Systematic review and evidence synthesis
Librarians partner with researchers to conduct evidence syntheses. These are syntheses of all previously conducted research on a topic and represent the highest level of evidence in research. The service is available to U of M researchers.
About the service
Evidence synthesis reviews encompass systematic reviews, scoping reviews, meta-analyses, and evidence gap maps, and more. Unlike other types of reviews, these research methods include a reproducible and transparent methodology. For help differentiating between the various types of review, consult A Typology of Reviews (Grant & Booth, 2009).
Work with librarians to increase the quality of reviews and streamline the process. Librarians help you:
- determine if there are existing reviews on your topic,
- develop a protocol to ensure transparency and rigor,
- create search strategies to identify all relevant studies,
- deliver search results formatted for citation managers and evidence synthesis review tools,
- implement best practices for screening, risk of bias assessment, and data extraction and synthesis,
- write the search methodology, and
- determine best evidence synthesis type for your project.
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How librarians can help
As you start your evidence synthesis project, librarians can help at either the consultant or co-author level.
As a consultant, a librarian can step in at different points of your evidence synthesis review. Librarians can
- provide background information and resources on the evidence synthesis process,
- recommend databases, protocol registration platforms, and citation management software, and
- suggest edits for your search strategy.
This option is a limited time commitment.
Co-authoring is a more substantial commitment, and a librarian will typically devote more than a year to partner with you on your evidence synthesis review.
As a co-author, the librarian will be more hands-on and can
- comment on the protocol,
- select databases and grey literature resources,
- write the search strategy,
- translate searches to syntax of all databases,
- perform searches and export them to citation management software,
- perform deduplication, or train your team on the process,
- set up in article screening software, and
- write a portion of the methods section specific to searching.
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Tasks and timelines
An evidence synthesis review will typically require a year or more to complete, and librarians’ availability may vary, so please plan ahead and reach out to us as early as you can.
Below is a detailed chart that breaks down the steps of a traditional evidence synthesis review and the librarian co-author’s potential contributions.
Note: these time estimates may vary depending on the project, and some steps may happen concurrently.
|Steps in a traditional evidence synthesis review||Estimated time investment||Potential contribution of librarian co-author|
|1. Assemble evidence synthesis review team and select project manager||Varies||Provide guidance|
|2. Identify appropriate review methodology||2 weeks||Provide guidance|
|3. Define research question||2 weeks||Provide information on appropriate question frameworks (e.g. PICO)|
|4. Define inclusion/exclusion criteria||1 week||Provide guidance|
|5. Select databases||1 week||Suggest appropriate databases|
|6. Select grey literature resources||1 week||Suggest grey literature resources|
|7. Write search strategy for primary database||2-4 weeks||Lead writing of the search strategy|
|8. Write and register protocol (written compilation of previous steps)||Varies||Provide comments on protocol and guide protocol registration process|
|9. Translate search strategy to syntax 2 of all databases (including grey literature)||2-4 weeks||Translate search strategy|
|10. Search and export results into citation management software||2 weeks||Perform searches and export results|
|11. De-duplicate results||2-4 weeks||Perform de-duplication, or train your team on the process|
|12. Title and abstract screening||2–3 months*||Recommend article screening software and advise on use of software|
|13. Retrieve full-text articles||1 month*||Train team on full-text article retrieval|
|14. Full-text screening||2–3 months*||Provide guidance|
|15. Risk-of-bias assessment||2–3 months||Provide guidance|
|16. Data extraction||2–3 months||Provide guidance|
|17. Meta-analysis or synthesis of results||2–3 months||Provide guidance|
|18. Write the manuscript||2–3 months||Write information retrieval portion of the methods section|
* Timeframe can vary significantly depending on number of citations identified for screening.
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