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Librarian involvement in systematic reviews, scoping reviews and other knowledge syntheses


Due to a large number of requests, there may be an extended wait time for librarian involvement in knowledge syntheses

A librarian will typically require 10 working days to develop a preliminary search strategy. The timeline may vary depending on the complexity of the research question.  At later stages, further delays may occur depending on such factors as the number of databases considered necessary for the search,  technical issues, or scheduling conflicts.

Delays in this process outside of the control of the librarian, such as delayed feedback from the research team and changes to the research question, can further affect the originally agreed upon timeline.  In this event, it may be necessary for a new timeline to be agreed upon.  

Main steps in database searching

Typically, the process of delivering search results for a knowledge synthesis involves:

Preliminary search

Following an initial consultation with the research team, review of the protocol and review of records already identified as relevant, within a typical time period of 10 working days, the librarian will:

  • Construct an initial exhaustive search strategy for one database

  • Send the strategy along with a sample of records from the search (typically the first 100) to the research team, for feedback

Feedback from research team

After receipt of the preliminary search strategy, the research team will:

  • Provide feedback on the strategy, indicating additional or unnecessary search terms

  • Indicate any articles of high relevancy identified in the initial sample of results

Search strategy refinement

After receiving feedback from the research team, the librarian will:

  • Review the feedback and ask clarifying questions 

  • Incorporate feedback into the search strategy as necessary

  • Return the revised search strategy to the research team for final approval

Please note: without feedback from the research team, the librarian will not be able to proceed with the search.

Translation to other databases and record keeping

Following final approval of the search strategy, the librarian will:

  • Translate the search strategy to the other databases agreed upon previously, per the protocol

  • Provide a copy of each search strategy employed during the searching process

  • Provide the information necessary for the PRISMA Diagram and the methods section

Citation management
  • Covidence and EndNote are the default software tools used by McGill librarians
  • Citations will be provided in an agreed upon format

Grey literature and other search techniques

Grey literature

Should a grey literature search be considered necessary, this would typically not be conducted by the librarian.  However, the librarian can suggest suitable sources and provide guidance on how to search these sources; this may include the provision of suggested search strategies for individual resources.

Citation searches

None will be conducted by the librarian. However, the librarian can suggest suitable approaches.

Hand searching

None will be conducted by the librarian. However, the librarian can provide input into considerations when hand searching.

Contacting key individuals/organizations/companies in a subject area

None will be conducted by the librarian.

Preparing the manuscript

  • PRISMA flow diagram: Upon agreement, the librarian will be responsible for recording the initial number of articles retrieved from each and all databases.  The research team will be responsible for recording all other numbers.

  • Methods section: As a co-author, the librarian will provide input describing the search methodology for both the abstract and full text of the manuscript.

  • Review of the final manuscript: As a co-author, the librarian will be given the opportunity to provide final sign-off for the manuscript.

Updating reviews

Given a knowledge synthesis may take many months, it is likely that any searches conducted by the librarian will need to be rerun in order to capture relevant articles published in the intervening period. The librarian will conduct these as necessary.

Schulich Librarians

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Schulich Librarians
Schulich Library of Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Engineering

Macdonald Campus Librarians

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Macdonald Campus Librarians
Macdonald Campus Library

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