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Systematic Reviews: Library Services

As expert searchers, librarians play an important role in making sure your searches are comprehensive and reproducible. Standard 3.1.1 of the Institute of Medicine's Finding What works in Health Care (2011) recommends working with a librarian trained in performing systematic reviews to plan the search strategy, and Standard 3.1.3 states that an independent librarian should peer review the search strategy.

***It is best to include the librarian from the start of the project. Due to staffing levels, we are limited to working on just a few systematic reviews simultaneously. Developing and processing search strategies may take one month or longer, so please contact us well in advance of any deadlines so we can coordinate the workload.*** Please see Timeline for a Systematic Review.

Would you like to request help from a Librarian for your Systematic Review?

A systematic review project represents a significant commitment of time and effort, including that of the librarian(s) participating on the team. When meeting with the librarian to discuss your review topic and search needs, we require either a completed protocol (especially Prospero questions 15-32) or at least a protocol template form, such as the University of Warwick protocol template. This will help you consider all aspects of the review and avoid disruptions due to unforeseen complications after you’ve begun the research. Thank you for your cooperation!

How can the library help?

The following services are available from Lister Hill Library to help you with your review:


UAB Libraries supports UAB community members (i.e., full-time faculty, staff and students) who are initiating systematic reviews of the literature and meta-analyses by providing access to Covidence to assist with review tasks such as screening, quality evaluation and data extraction. Please visit our Covidence guide and/or contact Lister Hill Library Reference Department for more information.


  • 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.


  • Research existing review protocols to see if there is another similar protocol in existence.
  • Advise on developing the protocol and help with the literature search-related sections of the protocol.
  • Provide feedback on the protocol draft prior to publication.

Literature Review

  • Assist with identification of databases for searching, relevant to your systematic review topic.
  • Assist with identifying the primary search concepts and translating them as needed for different databases (including identifying relevant controlled vocabulary terms and keywords).
  • Translate research question into an appropriate search strategy, honing specificity and sensitivity for optimal retrieval for your review.
  • Arrange for peer review of search strategies as well as verify reproducibility of search strategy retrieval.
  • Execute peer-reviewed search strategies in relevant databases on behalf of SR author(s) or advise author(s) in doing so.
  • Save the search strategy or strategies for follow-up, or advise  in doing so.
  • Advise in the use of other resources and techniques for comprehensive systematic review of the literature beyond bibliographic databases, such as grey literature, subject expert contacts, citation checking, and hand-searching.


  • Help set up (or provide for you) a spreadsheet or similar document listing the search strategies, date(s) of search(es), number of results retrieved from each database, and number of duplicates removed from the search results.
  • Provide assistance with drafting a description of the literature review for the "Methods" section or narrative describing the methodology of the systematic review report(s).
  • Provide help with drafting any literature search strategies appendix for report(s) or advise you on this task.
  • Help identify appropriate reporting protocol(s) for your study.

Citation Management

  • Assist with using citation management programs for efficient search retrieval management.  
  • Import search results into EndNote or other citation managers on your behalf or advise you in doing so.
  • Utilize citation manager de-duplication feature on search results or advise you in using the same.

Full Text

  • Provide options for accessing full text of identified studies via the libraries' holdings or via interlibrary loan (ILL).

Preparing for a Systematic Review: Things to Consider

Librarian Co-authorship

While co-authorship for librarians conducting searches and/or contributing to the methods section of systematic review publications is preferred, there may be some reviews in which multiple librarians are involved in some way. Recognizing that systematic review authors may wish to limit the number of co-authors on a paper, it may be acceptable in these cases to include an acknowledgement of the individuals involved in the text of the article in lieu of co-authorship. The lead librarian on the project will be happy to discuss the options, including suggested wording.

Chat with a Librarian


Contact us:
Lister Hill Library
2nd Floor

Sterne Library
HUB Desk


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