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Literature Reviews (Health Sciences)

Librarian Collaboration

Systematic Reviews follow established guidelines and best practices, and MUSC Library’s goal is to work with you to produce a high-quality review. Librarians offer two tiers of collaboration: Tier One (basic support) and Tier Two (research partner). Roles and expectations of librarians and research teams based on the tier of collaboration. Read more about the librarian's role in a systematic review team.

Research teams should partner with a librarian to design search strategies. Librarians are experts in translating research questions into search concepts, identifying appropriate databases, developing comprehensive search strategies, translating the search strategy for each database, writing the search methodology, and creating the PRISMA flow diagram.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (formally the Institute of Medicine) has issued standards for systematic review teams in the book, "Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews" including standards specifically for conducting searches:

  • Standard 3.1.1: Work with a librarian or other information specialist trained in performing systematic reviews (SRs) to plan the search strategy.
  • Standard 3.1.3: Use an independent librarian or other information specialist to peer review the search strategy.

Tier One (Basic Support: Librarian as Advisor)

For Tier One service, librarians will provide:

  • Consultation to determine the feasibility of a systematic review vs other review types.
  • Provide guidance on best practices, protocols, or guidelines, e.g. PRISMA.
  • Recommend appropriate databases and advise on initial search strategies. 
  • Provide advice on Covidence review management software.

Tier Two (Librarian as Research Partner)

In Tier Two collaboration, librarians will: Research teams will:
  • Consult with research team to determine the feasibility of a systematic review vs other review types.
  • Decide on type of review, based on timeline and scope of project.  
  • Be an active member of the research team.
  • Decide on roles (two independent screeners, one tie-breaker, statistician) and responsibilities of team members. 
  • Provide advice on best practices and standards for reporting (e.g., PRISMA, MOOSE, Cochrane). 
  • Adhere to best practices and standards for reporting (e.g., PRISMA, MOOSE, Cochrane).
  • Provide advice on protocol registration (PROSPERO).
  • Register systematic review protocol in PROSPERO.
  • Identify appropriate databases, develop search strategies, perform searches, and document search details. A second librarian will peer review search strategies to ensure the highest quality.
  • Provide the librarian with ample time to complete the searches after protocol is registered in PROSPERO.
  • Import references and train research team on Covidence review management software.
  • Begin title/abstract screening as soon as librarian imports references into Covidence review management software.
  • Assist with selection of quality assessment (risk of bias) tools and development of customized quality assessment and data extraction forms in Covidence.
  • Perform quality assessment (risk of bias) of included studies, and data extraction.
  • Write the search methods section of the manuscript and provide reproducible search strategies for the appendix.
  • Include librarian as co-author, and send manuscript draft to librarian for review prior to submission. Include search strategies in the publications's appendix.