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Systematic Review Guide

General Overview of Services

Becker Librarians work with your team to design and report thorough search strategies based on guidelines and standards set forth by CochranePRISMA and IOM.  Our librarians provide:

  • Comprehensive, replicable search strategies for multiple databases and grey literature resources.
  • EndNote library of de-duplicated results.
  • Excel workbook of search results.
  • Written methods sections regarding search design and implementation according to PRISMA and IOM guidelines.
  • Data required for generating a PRISMA flow diagram.

Please allow for a minimum of 6 weeks for the systematic review literature search to be completed. Your librarian can give you a more precise estimate after you submit the systematic review request form.

This brief video provides an overview of how to complete the systematic review request form:


All Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WUSM) faculty, students, researchers, and staff are eligible for Becker Library systematic review services. Barnes Jewish Hospital (BJH) staff including physicians, nurses, and allied healthcare providers are also eligible for Becker Library systematic review services. Becker does not charge fees for the systematic review service, but please note that you may need to budget for expenses like interlibrary loan or purchasing software (e.g. Endnote, Covidence, etc.).

If you are collaborating with others not affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine, please note that at least one member of the systematic review team must be currently affiliated with WUSM OR BJH. This does not include alumni or former staff/faculty of WUSM, and does not include faculty/staff/students from the Danforth campus unless there is a joint appointment with the medical school. The WUSM/BJH member of your team must submit the systematic review request form, agree to be the primary contact person for the project, and must attend any meetings regarding the systematic review. If you have any questions about eligibility please contact us at

What we require from you

Before collaborating with you on your systematic review project, we ask that you provide the following:

  • Preliminary Search: The goals of the preliminary search include: identifying existing reviews, assessing volume of potentially relevant studies (assume an exhaustive search will identify about 2-3 times the number located in a preliminary search), locate at least 2-5 example articles that meet your review criteria.
  • Your research question
  • Question in PICO format
  • List of inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • A minimum of 3 example articles (benchmark articles) that meet the inclusion criteria for your systematic review
  • A timeline/schedule for completion of the systematic review project
  • A list of all members of your systematic review team

Once you have this information ready, please submit the Systematic Review Request form. A librarian will be assigned to work with you on your project moving forward.

The collaborative process

Once we have received your systematic review request form a librarian from our team will contact you to begin the collaborative work process:

  • We may request an in-person or phone meeting to discuss your question in more depth and discuss issues like timelines for completion. 
  • Your librarian will put together an initial list of search terms and an initial search strategy. You will be asked to review these for any missing terms, or to remove terms that might not be relevant for your question. 
  • After agreeing on the search terms, your librarian will translate the search strategy for multiple databases (e.g. Medline, Embase, Scopus, CINAHL, Web of Science, etc.). This ensures the most comprehensive search of the literature. 
  • Upon completion of the search you will receive the following:
    • A citation library (usually in Endnote, speak to your librarian about other software options)
    • A search methods document: includes every replicable search strategy and an explanation of search methods
    • An Excel workbook with all citations: can be helpful for tracking articles that are included/excluded from analysis


According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, authorship should be based on the following four criteria:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  • Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

The search strategies librarians design and implement are a substantial contribution to the design of the study while the citation data we acquire and organize is a substantial acquisition of data. The written methods regarding the design of the search, resources searched, and data retrieved falls under drafting the work. We will provide any requested feedback and revisions as well as final approval of the written work. If we agree to be an author on a systematic review we will stand behind the accuracy and integrity of our role in the project. 

We ask that you do not include your collaborating librarian's search methods or search strategies in a published manuscript unless they are included as an author.

If you would prefer to not include a librarian as an author we are happy to provide guidance on a systematic review search you design on your own.