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Systematic Reviews

Team Members

The systematic review team typically consists of the following members:

  • Content experts
    • at least 2 reviewers
    • an optional tie breaker
  • 1 statistician for the meta-analysis
  • 1 information professional (a medical librarian) for expert searching

At each step of the process, multiple team members may have a role, though some may play a more prominent role at certain portions of the review.  One team member needs to be the project manager, by facilitating collaboration among the other team members and moving the review forward.  The project manager needs to manage resources used during the project, assign tasks, and set deadlines for parts of the review.  The project manager can either be one of the content experts or the information professional.  All team members should typically be co-authors and review the final manuscript before submission.

"Working as a team not only spreads the effort, but ensures that tasks such as the selection of studies for eligibility, data extraction and rating the certainty of the evidence will be performed by at least two people independently, minimizing the likelihood of errors. First-time review authors are encouraged to work with others who are experienced in the process of systematic reviews and to attend relevant training."

Source: Higgins JPT, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.1 (updated September 2020). Cochrane, 2020. Available from

Registering a Protocol

What is a protocol?

The key purpose of the protocol is to make plans to minimize bias in the eventual findings of the review.

What components are involved in a protocol?

  • The research question
  • Sources that will be searched
  • Types of articles to be included in the review
  • PICO elements (population, interview, comparison/control, outcome)
  • Search terms used
  • Data extraction process
  • Risk of bias assessment
  • Strategy for data synthesis
  • Review team members and contact information
  • Funding information
  • Time frame for review
  • Conflict of interest

Why write and publish a protocol?

"Publication of a protocol for a review that is written without knowledge of the available studies reduces the impact of review authors’ biases, promotes transparency of methods and processes, reduces the potential for duplication, allows peer review of the planned methods before they have been completed, and offers an opportunity for the review team to plan resources and logistics for undertaking the review itself."

Source: Higgins JPT, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.1 (updated September 2020). Cochrane, 2020. Available from

Searching for Systematic Reviews

The PubMed database contains more than 30 million citations and abstracts of biomedical literature.  Citations in PubMed primarily stem from the biomedicine and health fields, and related disciplines such as life sciences, behavioral sciences, chemical sciences, and bioengineering.

Start at PubMed

1. Conduct a search. 
If you have already identified some keywords, use those to look for similar articles.

2. Apply the Article Type filter to Systematic Review.

PubMed Clinical Queries

Enter a relevant keyword to find different types of articles.  The three main categories included are Clinical Studies, Systematic Reviews, and Medical Genetics.  Results default to the most recently published.  To see the results within the PubMed results screen, click on "See More..." at the bottom of the column.

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) is the leading resource for systematic reviews in health care.

CDSR includes all Cochrane Reviews and protocols prepared by Cochrane Review Groups. Each Cochrane Review is a peer-reviewed systematic review that has been prepared and supervised by a Cochrane Review Group (editorial team), according to the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions or Cochrane Handbook for Diagnostic Test Accuracy Reviews. CDSR also includes Editorials and Supplements.

Start at Cochrane Library

1. Enter in your keywords.

2. Limit results to the Cochrane reviews tab.

Watch this video for a detailed overview of the searching interface of the Cochrane Library.

CINAHL Plus® with Full Text is a robust collection of full text for nursing & allied health journals, providing full text for more than 770 journals indexed in CINAHL®. This authoritative file contains full text for many of the most used journals in the CINAHL index, with no embargo. CINAHL Plus with Full Text is the core research tool for all areas of nursing and allied health literature. Full text coverage dates back to 1937.

Start at CINHAL

1. Enter your keywords

2. Scroll down to the Search Options box and look for the Publication Type menu.  Select "Systematic Review."  You can also search for "Meta Analysis"

The APA PsycInfo® database, American Psychological Association’s (APA) renowned resource for abstracts of scholarly journal articles, book chapters, books, and dissertations, is the largest resource devoted to peer-reviewed literature in behavioral science and mental health. It contains records and summaries dating as far back as the 1600s with one of the highest DOI matching rates in the publishing industry. Journal coverage, which spans from the 1800s to the present, includes international material selected from periodicals in dozens of languages.

Start at PsycInfo

1. Enter your keywords

2. Scroll down to the search filters, and look for the Methodology box.  Select "Systematic Review" under Literature Review.

Still OneSearch is the main search box on the library homepage.  It searches all library databases at once.  It includes access to our journal subscriptions, library catalog, and other resources.

Start at the library homepage and click on Advanced Search

Enter your keywords in one field and the phrase "systematic review" in the second field.


Working with a Librarian

Role of a librarian during the planning phase

  • Determining feasibility of the systematic review
    • Is the research question appropriate for a systematic review?  Or would another review type be better suited?
    • Are you willing and able to complete a full systematic review, based on your experience, support, and available time?
  • Learning the systematic review process
    • Providing helpful resources on the entire systematic review process, or specific phases
    • Educating the researcher and team on concepts, definitions, and timing of a systematic review
  • Assist in writing a protocol
  • Searching for past reviews on the topic
    By locating past systematic reviews on a similar topic, it can help guide the search process for your project.
  • Can act as the project manager
    • Assist and educate team members on the review process
    • Assign tasks
    • Set deadlines
    • Manage and organize the body of work used for the systematic review
    • Act as a tie breaker on whether or not to include an article for the review