Skip to Main Content

Systematic Reviews


Library staff are available to consult with researchers, research groups, and students. Some of the services we offer include:

  • guidance on the process
  • searching for existing reviews on the topic
  • help with refinement of the search question
  • guidance on types of studies to include
  • guidance on protocol registration
  • identification of databases for searches
  • instruction in search techniques and methods
  • construction of the search strategy and search translation
  • authorship of the Methods section
  • training in citation management systems and screening tools (RefWorks and Covidence)

Librarian involvement offers many benefits, and the more the librarian knows about your project the better the project will be.  To that end, librarians do NOT offer minimal involvement services.  For example, if you have already have a final search string that you simply need to have run in the databases and uploaded to Covidence, please follow the steps in our Covidence Guide to do this. Similarly, the library is unable to assist with locating PDFs of articles and uploading them to Covidence. Please refer to the Covidence Guide for a few tips on that process. 

Residents and students will be taught the process of conducting a literature search for a systematic review, with the expectation that the student will learn the process and will be able to independently handle more of the steps themselves, in preparation for a future career that will likely include intensive literature searches.

Before Your First Meeting with a Librarian

If you request assistance with a systematic review, you’ll be asked the series of questions below. Why does the library ask these questions? Systematic reviews require a significant amount of librarian time and effort. We ask the questions below to avoid situations in which a librarian makes a significant scholarly contribution to a review project, only to lose touch with the investigator, be left unclear about the status of the project, what to do with the products of his/her work, or how to plan for future involvement in the project.

  • Have you determined that there are no existing systematic reviews that address your question?
  • What is your research question? Is it in PICO format?
  • Is this a team effort?
  • Are you following the PRISMA guidelines, or another set of guidelines?
  •  Do you plan to use a citation management tool or screening software to manage the search results?
  •  Do you plan to publish? If so, what are some journals you plan to submit to?
  •  How will the librarian be given credit?
  • Which databases will be searched? 
  • What is your expected timeline for this part of the systematic review?
  •  Do you want any search limitations (i.e., language, date of publication, etc.)?


IOM (Institute of Medicine). 2011. Finding What Works in Healthcare: Standards for Systematic Reviews. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman D, and The PRISMA Group (2009). Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: The PRISMA statement. PloS Med 6(7):e1000097.Doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000097

Adapted from: Getting ready for a systematic review: things to consider. HSLS Systematic Review Program. Health Sciences Library System-University of Pittsburgh. []

How Will the Librarian be Given Credit?

Regarding librarian credit: 

It is considered best practice to include a librarian as a team member when conducting a systematic or scoping review.  Acknowledging a librarian helps your paper, as it lets readers know that you followed this recommended best practice. 

  • If you plan to include a librarian-developed search strategy (either as an appendix or in the text), please acknowledge the librarian by name.  Copying and pasting a search string, word-for-word, justifies an acknowledgment by name.  Possible acknowledgment:  “We would like to thank (librarian) from the Library of RUSH University Medical Center for her work on the literature search strategy for this review.” 

  • If the work was extensive and the librarian made a significant contribution (such as refining the topic, many extensive reviews of the search strategy, and/or writing part of the methods section, etc.), co-authorship is merited.  Please get in touch when you start drafting the Methods section of the paper. 


Maps and Directions