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Brown School Library Systematic Review Resources and Services

In this guide, Brown School Library describes our available services and resources for supporting your systematic review work.


What is a systematic review? 

A Systematic review “attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question.  It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing more reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made." (Antman 1992; Oxman 1993)

How long does it take to complete a systematic review?

The entire process--creating a research question, conducting the literature search, screening results, analyzing data, and writing a manuscript--can take as long as 18 months. 

Am I expected to include my collaborating librarian as a co-author on a published systematic review?

If your Brown School Librarian is to be a co-author, a Memorandum of Understanding must be completed. The MOU describes the commitments involved. 

Why did the librarian recommend including so many databases in the search? 

The goal of a systematic review search is to find all available evidence for your research topic. This means putting together a detailed, thorough search strategy. It also means searching multiple database resources. There is no single database that indexes all journals (not even Google Scholar). Therefore, it is necessary to search more than one. Most guidelines recommend searching at least three bibliographic databases plus grey literature resources. 

How many articles are typically retrieved in a systematic review search?

The number of articles retrieved depends on how narrowly/widely focused the research question is, the novelty of the topic, and other factors. It is not unusual to receive a few hundred results for a narrowly-focused question, or thousands of results for a broader question. It is important to keep in mind that you will very likely receive far more results than a typical literature search.  Early in the planning process, you should carefully consider the time commitment that will be necessary for screening a potentially large number of results.

Why did the librarian recommend including grey literature resources? 

Systematic review guidelines encourage researchers to include information from grey literature resources in their analysis. Unpublished data from grey literature resources may have a significant impact on the conclusions of your systematic review. Using grey literature also decreases the potential for publication bias.

Will my librarian retrieve full text articles for my SR project?

The Brown School Library Systematic Review Services does not include article retrieval. However, if you run into problems or have any questions, we are happy to help. Instructions for optimizing full-text retrieval are available here.

Brown School Systematic Review Service Forms and Instructions