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Systematic Reviews, Scoping Reviews, and other Knowledge Syntheses

Guidelines on what to include in your manuscript

Reporting guidelines

The EQUATOR Network is a site that keeps track of reporting guidelines available for specific study designs--for example, what authors of randomized controlled trials should be reporting in their manuscripts, and how. Given systematic reviews and other forms of knowledge synthesis are study designs in and of themselves, please see the EQUATOR Network to find out if a reporting guideline is available for the specific form on knowledge synthesis that you are using.

For systematic reviews in particular, PRISMA is the reporting guideline of choice.

  • The PRISMA Checklist is a quick way to make sure you are including all the necessary elements in your manuscript
  • The PRISMA Explanation and Elaboration document (published as an article in multiple journals) provides additional details on the elements outlined in the PRISMA Checklist
  • Other reviews may also refer to PRISMA in the absence of guidelines for other forms of knowledge synthesis, but it is worth checking the Equator Network to see if new reporting guidelines have been made available.

Additional resources

Publishing in the life sciences: Guidance on finding journals for your manuscript and on preplanning your writing to comply with the author guidelines of your selected venue


Documenting and reporting the search methods

Documenting and reporting the search methods

The PRISMA checklist (for systematic reviews) specifies that the following should be documented in the published report:

#7) Describe all information sources (e.g. databases with dates of coverage, contact with study authors to identify additional studies) in the search and date last searched.

#8) Present full electronic search strategy for at least one database, including any limits used, such that it could be repeated.

The PRISMA Elaboration and Explanation provides more details on the meaning and rationale of the checklist items.

The PRISMA flow diagram is used to illustrate the flow of records through the search and screening process. 

There are many forms of knowledge synthesis in addition to systematic reviews, and reporting guidelines for them may be non-existent, under development, or evolving. To check for reporting guidelines, please visit the Equator Network.

Important information to document

Important information to document for the search

Record the information in a separate document:

Information Example
Names of databases/platforms searched Ovid MEDLINE
Database time coverage 1946-Present
Date searched January 12, 2018
Number of records from each database before deduplicating

Ovid MEDLINE: 1023

Ovid Embase: 2046

Number of records after deduplicating 2056
Search strategy from each database


1. Silicone gels/
2. Silicone elastomers/
3. Silicon*.tw.
4. (gels or gel).tw.
5. Cica
6. Or/1–5
7. Cicatrix, hypertrophic/
8. (hypertrophic adj3 scar*).tw.
9. Hypertrophic
10. Hypertrophic
11. Or/7–10
12. 6 and 11


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

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