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Systematic Review (SR) Service: What is an SR?

Collaborate with a MSK Research Informationist to publish your Systematic Review.

The MSK Library's Systematic Review Service

Welcome to the Systematic Review Service LibGuide. A systematic review may be undertaken to confirm or refute whether or not current practice is based on relevant evidence, to establish the quality of that evidence, and to address and/or recommend changes.  If you are not sure that a Systematic Review is the right approach for your research, Cornell University Library has developed a decision tree to help researchers determine the best review methodology that fits their timeline, question scope, and desired outcome.

Once you decide that you want to conduct a systematic review with your team, the Getting Started tab (Documents for Researchers), has our Systematic Review Search Request form. Please complete to the degree that you can and return via email to Donna Gibson. Your request will be reviewed and a research informationist will be assigned to work with you and your team. The Getting Started tab outlines how we support and contribute to the completion of your systematic review.

What is a SR?

Systematic Reviews (SRs) are a form of Evidence-Based Practice.

They are scientific investigations in themselves, with pre-planned methods and an assembly of original studies as their “subjects.” They synthesize the results of multiple primary investigations by using strategies that limit bias and random error... These strategies include a comprehensive search of all potentially relevant articles and the use of explicit, reproducible criteria in the selection of articles for review. Primary research designs and study characteristics are appraised, data are synthesized, and results are interpreted.

Meta-Research, Methods and Protocols (2022). Edited by Evangelos Evangelou and Angeliki Veroniki. This book covers a wide range of design, analysis, and integration approaches for biomedical data including recent statistical models for a comprehensive and powerful synthesis of scientific evidence. Chapter one provides an introduction to the principles of systematic reviews and meta analyses. Other chapters included topics on tools for systematic searches, fixed- and random-effects meta-analytical models and ways to explore between-study heterogeneity, methodological framework to perform a meta-analysis when very few studies are available, and the systematic review process.

Cochrane explains:  What are Systematic Reviews?  (3:23 min; January 27,2016)

From: Systematic reviews: synthesis of best evidence for clinical decisions. Cook DJ, ulrow CD, Haynes RB. Ann Intern Med. 1997 Mar 1;126(5):376-80.

What is a Scoping Review?

Preliminary assessment of potential size and scope of available research literature. Scoping reviews are often a first step in conducting a SR because it allows the investigator the opportunity to review the literature landscape and determine whether or not a SR is feasible (too much or too little publications). This type of review takes the same systematic and rigorous methodologies used in conducting an SR.

Scoping review papers:

Peters MD, Casey M, Tricco AC, Pollock D, Munn Z, Alexander L, McInerney P, Godfrey, CM, Khalil H. Updated methodological guidance for the conduct of scoping reviews. JBI Evidence Synthesis. 2020 Oct;18(10): 2119-2126. 

Munn Z, Peters MD, Stern C, Tufanaru C, McArthur A, Aromataris E. Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2018 Nov 19;18(1):143.

This document presents the PRISMA-ScR (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews) checklist and explanation. (Oct 2018)


Systematic Review Steps, Jan 3, 2018 (3:26 min)

Support for Including a Research Informationist on the SR Team

The National Academies' standards for systematic reviews (3.1.1) states: work with a librarian or other information specialist trained in performing systematic reviews to plan the search strategy. The MSK research informationist's team has collaborated with researchers on a number of systematic reviews. Before a research informationist can be part of our Systematic Review Service, they must attend formal training to hone their search expertise and be able to provide guidance on the systematic review process. 

A paper published online in February 2019 advocates the value of including a research librarian in the development of a robust and comprehensive search strategy.  Literature gaps could be addressed/avoided by having the expertise of a research informationist. This is an open access paper available from BMC Public Healh, entitled "Systematic review searches must be systematic, comprehensive, and transparent: A critque of Perman et al."

A paper published online (February 5, 2015) in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology entitled, "Librarian co-authors correlated with higher quality reported search strategies in general internal medicine systematic reviews" shows that engaging a librarian or information professional on the systematic review team is a potential way to help improve documentation of the search strategy.

A paper published online (Nov 2014) in the Journal of the American Informatics Association entitled, "Effects of librarian-provided services in healthcare settings: a systematic review" concluded that librarian-provided services directed to participants in training programs improved skills in literature searching and facilitated the integration of research evidence into clinical decision-making; that these services save time for health care professionals and supported informed decisions.  In addition, two studies illustrated patient length of stay was reduced when clinicians requested literature searches related to a patient's case.

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