a detailed chart that breaks down the steps of a traditional systematic review and the librarian co-author’s potential contributions. (Please note that these time estimates may vary depending on the project, and some steps may happen concurrently.)

Tasks & Timeline

Timeline and details of the systematic review process

Steps in a Traditional Systematic Review

Estimated Time Investment

Potential Contribution of Librarian Co-Author

1. Assemble systematic review team and select project manager

Varies

Provide guidance

2. Identify appropriate review methodology

2 weeks

Provide guidance

3. Define research question

2 weeks

Provide information on appropriate question frameworks (e.g. PICO)

4. Define inclusion/exclusion criteria

1 week

Provide guidance

5. Select databases

1 week

Suggest appropriate databases

6. Select gray literature resources

1 week

Suggest gray literature resources

7. Write search strategy for “master” database

1 week

Lead writing of the search strategy

8. Write and register protocol (written compilation of previous steps)

Varies

Provide comments on protocol and guide protocol registration process

9. Translate search strategy to syntax 2 of all databases (including gray literature)

2 weeks

Translate search strategy

10. Search and export results into citation management software

2 weeks

Perform searches and export results

11. De-duplicate results

2-4 weeks

Perform de-duplication, or train your team on the process

12. Title and abstract screening

2–3 months*

Recommend article screening software and advise on use of software

13. Retrieve full-text articles

1 month*

Train team on full-text article retrieval

14. Full-text screening

2–3 months*

Provide guidance

15. Risk-of-bias assessment

2–3 months

Provide guidance

16. Data extraction

2–3 months

Provide guidance

17. Meta-analysis or synthesis of results

2–3 months

Provide guidance

18. Write the manuscript

2–3 months

Write information retrieval portion of the methods section

* Timeframe can vary significantly depending on number of citations identified for screening.