Systematic Reviews

Systematic Reviews Librarians

Zsuzsanna Nemeth

John Reynolds

Assistance on Reviews is Available Through the Library
As a member of a systematic review team, we can write full search strategies for multiple databases, assist with using Covidence systematic review software, provide methodological guidance, and write the search methods of the manuscript.  There is typically a waitlist for these services.

We also provide education, training, and advice on systematic review searching, methods, and software for researchers who prefer to do these steps of a review themselves. There is typically only a short wait for this level of service.  

If you'd like help with your systematic review, scoping review, or meta-analysis, please take the steps below:

1) Work through our subscription to the Cochrane Interactive Learning tutorials on systematic review and meta-analysis methods
2) Get familiar with the MECIR checklist for conducting a review and the PRISMA checklist(s)  for reporting a review. For scoping reviews see the JBI Handbook and the PRISMA-ScR
3) Draft a protocol for your project.
4) Contact John Reynolds, at 
5) Questions? See Step 4.
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Getting set-up with Covidence: A beginners guide
You are invited to a free webinar...

Getting set-up with Covidence:  A beginners guide

The session will take place on: 
Tue, Feb 7, 2023 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM EST
This free webinar is aimed at beginners and novice users of Covidence, or those who haven't used the software for a while and want to familiarise themselves with recent changes. We will take you through the processes of getting your review ready to start your project from setting up an account, getting your team together, managing your review settings and importing your first references into Covidence.

Veritas Health Innovation, Level 10, 446 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

Introduction to Systematic Reviews

What is a Systematic Review?
A Systematic Review is a scientific investigation that focuses on a specific question and uses explicit, pre-specified scientific methods to identify, select, assess, and summarize the findings of similar but separate studies.
It may include a quantitative synthesis (meta-analysis), depending on the available data.
Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies of Sciences.

How much time and work will a systematic review take?
A 2016 study found that published systematic reviews typically take a mean time of 67.3 weeks with five research team members. 

Analysis of the time and workers needed to conduct systematic reviews of medical interventions using data from the PROSPERO registry
Borah R, Brown AW, Capers PL, et alA, BMJ Open 2017;7:e012545. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012545
How researchers can improve the quality of systematic reviews
How researchers can improve the quality of systematic reviews - an interview with Matthew Page, a research fellow in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University in Australia - NatureINDEX
  • Why are systematic reviews important?
  • What’s the difference between a systematic review and a meta-analysis?
  • Can you explain the sudden popularity of systematic reviews?
  • How can researchers improve the quality of their systematic reviews?
  • Systematic reviews often consider “risk of bias”. What does that mean?
  • Cochrane focuses on medical research. Do you think systematic reviews have a place in other fields of research?
A Practical Guide to Understanding Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses
A systematic review is a transparent and unbiased review of available information. The published systematic review must report the details of the conduct of the review as one might report the details of a primary research project. A meta-analysis is a powerful and rigorous statistical approach to synthesize data from multiple studies, preferably obtained from a systematic review, in order to enlarge the sample size from smaller studies to test the original hypothesis and/or to generate new ones. The objective of this article is to serve as an easy to read practical guide to understand systematic reviews and meta-analyses for those reading them and for those who might plan to prepare them.
Systematic Review Support
Who can use the service?

Systematic review support is available to students, faculty, and staff planning to start a systematic reviews, meta-analysis, scoping reviews or rapid reviews.  Calder Librarians are collaborators who can design and manage thorough, complex searches in multiple databases for you.

Systematic review collaboration with a librarian may include:
  • Consultations with individuals and teams.
  • Helping to define the research question.
  • Targeting specific databases and other resources to be searched.
  • Identifying database-specific search strategies.
  • Conducting literature searches.
  • Delivering citations into bibliographic management tools (EndNote, RefWorks, Mendeley).
  • Writing the literature search method section for any manuscript.
Steps of a Review

P: Planning-  the methods of the systematic review are generally decided before conducting it. 
I: Identifying- searching for studies which match the preset criteria in a systematic manner.
E: Evaluating- sort all retrieved articles (included or  excluded) and asses the risk of bias for each included study.
C: Collecting/combining: each study is coded with preset form, either qualitatively or quantitatively synthesize data.
E: Explaining:  placed results of synthesis into context, strengths and weaknesses of the studies.
S: Summarizing: report is provides description of methods and results in a clear and transparent manner.

From Margaret Foster's Systematic Reviews Service libguide.
The Systematic Review Process

Tsafnet, G., Glasziou, P., Choong, M.K., et al. Systematic review automation technologies. Systematic Reviews 2014; 3:74;
Subject Specialist

Zsuzsanna Nemeth

John Reynolds

Start with a Solid Plan
Every systematic review needs a good protocol. 

MECIR has a detailed checklist for developing protocols for systematic reviews and meta-ananlyses.
PRISMA-P has guidance on on how to write them.
Register your systematic review protocol at PROSPERO.

Joanna Briggs Institute has guidance on scoping review protocols.
Register scoping reviews at the Open Science Framework
Standards & Guidelines
Systematic reviews should follow one of these guidelines

The Cochrane Collaboration:
Centre for Reviews and Dissemination:
Institute of Medicine:
Database Descriptions

Cochrane Library (Wiley)

The Cochrane Library is a collection of six databases that contain different types of high-quality, independent evidence to inform healthcare decision-making, and a seventh database that provides information about Cochrane groups.  Databases included are: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, Cochrane Methodology Register, Health Technology Assessment Database and NHS Economic Evaluation Database.

Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Evidence-Based Practice Database (OVID)
The Joanna Briggs Institute EBP Database allows you to search simultaneously a wide range of summarized and appraised evidence to inform your practice. This comprehensive range of resources includes over 3,000 records across seven publication types: Evidence Based Recommended Practices, Evidence Summaries, Best Practice Information Sheets, Systematic Reviews, Consumer Information Sheets, Systematic Review Protocols, and Technical Reports.  Subject Area Nodes contain evidence organized into health care areas/specialties. Only information specific to that health topic is included in each database.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ):  EPC Evidence-Based Reports

These reports provide comprehensive, science-based information on common, costly medical conditions and new health care technologies and strategies. The EPCs review all relevant scientific literature on a wide spectrum of clinical and health services topics. EPCs also produce technical reports on methodological topics and other types of evidence synthesis-related reports.

PubMed Health

PubMed Health provides information for consumers and clinicians on prevention and treatment of diseases and conditions.  PubMed Health specializes in reviews of clinical effectiveness research, with easy-to-read summaries for consumers as well as full technical reports. Clinical effectiveness research finds answers to the question “What works?” in medical and health care.  PubMed Health is a service provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).



PubMed comprises over 26 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. PubMed citations and abstracts include the fields of biomedicine and health, covering portions of the life sciences, behavioral sciences, chemical sciences, and bioengineering. PubMed also provides access to additional relevant web sites and links to the other NCBI molecular biology resources.  PubMed is a free resource that is developed and maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), at the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), located at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Covers 1940s to the present.

Ovid MEDLINE ® covers the international literature on biomedicine, including the allied health fields and the biological and physical sciences, humanities, and information science as they relate to medicine and health care. Information is indexed from approximately 5,600 journals published world-wide, 1946 to the present. Ovid MEDLINE ® is produced by the National Library of Medicine.

EMBASE (Elsevier)
Provides extensive coverage of international biomedical journals and conferences and is a key resource for generating systematic reviews, making informed decisions in evidence-based medicine, and for post-market surveillance of drugs and medical devices.

Scopus (Elsevier)
Scopus delivers a broad overview of global, interdisciplinary scientific information across all research fields (science, mathematics, engineering, technology, health and medicine, social sciences, and arts and humanities). Timely updates from thousands of peer-reviewed journals, preliminary findings from millions of conference papers, and the thorough analysis in an expanding collection of books ensure the most up-to-date and highest quality interdisciplinary content available.

Web of Science (Thomson Reuters)
By meticulously indexing the most important literature in the world, Web of Science has become the gold standard for research discovery and analytics. Web of Science connects publications and researchers through citations and controlled indexing in curated databases spanning every discipline. Use cited reference search to track prior research and monitor current developments in over 100 years’ worth of content that is fully indexed, including 59 million records and back-files dating back to 1898.

TRIP Database
Turning Research Into Practice (TRIP) is a clinical search engine designed to allow users to quickly and easily find and use high-quality research evidence to support their practice and/or care.  TRIP has been online since 1997 and in that time has developed into the Internet’s premier source of evidence-based content. TRIP's motto is ‘Find evidence fast.’  As well as research evidence, clinicians can search across other content types including images, videos, patient information leaflets, educational courses, and news. This is a free database.

Biosis Previews & Biological Abstracts (OVID)
BIOSIS Previews ® encompasses the entire field of life sciences and provides comprehensive coverage of the world’s published biological and biomedical research. This includes traditional areas of biology, as well as experimental, clinical and veterinary medicine, biotechnology, environmental studies, and agriculture. More than 6,500 serials are monitored for inclusion. In addition to full-length research articles from serials, and database also cover national and international meetings, reviews, technical letters and notes, meeting reports (from 1989 to present), software (1992 to present), and books.



CINAHL Plus provides indexing for 3,802 journals from the fields of nursing and allied health, with indexing back to 1937.It also contains searchable cited references for more than 1,270 journals.Full-text material includes nearly 80 journals plus legal cases, clinical innovations, critical paths, drug records, research instruments, and clinical trials.

Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Evidence-Based Practice Database (OVID)
The Joanna Briggs Institute EBP Database allows you to search simultaneously, a wide range of summarized and appraised evidence, to inform your practice. This comprehensive range of resources includes over 3,000 records across seven publication types: Evidence Based Recommended Practices, Evidence Summaries, Best Practice Information Sheets, Systematic Reviews, Consumer Information Sheets, Systematic Review Protocols, and Technical Reports.  Subject Area Nodes: Evidence organized into health care area/specialties. Only information specific to that health topic is included in each database.



The American Psychological Association's database of more than one million citations to the psychology literature, published since 1967.

Grey literature database, which serves as a companion to the scholarly PsycINFO database. Most of the content was written for professionals and disseminated outside of peer-reviewed journals.
Section Editor

Zsuzsanna Nemeth

John Reynolds

Section Editor

Zsuzsanna Nemeth

John Reynolds

Grey Literature
What is Grey Literature?
“That which is produced on all levels of government, academics, business, and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers” (4th International Conference on Grey Literature 1999).  Could be government reports, annual reports, research registries, regulatory documents, evaluation reports, health services research registries, advocacy group documents, news articles, company publications, blogs, emails, tweets, letters, etc.  It is unpublished evidence. The purpose of grey literature is to reduce publication bias effect; smaller studies or studies with null or negative findings does not get published readily."  From Margaret Foster's, "Pieces of a Systematic Review:  What searches beyond the typical databases should be done?" Webinar, March 2, 2017.

Where to find the grey literature? is a registry and results database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants conducted around the world. Learn more about clinical studies and about this site, including relevant history, policies, and laws.  The Web site is maintained by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Information on is provided and updated by the sponsor or principal investigator of the clinical study. Studies are generally submitted to the Web site (that is, registered) when they begin, and the information on the site is updated throughout the study. In some cases, results of the study are submitted after the study ends. This Web site and database of clinical studies is commonly referred to as a "registry and results database."  (From the website, accessed on April 21, 2017)

WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP)

The Clinical Trials Search Portal provides access to a central database containing the trial registration data sets provided by several trials registries around the world.  It also provides links to the full original records.  To facilitate the unique identification of trials, the Search Portal bridges (groups together) multiple records about the same trial.  Registries that report on a weekly basis include:  Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry; Chinese Clinical Trial Registry;; EU Clinical Trials Register (EU-CTR); ISRCTN; The Netherlands National Trial Register, and others.  Please note: This Search Portal is not a clinical trials registry.


AllTrials is an international initiative of Ben Goldacre, BMJ, Centre for Evidence-based Medicine, Cochrane Collaboration, James Lind Initiative, PLOS and Sense about Science and is being led in the US by Sense About Science USA, Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice. The AllTrials petition has been signed by 90111 people and 721 organisations (as of April 21, 2017).

Google Scholar
Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research.  Disclaimer: Legal opinions in Google Scholar are provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed lawyer. Google does not warrant that the information is complete or accurate.

Other sources of grey literature include government reports, guidelines, white papers, dissertations and thesis, conference proceedings, technical reports, legislation, etc. Including research from these types of unpublished documents will reduce publication bias.


Healthy People provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. For 3 decades, Healthy People has established benchmarks and monitored progress over time in order to encourage collaborations across communities and sectors; empower individuals toward making informed health decisions; and measure the impact of prevention activities.  Healthy People relies on many diverse data systems including national censuses of events (like the National Vital Statistics System), nationally representative sample surveys (like the National Health Interview Survey), and other valid and reliable data sources (like the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute).  (From the website, accessed April 21, 2017). searches over 60 databases and over 2,200 scientific websites to provide users with access to more than 200 million pages of authoritative federal science information including research and development results. is governed by the interagency Alliance.  Some of the participating  government agencies are NIH, NSF, USDA, US NLM, EPA, GPO, NASA, and others.

WorldCat is the world's largest library catalog, helping you find library materials online.  WorldCat connects you to the collections and services of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide.

ProQuest Dissertations and Thesis Database

ProQuest Dissertation & Theses Global (PQDT Global) simplifies searching for dissertations and theses via a single access point to explore an extensive, trusted collection of 3.8 million graduate works, with 1.7 million in full text. Designated as an official offsite repository for the U.S. Library of Congress, PQDT Global offers comprehensive historic and ongoing coverage for North American works and significant and growing international coverage from a multiyear program of expanding partnerships with international universities and national associations. We offer effective and efficient results on our curated content platform with expert metadata that reduces noise in search results. Direct access to full text and other ProQuest and ebook subscriptions advance the research process.  This is a Subscription Database with a separate collection of open access dissertations (see next link). 


PQDT Open provides the full text of open access dissertations and theses free of charge.  Locate dissertations and theses relevant to your discipline and view the complete text in PDF format.  The authors of these dissertations and theses have opted to publish as open access. Open Access Publishing is a new service offered by ProQuest's UMI Dissertation Publishing.  In addition to open access dissertations and theses, more are available from ProQuest (on a subscription-based access). Check with your library, since many libraries subscribe to ProQuest Dissertations & Theses and make it available to you free of charge. (from the PQDT website, accessed on April 21, 2017).

Please note that the information provided here has been taken from each website.  This section is edited by Carmen Bou-Crick, M.S.L.S., AHIP.  Contact information: Telephone:  305-243-1967 email:
Section Editor

Zsuzsanna Nemeth

John Reynolds

Scoping reviews typically seek to answer broader questions, compared to the  treatment or intervention effectiveness questions typically examined in systematic reviews.  Scoping reviews often include a summary of findings and a categorization of the current literature on a topic.  They are designed to be a comprehensive review of the literature and are useful when a topic is large, complex, heterogenous, or previously unexamined.
Ask JBI - Should I undertake a scoping review or a systematic review?
Core Readings
Peters, M. D. J., Marnie, C., Tricco, A. C., Pollock, D., Munn, Z., Alexander, L., . . . Khalil, H. (2021). Updated methodological guidance for the conduct of scoping reviews. JBI Evidence Implementation, 19(1), 3-10. doi:10.1097/xeb.0000000000000277

Arksey, H., & O'Malley, L. (2005).
Scoping Studies: Towards a Methodological Framework.
International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19-32.

Levac, D., Colquhoun, H., & O'Brien, K. K. (2010).
Scoping studies: advancing the methodology. Implementation Science, 5, 69.

Colquhoun, H. L., Levac, D., O'Brien, K. K., Straus, S., Tricco, A. C., Perrier, L., Kastner, M., Moher, D. (2014). Scoping reviews: time for clarity in definition, methods, and reporting. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 67(12), 1291-1294

Peters, M. D. J., Godfrey, C. M., Khalil, H., McInerney, P., Parker, D., & Soares, C. B. (2015).
Guidance for conducting systematic scoping reviews. 
International Journal of Evididence Based Healthcare 13(3), 141-146.

Tricco, A. C., Lillie, E., Zarin, W., O’Brien, K., Colquhoun, H., Kastner, M., . . . Straus, S. E. (2016).
A scoping review on the conduct and reporting of scoping reviews.
BMC Medical Research Methodology, 16(1), 15. 

Munn, Z., Peters, M. D. J., Stern, C., Tufanaru, C., McArthur, A., & Aromataris, E. (2018).
Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach.
BMC Medical Research Methodology, 18(1), 143. 

Peterson, J., Pearce, P. F., Ferguson, L. A., & Langford, C. A. (2017).
Understanding scoping reviews: Definition, purpose, and process. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 29(1), 12-16. 
Cochrane Interactive Learning: Conducting an Intervention Review
Calder Library is pleased to offer this highly regarded online course on the complete systematic review process to all University of Miami Libraries users.
This course will be valuable for both new and experienced review authors. Experienced researchers will  gain a more in-depth understanding of the process of conducting a systematic review, while new researchers will find it to be an excellent introduction to systematic review methods. 

These modules use the Cochrane methodology. The principles are useful for conducting any systematic review of interventions.

Structure and learning approach

"Cochrane Interactive Learning consists of 10 modules, each divided in several sections (topics) with one or more pages of content. Each page is built of several bite-size learning units, building knowledge one step at a time. This allows learners to easily navigate through the modules and learn at their own pace.

A variety of formats is used to present the content and reinforce the learning: scrolling web pages, media (including animations, video and audio recordings), interactive exercises, quizzes, worked-out examples, and assessments. Learners can filter the content, mark the favourite pages, and monitor their progress, which allows a personalized, self-directed learning experience."
(from the Cochrane website)

Modules include Writing the Review Protocol, Selecting Studies and Collecting Data, Introduction to Study Quality and Risk of Bias, Interpreting the Findingsand Reporting the Findings.  There are new modules on network meta-analysis and health equity in systematic reviews.   

The first module, Introduction to Conducting Systematic Reviews, takes approximately 45 minutes.

Users who complete the course or individual modules can download certificates to verify their completion


Zsuzsanna Nemeth

John Reynolds

Covidence Systematic Review Software


The Louis Calder Memorial Library is pleased to offer current faculty, staff, residents, and students an unlimited institutional license to Covidence.
Covidence is a web-based tool that improves the efficiency and experience of creating and maintaining systematic reviews. It streamlines the processes of citation screening, full text review, risk of bias, and data extraction and export. The interface is simple and intuitive. 
Librarians at Calder Library can support researchers with planning, conducting, and reporting systematic reviews, meta-analyses, scoping reviews and other types of research reviews.  All services are free and range from brief consultation to full collaboration.  To learn more about conducting systematic reviews at the University of Miami, visit the Calder Library Systematic Review Guide or email John Reynolds,

How to join the University of Miami Libraries’ Covidence institutional license
You can create your personal sign in information with Covidence before or after joining the institutional subscription. To request access to the institutional account in Covidence, you must use your current UM or JHS email address (,, or
  1. Go to the Covidence sign-up page
  2. Enter your information (using your,, or and click “Request Invitation” link
  3. Accept the invitation in your email
  4. Log in to your existing Covidence account or sign up for a new account
  5. If you have already joined the University of Miami Libraries’ Covidence account, then you can log into Covidence and with your email and password and proceed to use Covidence
Creating a review using the University of Miami Libraries’ unlimited license
After clicking the link “Create new review” you will have the option to use your personal account subscription or select the University of Miami account. To use the University of Miami’s account, choose the latter. 
Reviews created under the institutional license will be visible to the administrators of the University of Miami Libraries Covidence account. Your personal account review(s) will only be seen by you.


Once you have created a review or accepted an invitation to another University of Miami account review, the title will appear in a separate section on your account homepage:

Getting started with Covidence
Covidence offers short video tutorials in their Knowledge Base to help you get started. See Getting Started with Covidence and Main steps in Covidence.

Logged into your Covidence account and need help? Click the question mark in the upper right hand corner to access support.

Get started with Covidence
Request an invitation to Covidence
See the instructions to the left and request an invitation HERE

Register for a Covidence training webinar
Planning and Conduct
These tools provide guidance on the steps of performing yiour review

Methodological Expectations of Cochrane Intervention Reviews (MECIR)
a step by step checklist of standards with links to addtional information for conducting a systematic review or meta-analysis
Assessing Qualty & Risk of Bias
PRISMA provides guidance on reporting your review and woriting your manuscript after you've done everything else

PRISMA-P - for reporting protocols

PRISMA  - for reporting systematic reviews and meta-anlyses
PRISMA Elaboration and Explanation - detailed instructions on using PRISMA

PRISMA-S - a detailed extension for reporting your search methods 

PRISMA for Abstractsa framework for condensing your systematic review into the essentials for a conference abstract