Systematic Reviews: Consult with your Librarian

This guide provides information and resources which may be helpful when undertaking a systematic review or other type of knowledge synthesis.

Consult With Your Mayo Librarian

Research indicates that involving librarians in the systematic review process results in significantly higher quality reported search strategies.1,2 By formulating search strategies and performing extensive literature searches across multiple databases, librarians help researchers minimize bias in their reviews.3,4 Additional roles for librarians in systematic reviews include citation management, education, source selection, planning, and question formulation.5

Consult Cochrane Interactive Learning Module 3: Searching for Studies for further information.  *Please note you will need to register for a Cochrane account while initially on the Mayo network. You'll receive an email message containing a link to create a password and activate your account.*

Standards Recommending Librarian Involvement

Work with a librarian or other information specialist trained in performing systematic reviews to plan the search strategy

1.    Eden J, Levit L, Berg A. Finding What Works in Health Care : Standards for Systematic Reviews. National Academies Press; 2011. Accessed May 5, 2021.

[R]eview authors [should] seek guidance from a medical/healthcare librarian or information specialist, preferably one with experience in supporting systematic reviews.

Lefebvre C, Glanville J, Briscoe S, et al. Searching for and selecting studies. In: Higgins J, Thomas J, Chandler J, et al., eds. Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. version 6.2: Cochrane; 2021.

PRISMA-S is an extension of PRISMA 2020. "The literature search, or information retrieval process, not only informs the results of a systematic review; it is the underlying process that establishes the data available for analysis." "PRISMA-S is a 16-item checklist that covers multiple aspects of the search process for systematic reviews. It is intended to guide reporting, not conduct, of the search."

Your Mayo librarian is familiar with PRISMA-S and will provide you with the information required to meet with this reporting standard.

Rethlefsen ML, Kirtley S, Waffenschmidt S, et al. PRISMA-S: an extension to the PRISMA Statement for Reporting Literature Searches in Systematic Reviews. Systematic reviews. 2021;10(1):39.

Recognizing the Contribution of Your Librarian

Mayo Clinic librarians have received specialized training in systematic literature searching. A 2018 study by Bullers, Howard, Hansen, et. al, found that librarians devote a median time of 22 hours to their portion of a systematic review.6  The time it takes to perform a systemic search of the literature varies, but it requires an exceptional skillset to strategize and execute systematic literature searches.

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors has defined criteria for two roles in the publication process: co-authors and contributors. These roles have differing levels of responsibility for the publication and provide different types of input to the final product. Depending on the librarian's level of involvement in your review, we recommend recognizing him or her as either a contributor or a co-author. The ICJME authorship criteria will help you decide which level of recognition is appropriate.

References & Recommended Reading

1.          Rethlefsen ML, Farrell AM, Osterhaus Trzasko LC, Brigham TJ. Librarian co-authors correlated with higher quality reported search strategies in general internal medicine systematic reviews. Journal of clinical epidemiology. 2015;68(6):617-626.

2.          Meert D, Torabi N, Costella J. Impact of librarians on reporting of the literature searching component of pediatric systematic reviews. Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA. 2016;104(4):267-277.

3.          Rethlefsen ML, Murad MH, Livingston EH. Engaging medical librarians to improve the quality of review articles. JAMA. 2014;312(10):999-1000.

4.          Metzendorf M-I. Why medical information specialists should routinely form part of teams producing high quality systematic reviews–a Cochrane perspective. 2016.

5.          Spencer AJ, Eldredge JD. Roles for librarians in systematic reviews: a scoping review. Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA. 2018;106(1):46-56.

6.          Bullers K, Howard AM, Hanson A, et al. It takes longer than you think: librarian time spent on systematic review tasks. Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA. 2018;106(2):198-207.