How Can the Library Help with Your Systematic Review?

In the course of their academic careers at Central Michigan University, some students, most particularly Health Professions and Medical students, may find themselves faced with conducting a systematic review. What is a systematic review and how can the Library help?

According to the Cochrane Library, a systematic review is a process that “attempts to identify, appraise, and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question.” (

There are two roles that a librarian can adopt to assist in the systematic review process. The first is as a consultant. The second is as a co-author.

In the consultant role, the librarian will help you to:

  • Understand the systematic review process
  • Provide insight on the development of the PICO statement (Population/Intervention/Comparison/Outcomes)
  • Assist in the selection of databases and other resources for searching
  • Consult on the search strategy
  • Suggest screening software and citation managers

As a co-author, the librarian has a much more in-depth role. A typical systematic review takes up to one year to complete, although most students will only have the length of a course to complete a systematic review.  Students that work with faculty on a longer term project will have the conventional one-year timeframe to complete the work.

In the role of co-author, the librarian will:

  • Select the databases, grey literature and other resources to search
  • Create and run the search strategy in the selected resources
  • Translate the search strategy into each resource interface
  • Export the results into a citation manager or screening program
  • Collaborate on formulating and revising the review protocol
  • Assist in de-duplication and screening of the citations.
  • Write the portion of the methods section of the systematic review in regard to searching

Students at CMU can get assistance from a librarian in the systematic review process by contacting the Health Professions Librarian, Margaret Danowski or the Medical Librarian, Rebecca Renirie.  Information about systematic reviews can be found on several library research guides, including FNS 799 Capstone in Nutrition and Dietetics: Systematic Reviews and Systematic Reviews in Medicine.









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