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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

Several organisations that fund or conduct knowledge synthesese such as systematic reviews recommend, if not require, having an information specialist or librarian on the research team (IOMCochraneCIHRCampbell Collaboration). Due to the amount of time required in this process and the need to respect course, thesis, or dissertation requirements, librarian involvement generally differs for academic staff versus students.

The following information also applies to other types of knowledge syntheses, such as scoping reviews or rapid reviews.

General timeline for conducting a knowledge synthesis

According to the Cochrane Collaboration, the time required to complete a systematic review varies widely. Research teams should allow for an average of 12 months from initial consultation to production of the final manuscript.

In our experience, scoping reviews can take longer (up to 3-4 years). This will depend on the subject area, the nature and complexity of the question, and the team's size and familiarity with the methodology.

Librarian roles

There are many steps to the process of conducting a knowledge synthesis; more information about the process can be found on our guide.

For doctoral students, master’s students, and undergraduate students, where the review project is part of your dissertation, thesis or coursework, librarians are available for consultation on the following aspects of systematic reviews:

1. Discussion on the feasibility of the project*
2. Discussion on the formulation of a suitable research question
2. Guidance on checking for published or in-process knowledge syntheses on the same topic
3. Guidance on designing and running the search strategies
4. Providing resources to answer other questions about the knowledge synthesis process

Students are limited to 5 hours of consultation time (in person or via email) per project. No-shows or last minute cancellations count toward the 5 hours. 

*An initial meeting with the PI or supervisor is encouraged in order to establish the parameters of the project.

Before the first meeting with the librarian, the student will be required to provide, by email, a draft review protocol with the following information:

  • Background justification for the review
  • Draft research question
  • Draft inclusion and exclusion criteria

Information about writing a protocol can be found on our guide to conducting knowledge syntheses.

Getting support

If you would like a consultation about a knowledge synthesis project, please submit your draft protocol by email to your liaison librarian.

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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