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Systematic Reviews, Scoping Reviews, and other Knowledge Syntheses

Purpose of this guide

This guide was created to help students and faculty learn more about types of knowledge syntheses and the process of conducting them.

CIHR defines knowledge synthesis as "the contextualization and integration of research findings of individual research studies within the larger body of knowledge on the topic. A synthesis must be reproducible and transparent in its methods, using quantitative and/or qualitative methods." Systematic reviews, scoping reviews, realist syntheses, narrative syntheses, meta-analyses, meta-syntheses and practice guidelines are all forms of synthesis.

Knowledge synthesis process

This guide covers the steps in the process of a knowledge synthesis.

1. Question: Formulate a clear, answerable question

2. Protocol: Write and register a protocol that outlines the steps you will take in the review

3. Search: Conduct a systematic, reproducible search to find articles relevant to your question

4. Screening: Look at each article to see if it matches your inclusion and exclusion criteria

5. Appraisal: Assess the quality of the studies included in your review

6. Synthesis: Summarize the knowledge you have found

7. Writing: Write your methods and results for publication

Systematic review service

For more information about librarian assistance in conducting a knowledge synthesis:


McGill University Library has a subscription to Covidence, a useful tool for importing database records, removing duplicate records, screening, documenting critical appraisal/risk of bias and data extraction, and exporting data. Covidence also allows members of the McGill community to invite external reviewers to join their review team.

For access and support for Covidence, please consult:

Contact us


Due to a large influx of requests, there may be an extended wait time for librarian support on knowledge syntheses.


Find a librarian in your subject area to help you with your knowledge synthesis project.


Or contact the librarians at the
Schulich Library of Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Engineering

Need help? Ask us!

Online training resources

Online training resources

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