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Systematic Reviews

Systematic Reviews

HPD Systematic Review Service


Why include a librarian on your systematic review team?

As expert searchers, librarians play an important role in making sure your searches are comprehensive and reproducible. Librarians are not simply searchers. Their expertise with terminologies, database functionality, and citation management is a specialty, and directly affects the data collected in a systematic review methodology. 

The Institute of Medicine's (IOM) Standards for Systematic Reviews recommends that a systematic review team should "work with a librarian or other information specialist trained in performing systematic reviews to plan the search strategy" (3.1.1) and "use an independent librarian or other information specialist to peer review the search strategy." (3.1.3)

If you are interested in working on a systematic review, HPD Librarians can help. Please read this page in its entirety and complete the form linked below to request an initial consultation.


Timeline and using the HPD Systematic Review Service

It is best to include the librarian from the start of the project. 

According to the Cochrane Collaboration, the time required to complete a systematic review varies widely. Research teams should allow over 12 months from initial consultation to production of final manuscript. 

Due to the time-intensive nature of this work, librarians may only work on a few systematic reviews projects at one time. It is possible for the request to be queued. Please plan ahead and reach out to us as early as you can so we may coordinate the workflow. Please see timeline for systematic review.


Systematic Review Resources/Tutorials

If you are new to systematic reviews, need some additional training, or would like a more in-depth overview of the process, there are some great resources and tutorials available. We recommend reviewing these before planning your systematic review project.



How Librarians Can Help


HPD Librarians offer the following services to help you with your systematic review project:

  • Provide overview of the systematic review (SR) process.
  • Referral to relevant handbooks and guidance materials.
  • Referral to relevant reporting standards.
  • Guidance on estimating time, manpower and other requirements for a good quality systematic review.




  • Provide feedback on the protocol draft prior to publication in PROSPERO.
  • Please note: a full protocol is required before librarian begins designing search strategy.


Literature Search                                                                                            
  • Collaborate with systematic review team to identify primary search concepts.
  • Identify databases for searching (bibliographic databases and clinical trial registries).
  • Design search strategy with appropriate keywords and controlled vocabulary terms.
  • Translate search as needed for different databases.
  • Arrange for peer review of search strategies and verify reproducibility.
  • Run peer-reviewed search strategies in relevant databases.
  • Save search strategies for follow-up.
  • Maintain documentation of search process and results.
  • The librarian will not conduct additional grey literature searching. We can advise in the use of other resources and techniques, such as subject expert contacts, citation checking, and hand searching.


Citation Management                                                                                                                   
  • Import search results into EndNote (NSU's default citation management software).
  • Use citation manager de-duplication feature to remove duplicates.
  • EndNote library will be sent to SR team. On request, results can be provided as RIS files for export to other software as needed.


Full Text
  • Librarian is not the appropriate person to obtain the full text/physical articles. It is a fairly easy, though time-consuming task that we are happy to show you or someone on the team. We can also provide guidance on requesting material through Interlibrary Loan.
Publication Preparation                                                                                                                                                                                       
  • PRISMA Diagram: The librarian will participate in the compiling of the PRISMA flow diagram by recording the initial number of articles retrieved from each and all databases, and the number of articles in the deduplicated library sent to the research team. The research team will be responsible for recording all other numbers.
  • Methods Section: The librarian will write the portion of the methods section specific to searching and information retrieval.
  • Provide search strategies to be included in appendix of manuscript.


Updating Systematic Review                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
  • Re-run searches to retrieve newly published information, as needed.


Collaborating with the Librarian


Through out the systematic review process, especially during the searching and information retrieval steps, it is an active collaboration between the researchers and librarian. In addition to the initial and follow-up consultations, we expect:

  • After receipt of the preliminary search strategy, researchers to provide feedback on the strategy, indicating additional or unnecessary search terms. 
  • Researchers to also indicate any articles of high relevancy identified in the initial sample of results.
  • Researchers to answer clarifying questions.
  • Final approval from researchers of modified search strategy (after their initial feedback).


Please note:

*Delays in the process, outside of the control of the librarian, such as delayed feedback from the research team and changes to the research question can delay the project.

*Without feedback from the research team, the librarian will not be able to proceed with the SR search.



Are you ready to work with a librarian for your systematic review?


Before the first consultation, we ask that you complete/provide the following:


Once you have this information ready, fill out the HPD Systematic Review/Meta-Analysis Service Consultation Request form to request a consultation.

After we receive your consultation request, we will be in touch. At that point, you and your team will meet with the librarian (face-to-face or virtually) to discuss your protocol and research question.



When will librarian begin designing search strategy?


Due to the time-intensive nature of this work, librarians may only work on a few systematic reviews projects at one time. It is possible for the request to be queued. Please plan ahead and reach out to us as early as you can so we may coordinate the workflow. 

Before beginning to design a search strategy for your systematic review project:

  • A full protocol is required.
  • All required information completed.
  • Follow up meetings after the initial consultation may be needed.
  • Full systematic review team must be in place.