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Systematic Reviews and other Evidence Syntheses

How to use this Guide

This guide is designed to be used by students, staff, and faculty who are new to evidence synthesis.

What is your timeframe?

Timeline of systematic review process, which can total over 12 months

Image CC-BY Mirian Ramirez. Adapted from image designed by Jessica Kaufman, Cochrane Consumers & Communication Review Group, Centre for Health Communication & Participation, La Trobe University, 2011.

Guidelines & Standards for Evidence Synthesis

Key organizations that provide guidance on evidence synthesis.  Choose one, and follow it.

Build your team

A high end publishable review needs several different types of team members to succeed. 

  • at least 3 reviewers to screen articles, extract data, and assess quality of articles
  • a methodologist to assist with assessing risk of bias of qualifying articles (e.g. GRADE methodology)
  • a librarian to conduct an exhaustive and reproducible search
  • a biostatistician if you think you will perform a meta-analysis (pooled results are homogenous)

Roles of Librarians

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: Co-author

  • Co-authorship required (see Memorandum of Understanding below)
  • 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

Why partner with a Medical Librarian? 

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.

Defining Authors

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends that authorship be based on the following 4 criteria:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content
  • Final approval of the version to be published
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Guide Attribution

This guide is copied and adapted with permission from the