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Systematic Reviews: A How-To Guide

Overview of systematic review steps and resources to assist researchers conducting reviews

Librarian contributions to Evidence Synthesis


UVic Libraries offers two different models of support for evidence synthesis reviews: Consultation and Collaboration.


Evidence Synthesis Consultation


Evidence Synthesis Collaboration

Eligibility: This stream is open to all evidence syntheses requests from faculty, staff, and students.


Eligibility: This stream is open to grant-funded evidence syntheses only.

In this option, the librarian can provide training or guidance, or connect you to resources during a research consultation. But the librarian will not develop or conduct the searches for you. In this option, the librarian will join your team as a contributing member and collaborator. They will be responsible for some tasks, and provide guidance and resources on other aspects of the review.
If your consultations with the librarian led to impactful contributions to the quality or rigor of your research, an acknowledgement in the final manuscript is appreciated. Requesting permission prior to acknowledging the librarian in an external publication is welcomed.   Based on the involvement of the librarian as a collaborator, it is expected that co-authorship will be offered to the librarian for any published outputs. This expectation is based on the ICMJE authorship criteria and because the librarian holds the intellectual property rights for the search strategies created.

Evidence Synthesis Consultation

Majority of the time, librarian involvement will be in for the form of research consultations. Research consultations may include:

1) Discussions and guidance about the various steps of evidence synthesis methodology, including information sources.

2) Demonstrations and training for tools and advanced database functions for creating comprehensive searches.

3) Reviewing search strategies to identify errors and gaps.

The librarian can also connect you with methodological guides, tools and checklists, software, or other external training resources.

In the consultation role, the librarian will provide training, guidance, or resources, but will not develop or conduct the search strategies for you.

Evidence Synthesis Collaboration for Grant-funded reviews

The Evidence Synthesis Collaboration option is specifically for grant-funded reviews or those where librarian collaboration is required.

As a collaborator, the librarian will contribute to different steps and tasks within the review in different ways. They will be responsible for leading and carrying out a specific set of tasks that best align with the information competencies they possess; these are highlighted with an asterisk (*) in the table below. For other tasks, they may contribute as part of the team, and for the remaining tasks they will simply provide guidance, resources, or training. The specific details of each task and the way in which the librarian can contribute are shown in the table below.


Steps/tasks in evidence synthesis Contributions by librarian when in a collaborator role
Refining the research question Provide guidance and resources
Identifying the appropriate review type Provide guidance
Refining inclusion/exclusion criteria Provide guidance
Selecting databases to search Suggest relevant databases to include
Designing the primary database search strategy * Responsible for designing and refining the primary database search strategy, with input and feedback from the research team, and validating the search against a test set
Creating and publishing a protocol Contribute to the search methods, comment on others sections of the protocol, and advise on where to publish
Translating searches from one database to another * Responsible for translating the primary search strategy to all other databases selected
Exporting results from database searches * Responsible for exporting results from each database search
Deduplication and Covidence account set-up * Responsible for setting up a Covidence account and inviting team members to join
Tracking the numbers for reporting in a PRISMA flow diagram Contribute to the portion of the PRISMA flow diagram related to searching
Determining grey literature and supplementary search strategies Provide suggestions for sources and strategies
Conducting & tracking the results of grey/supplementary searches Provide guidance and resources
Piloting screening criteria Provide guidance
Title/abstract screening process Provide guidance, software, and training resources
Retrieving full-text PDFs and uploading to Covidence Provide guidance and training
Full-text screening process Provide guidance, software, and training resources
Data extraction and risk of bias assessment Suggest resources and guidelines
Writing the methods section for the search methodology * Write the search methods section of the manuscript, and provide complete line-by-line search strategies for all databases to be included in the appendices, as per PRISMA-S guidelines
Reporting for transparency Advise on suitable reporting standards
Data management and citation management Provide advice and guidance


A request for the collaboration option can be made by filling out the request form, or reaching out to your subject librarian to initiate the process and confirm availability of a librarian. Librarian participation as a collaborator is available on a first-come first-served basis. Submitting a request does not guarantee acceptance, which is based on capacity of our librarians. Timelines for the work will be negotiated with the individual librarian during the initial consultation.

For requests made during the grant application stage, a letter of support can be provided by the library that describes the in-kind contributions committed to the project in the form of librarian time (at a rate of $80/hour). This can be included in your grant application. Alternatively, the librarian can be listed as a collaborator or co-applicant on the grant, depending on the requirements of the specific grant.

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