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Knowledge Synthesis

This guide includes content about systematic reviews, including general information and information about librarian assistance

Why consult a librarian?

"The Cochrane Handbook, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), all recommend that you: 

  • Work with a librarian or other information specialist with SR training to plan the search strategy
  • Use an independent librarian or other information specialist to peer review the search strategy

Navigating through the various sources of research data and publications is a complex task that requires experience with a wide range of bibliographic databases and electronic information sources, and substantial resources." (Institute of Medicine, 2011).

Levels of Service at BU


This is required if a librarian:

  • Translates the first, finalized search into the other relevant databases and formats the search strategies for publication in the appendices of the manuscript


  • Assists with or writes the methods section

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of what librarians will help with during the systematic review process, merely the minimum requirements for authorship. Learn more at the bottom of the page under "Librarian's Role as Co-Author".


This is a consultant role.

Librarians can share resources about:

  • Identifying grey literature sources.
  • Creating inclusion/exclusion criteria.
  • Creating and registering a protocol.

Librarians can assist with:

  • Choosing the appropriate review type that fits your question.
  • Refining your topic.
  • Providing training on general usage of citation management software, finding full-text and screening tools.
  • Creating one database search, primarily in PubMed.
  • Critiquing your database searches.

Read more

  • Aamodt, M., Huurdeman, H., & Strømme, H. (2019). Librarian Co-Authored Systematic Reviews are Associated with Lower Risk of Bias Compared to Systematic Reviews with Acknowledgement of Librarians or No Participation by Librarians. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 14(4), Article 4.
  • Koffel, J. B. (2015). Use of Recommended Search Strategies in Systematic Reviews and the Impact of Librarian Involvement: A Cross-Sectional Survey of Recent Authors. PLOS ONE, 10(5), e0125931.
  • Meert, D., Torabi, N., & Costella, J. (2016). Impact of librarians on reporting of the literature searching component of pediatric systematic reviews—PMC. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 104(4), 267–277.
  • Metzendorf, M.-I., & Featherstone, R. M. (2018). Ensuring quality as the basis of evidence synthesis: Leveraging information specialists’ knowledge, skills, and expertise. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 9.
  • Rethlefsen, M. L., Farrell, A. M., Osterhaus Trzasko, L. C., & Brigham, T. J. (2015). Librarian co-authors correlated with higher quality reported search strategies in general internal medicine systematic reviews. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 68(6), 617–626.



Institute of Medicine. (2011). Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews. The National Academies Press.