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Systematic Reviews

Library workshop: So You Want to Do a Systematic Review

Library Services to Support Systematic Reviews

‚ÄčLibrarians' Role in a Systematic Review

A JAMA article, published  on September 10, 2014, asked authors to systematically review the literature and recommended authors collaborating with medical librarians when writing review articles. The reason was "extensive literature searches can be difficult to perform, given the complexity of the search process and author's time constrains. It's also unlikely that a content expert will be familiar with the intricacies of more than one database." 

Basic Service

Librarians provide face-to-face or online consultations covering the processes and best practices for conducting a systematic review. It is designed to get the researcher started.

  • Provide consultation on SR process and guidelines
  • Give advice on identifying controlled vocabulary and keywords 
  • Provide recommendations for databases and other resources to search for evidence
  • Give advice on citation management methods and tools

Advanced Service

Librarians are considered full team members of the research team and conduct in-depth literature searches, assist with citation management, and write the literature search methodology for the final paper for publication.

  • Use PICO (Patient problem, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome) to identify key concepts
  • Identify appropriate search terms: controlled vocabulary and keywords in conjunction with SR team members
  • Conduct literature searches across multiple databases
  • Document line by line database search strategies
  • Organize references retrieved from difference sources
  • Assist in retrieving full text articles
  • Update search results prior to the final write-up 
  • Write up the search part of the methodology section for publication
  • Review manuscript

Before you begin a systematic review, ask yourself:

  • Do I have a clearly defined clinical question with established inclusion and exclusion criteria?
  • Do I have a team of at least three people assembled?
  • Do I have time to go through as many search results as we might find?
  • Do I have resources to get foreign language articles appropriately translated?
  • Do I have the statistical resources to analyze and data pool?

If you answered “No” to any of the first four questions, a traditional literature review would be more appropriate.

If you still want to do a systematic review and need librarians' assistance, you may

Request Librarian Support for Your Systematic Review  OR

Complete the Systematic Review Protocol Form 

 

Library Systematic Review Service Policy

University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC)

Health Sciences Library

Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Service Policy 

(Last updated July 2020)

The UTHSC Health Sciences Library is committed to providing a high quality systematic review (SR) service to ensure your review project is given full consideration and the attention it deserves. A systematic review is a lengthy and complex process. Our goal is to ensure that your review project will be completed within a mutually agreeable time frame that is consistent with your project objective. 

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defines a systematic review as "a summary of the clinical literature. A systematic review is a critical assessment and evaluation of all research studies that address a particular clinical issue. The researchers use an organized method of locating, assembling, and evaluating a body of literature on a particular topic using a set of specific criteria. A systematic review typically includes a description of the findings of the collection of research studies. The systematic review may also include a quantitative pooling of data, called a meta-analysis."

Before you begin a systematic review, ask yourself:
1.    Do I have a clearly defined clinical question with established inclusion and exclusion criteria?
2.    Do I have a team of at least three people assembled?
3.    Do I have time to go through as many search results as we might find?
4.    Do I have resources to get foreign language articles appropriately translated?
5.    Do I have the statistical resources to analyze and data pool?

If you answered “No” to any of the first four questions, a traditional literature review will be more appropriate to do. 
 

All UTHSC faculty, staff, students, and fellows/residents may request for the library's systematic review support service, while the Advanced Service is limited to faculty, staff, and fellows/residents. 

A.    Basic Service
Library faculty provide face-to-face or online consultations* covering the processes and best practices for conducting a systematic review (SR). It is designed to get the researcher started. The library faculty will:
•    Provide consultation on SR process and guidelines
•    Give advice on identifying controlled vocabulary and keywords 
•    Provide recommendations for databases and other resources to search for evidence
•    Give advice on citation management methods and tools
The library faculty does not perform the actual search, assist with writing the search methodology, or data management. 
*A consultation does not guarantee immediate service assistance. 

B.    Advanced Service
Library faculty are considered full team members of the research team and conduct systematic and comprehensive literature searches. If you request the Advanced Service, library faculty will be recognized with co-authorship of the manuscript. Systematic reviews typically require a minimum of 9 months to complete. Library faculty will:
•    Use PICO (Patient problem, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome) to identify key concepts
•    Identify appropriate search terms: controlled vocabulary and keywords in conjunction with SR team members
•    Conduct literature searches across multiple databases
•    Document line by line database search strategies
•    Organize references retrieved from difference sources
•    Assist in retrieving full text articles
•    Update search results prior to the final write-up 
•    Write the literature search methodology section for publication
•    Review manuscript

Systematic Review Protocol

  • Serves as a road map for your review
  • Specifies the objectives, methods, and outcomes of primary interest of the systematic review
  • Promotes transparency of methods
  • Allows peers to review how you will extract information 

Systematic Review/Protocol Registries

It's highly recommended that the SR research team register their project. Registering your protocol is helpful to establish that your group is doing this review to reduce the risk of multiple reviews addressing the same question. Three major systematic review registries are: 

  • Campbell Collaboration - produces systematic reviews of the effects of social interventions
  • Cochrane Collaboration - international organization, produces and disseminates systematic reviews of health care interventions
  • PROSPERO -international prospective register of systematic reviews

Essential items of a systematic review protocol may include: 

•    Anticipated start date
•    Anticipated completion date
•    Named contact (lead researcher) and their information
•    Research team and their information
•    Funding information
•    Conflicts of interest
•    Review question/topic
•    Databases to be searched; any search restrictions (i.e., date, language, etc.)
•    Condition or domain being studied (description of disease, condition or healthcare domain being studied)
•    Participants/population
•    Interventions/exposures
•    Comparison/control
•    Types of studies to be included
•    Main outcomes
•    Data extraction procedure
•    Risk of bias
•    Data analysis procedure

After meeting with the library faculty, elements of the protocol may be discussed, changed, etc. before moving forward. 
 

Test Search

Literature searching is the core of a systematic review. At the first consultation*, the library faculty will request the researchers to :
1.    Complete library’s Systematic Review Protocol Form.
2.    Provide “Gold standard” articles (5-10) that exemplify the research question/topic, which requires the researchers to do some initial searching             of their research topic prior to the meeting. 
3.    Establish a research team with at least three members.
4.    Name targeted journal(s) for publication.
*A consultation does not guarantee immediate service assistance. 

Once all four requested items have been received and approved by the library faculty in conjunction with the research team, the library faculty will begin to create the comprehensive search strategy. Turnaround time for the initial search is a minimum three weeks. If the library faculty needs more time, the library faculty must contact the research team as soon as possible with a new search completion date that is not to exceed six weeks with the exception of emergency situations. If the original library faculty is unable to complete the search, a new library faculty will be assigned to the research project. 

During this time, the library faculty will likely request feedback from the research team on search terms/keywords. The library faculty will not move forward with the search strategy until feedback has been received. If the research team has any concerns or questions about the search strategy, please bring them to the library faculty’s attention so they can address them and determine a solution. 
 

When providing systematic review support service, the library faculty may utilize different tools, including:
•    EndNote citation manager 
•    Rayyan web application  
•    PRISMA Checklist 

If the research team has questions about any of these tools or would like the library faculty to consider using a different tool, please express the questions or concerns to the library faculty for discussion. 
 

If the systematic review project is grant-funded, please indicate so during the first consultation. Fees for library faculty’s service should be written into the grant.


By agreeing to the Advanced Service, the lead researcher and research team will be expected to:

  • Provide an estimated project timeframe for completion.
  • Establish a research team that includes experts from various disciplines. 
  • State clear inclusion & exclusion project criteria.
  •  Provide feedback on the proposed search strategy from the library faculty.
  • Recognize the library faculty’s contributions to the research project by including the library faculty as a co-author
  • Keep library faculty updated on SR progress and project changes.
  • Inform library faculty if for some reason the project won’t be pursued. 

If the library faculty hasn’t heard from the lead researcher within three months after the initial consultation or after conducting the initial search, the systematic review project will be automatically closed. If the research team is still interested in completing the review process, a new consultation will need to be scheduled and the process starts at the beginning.