Support for Systematic Reviews & Evidence Syntheses Research

K ey standards organizations ( IOM Cochrane CIHR Campbell Collaboration ) recommend librarians participate on the research team and/or be involved in developing the research question and literature searching strategy for any evidence synthesis project such as:

  • systematic reviews
  • scoping reviews
  • rapid reviews

Due to the expertise and time investment involved, the Library provides tiered support for researchers conducting these projects.

Good to Know

Levels of Systematic Review Service

Available to: all Brock students, post-doctoral fellows, research assistants, and faculty. This initial   consultation (up to 1hr)  may cover some or all of the following:  

  • An introduction to the components of evidence synthesis and related timelines  
    • Overview of the purpose of evidence synthesis (and/or specific review type)  
    • Steps in planning a synthesis review:   
      • Developing an appropriate research question   
      • Team membership  (more than one researcher is required)  
      • Creating (and registering) a systematic review protocol   
      • Establishing inclusion and exclusion criteria 
      • Selecting a framework for monitoring and reporting workflow (e.g. PRISMA)  
      • Developing literature searching strategies   
      • Documenting and reporting search results   
      • Strategies and tools for managing citations   
      • Strategies and tools for screening citations and extracting data   
  • Advising on the type of research appropriate to the research question  

Support needed beyond a initial single consultation may be considered as Tier 2: Extended Consultation. 

Available to: Brock graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, research assistants and faculty; primary investigators for the project must be based at Brock.
Note: Faculty supervisors must attend initial meetings for graduate student projects.

Librarians involved in extended consultation are to be acknowledged by name as “participating investigators” in any resulting published research including theses and dissertations; researchers may use this acknowledgement template.

Before meeting with the librarian for an extended consultation, researchers must complete a work plan and submit it to the Librarian in advance.

Up to 5 hours (which may include in-person meetings, emails, as well as librarian preparation time) of consultation may be provided on some or all of the following:

  • Developing a search strategy for a synthesis review project
  • Fine-tuning a research question
  • Developing a base search strategy: selecting appropriate keywords, subject headings and search operators and advanced searching syntax
  • Selecting appropriate databases, grey literature sources and other information resources
  • Strategies for advanced searching in specific databases/sources
  • Advice on search filters/hedges to capture elements such as study designs, population groups, etc.
  • Using a specific tool (e.g. Zotero, Mendeley) for managing citations and removing duplicate citations
  • Using a specific tool for screening citations and extracting data e.g. Covidence
  • Selecting appropriate techniques and frameworks for synthesizing data
  • Support beyond 5 hours is at the discretion of the librarian

Researchers may begin at Tier 2, or may begin with Tier 1 consultation and follow to Tier 2.

Available to: Brock faculty only. Collaboration must be proposed by the lead investigator(s). It is at the discretion of the librarian(s) to choose to participate as collaborators based on their time and interest in the project. Collaborating librarians are to be acknowledged by name as co-authors in any resulting published research.

Investigators and the librarian(s) must sign a memorandum of understanding outlining key responsibilities and timelines. Before meeting with the librarian for collaboration, researchers must also complete a work plan and submit it to the Librarian in advance of consultation. Librarians may be involved in any or all of the following activities:

  • Attend team meetings and provide relevant expertise
  • Assist with research question refinement
  • Contribute to protocol development
  • Arrange for Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies
  • Design, test, translate and execute searches of bibliographic databases
  • Search for grey literature
  • Remove duplicate records from search results, record clean-up
  • Provide literature search documentation, including a PRISMA flowchart
  • Author relevant portions of the manuscript (e.g. Methods section)
  • Editorial contributions to the final manuscript
  • Participate in screening
  • Other activities as negotiated


Sutton, A., Clowes, M., Preston, L., & Booth, A. (2019). Meeting the review family: Exploring review types and associated information retrieval requirements.  Health Information and Libraries Journal 36 (3), 202–222.  

University of Manitoba Libraries Literature Searches for Knowledge Synthesis: Information    

McGill Library Systematic Review Service    

St. Michael’s Hospital Health Sciences Library Systematic Search Services Policy .    

University of Saskatchewan Library Systematic Review Guidelines   

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors: Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors