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Systematic Review Service @ ECU: Home


Thanks for your interest in the Systematic Review Service at the Laupus Library. If you are considering conducting a systematic review or have any questions regarding the process or service, please contact us at

Laupus Library and Systematic Reviews Services

Involving a librarian or a trained information professional in any type of health sciences review article is strongly recommended because "extensive literature searches can be difficult to perform, given the complexity of the search process and authors’ time constraints. It is also unlikely that a content expert will be familiar with the intricacies of more than one database. Empirical evidence provides a strong rationale for searching multiple databases. For this reason, collaborating with medical librarians is recommended when writing review articles" (Rethlefsen ML, Murad M, & Livingston EH, 2014, p. 999).

The involvement of a librarian  is particularly important for systematic reviews and engaging a librarian in a systematic review is a specific recommendation of both the Cochrane Review Group and the Institute of Medicine. Laupus Library offers a Systematic Review Service, with the goal of working collaboratively with researchers undertaking Systematic Reviews. 

Librarians' role in Systematic Reviews requested by researchers will be:

  • Determining the scope of the topic and identifying any previous systematic reviews published on the topic
  • Developing an appropriate search strategy for the research question by collaborating with investigator(s) to ensure all relevant studies are identified, including:
    • Translating the search concepts into controlled vocabulary and keywords in order to create a precise but comprehensive search strategy;
    • Recommending the specific databases, grey literature, and other information sources appropriate for your topic; and
    • Conducting the literature searches in the identified databases and other sites
  • Sharing any and all information gained from the literature search
  • Maintaining documentation of the search strategy and results in each of the databases
  • Writing the literature search methodology section
  • Assisting with other aspects of the writing process, as requested

**Developing and conducting database-specific searches is a lengthy process which may take a month long or more. Please involve the librarian in the early stages of planning your review**

Rethlefsen ML, Murad M, & Livingston EH. (2014). Engaging medical librarians to improve the quality of review articles. JAMA, 312(10), 999–1000. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.9263
Why researchers should have a librarian involved in the research process:
Sollenberger, J. F., & Holloway, R. G.,Jr. (2013). The evolving role and value of libraries and librarians in health care. Jama, 310(12), 1231-1232. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.277050 [doi].  PMID: 24065006
From the article:  Changes in medical information and technology are revolutionizing health care. As clinicians try to incorporate research into practice through comparative effectiveness research and decision support, they increasingly depend on technology to bring evidence to the bedside to improve quality and patient outcomes. Integrating current information into the processes of shared decision making and continuous learning supports the application of evidence in clinical decision making. Health sciences libraries and librarians have an increasingly important role in providing that information to clinicians as well as to patients and their families.

Timeline of a Systematic Review

Differing from narrative reviews, a systematic review addresses a "...clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review." (Cochrane Handbook) Because of this, the time commitment for a systematic review is significant, please plan ahead and be sure to leave enough time to work on your review. 

                   Month                 Activity

                   1 – 2                     Preparation of protocol.

                   3 – 8                     Searches for published and unpublished studies.

                   2 – 3                     Pilot test of eligibility criteria.

                   3 – 8                     Inclusion assessments.

                   3                          Pilot test of ‘Risk of bias’ assessment.

                   3 – 10                   Validity assessments.

                   3                          Pilot test of data collection.

                   3 – 10                   Data collection.

                   3 – 10                   Data entry.

                   5 – 11                   Follow up of missing information.

                   8 – 10                   Analysis.

                   1 – 11                   Preparation of review report.

                   12 –                      Keeping the review up-to-date.


Source: Higgins JPT, Green S (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 [updated March 2011]. The Cochrane Collaboration, 2011. Available from