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Systematic Reviews

This guide is intended to help the Cal State LA community with conducting systematic reviews and accessing help from librarians with systematic reviews.

The Librarian's Role

According to the Institute of Medicine Standards for Systematic Reviews (IMSSR), the systematic review team should work with a librarian during the three steps below. In addition to the standards outlined by the IMSSR, a librarian can help with numerous steps throughout the planning, conducting, and reporting phases of your systematic review. With our specialized knowledge of the systematic review process, we can save you time and confusion by providing guidance on the systematic review process and the best practices for many of the steps along the way, as well as actively helping to develop and refine your topic, create systematic literature searches of all relevant databases, search the grey literature, and provide information for your PRISMA figure and Methods section.

  • 3.1.1: Work with a librarian or other information specialist trained in performing systematic reviews to plan the search strategy
  • 3.1.2: Design the search strategy to address each key research question
  • 3.1.3: Use an independent librarian or other information specialist to peer review the search strategy

Librarian Support Services

The librarians here at California State LA support the needs of the campus community in conducting systematic reviews, comparative effectiveness reviews, and meta-analyses. Services range from Tier 1 Services, including basic consultations and training, to Tier 2 Services with a high level of involvement.

In Tier 2, there is an expectation of authorship credit, grant funding, or the possibility of the librarian becoming involved as a review team member, depending on the level of involvement. Our services are free to the campus, but providing funding guarantees a librarian will devote a specific number of hours to contribute to your team.

Systematic Review Services
Phase Step Tier 1 Services Tier 2 Services
Planning Topic Development
  • Guidance on Systematic Review and Steps
  • Background Searching for Current and Upcoming Reviews
  • Help with Development or Refinement of Review Topic
  Development of Eligibility Criteria
  • Help with Refinement of PICO (Population, Intervention(s), Comparator(s), and Key Questions
  • Guidance on Study Types to Include
  Protocol Creation and Registration
  • Guidance on Protocol Registration
Conducting Searching for Studies
  • Identification of Databases for Searches
  • Instruction in Search Techniques and Methods
  • Training in Bibliographic Citation Software Use for Managing and Sharing Search Results
  • Development and Execution of Searches
  • Downloading Search Results to Citation Management Software and Removing Duplicates
  • Documentation of Search Strategies
  • Management of Search Results
  Study Selection
  • Guidance on Methods for Study Review
  Data Extraction
  • Guidance on Data Extraction and Management Programs and Repositories
Reporting Writing / Publishing
  • Suggestion of Journals to Target for Publication
  • Drafting of Literature Search Description in Methods Section
  • Guidance and Information for PRISMA Figure
  • Drafting of Literature Search Appendix
  • Review of other Sections or Final Draft

Adapted from UNC Systematic Review Guide

Benefits of a Librarian in Systematic Reviews

Research shows that the methodological quality of systematic reviews improves when librarians are active members of the research team. Librarian participation in research teams results in:

John F. Kennedy Memorial Library
California State University, Los Angeles
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032-8300