Systematic reviews are gaining in popularity at medical research institutions across the US. Guidelines either state the need for or highly recommend the involvement of a librarian or information professional in systematic review research. The J Otto Lottes Health Sciences Library offers several resources and services to support systematic review research.
Steps involved for a Systematic Review
Time (18 months, average)
The average systematic review requires 18 months of work. “…to find out about a healthcare intervention it is worth searching research literature thoroughly to see if the answer is already known. This may require considerable work over many months…” (Cochrane Collaboration)
If that timeline doesn’t meet your needs, consider doing an evidence summary instead.
Team Members (at minimum...)
“Expert searchers are an important part of the systematic review team, crucial throughout the review process-from the development of the proposal and research question to publication.” (McGowan & Sampson, 2005)
*Be sure to ask your information professional (librarian) to write a methods section regarding the search methods and to give them co-authorship. You may also want to consider providing a copy of one of the search strategies used in an appendix.
Before your librarian creates a search strategy and starts searching in earnest you should write a detailed PICOTT question, determine the inclusion and exclusion criteria for your study, run a preliminary search, and have 2-4 articles that already fit the criteria for your review.
What is searched depends on the topic of the review but should include...
Citation Management Software - You will need a citation management system like EndNote to handle the large number of citations that you will need to deal with. At this time, I can only recommend EndNote. Other systems like RefWorks and free ones like Zotero and EndNote Web, at this time, cannot handle the tasks or amounts of citation data typical for systematic reviews.
$$ EndNote: University of Missouri faculty have access to Endnote for $30. There is no cost to students.
Writing - RevMan allows you to prepare the text, build the tables showing the characteristics of studies and the comparisons in the review, and add study data. It can perform meta-analyses and present the results graphically.
Your librarian is not the appropriate person to obtain the physical articles. It is a fairly easy, though time consuming, task that we are happy to show you or someone on your team how to do.
$$ It is doubtful that we own every article you will need to look at so be sure to plan for the expense of inter-library loan (ILL). Inter-library loan is a service provided to you by MU Libraries that will obtain articles we don't own on your behalf.
Anticipate your costs appropriately for a systematic review by adding a budget for the expense of collecting articles.
Decide as a team what tools to use to stay organized. If your team includes people you do not have physical access to, consider using tools in the cloud that will offer the opportunity to easily collaborate on single documents as opposed to emailing back and forth and thus having to track several revised versions of the same document.
The goal is to keep records in the most systematic way possible so that all of your work can be reproduced. That means you should keep detailed records of the exact search you used for each database and that all your searches should have an end date so that the results can be reproduced exactly every time.