This research guide provides an overview of the evidence synthesis process, guidance documents for conducting evidence synthesis projects, and links to resources to help you conduct a comprehensive and systematic search of the scholarly literature. Navigate the guide using the tabs on the left.
"Evidence synthesis" refers to any method of identifying, selecting, and combining results from multiple studies. A systematic review is a type of evidence synthesis. We use the term evidence synthesis to better reflect the breadth of methodologies that we support, including systematic reviews, scoping reviews, evidence gap maps, umbrella reviews, meta-analyses and others.
Note: Librarians at UC Irvine Libraries have supported systematic reviews and related methodologies in STEM fields for several years. As our service has evolved, we have added capacity to support these reviews in the Social Sciences as well.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that a librarian or information specialist be involved in the systematic review process. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology shows that librarian involvement in systematic reviews improves both the quality and the reproducibility of the literature search.
UC Irvine's Evidence Synthesis Service can help you:
The Evidence Synthesis Service at UCI Libraries focuses on consulting. If a librarian is interested in getting more involved in your project, they may also be a co-author (see more about that in the boxes at the bottom of this page), but that is up to the capacity of each individual librarian.
As a consultant, a librarian can step in at different points of your evidence synthesis review. Librarians can:
This option is a limited time commitment.
If appropriate, a librarian may also provide a workshop to a small team or cohort. Workshop content can be worked out between the librarian and coordinator, and may include outlining the basics of evidence synthesis, the basics of developing a search strategy, or how to search for grey literature, for example.
Co-authoring is a more substantial commitment, as a librarian will typically devote more than a year to partner with you on your evidence synthesis review. Co-authorship is not part of UCI Libraries Evidence Synthesis Service, but at the discretion of the librarian.
If a librarian has capacity and interest to co-author, the librarian will be more hands-on and can:
See the "Librarian as Co-author: Tasks and Timelines" box below to learn more.
If a librarian has capacity and interest they can be heavily involved in the evidence synthesis process, however it is recommended that the disciplinary experts on the author team manage certain steps that require specific content-area and quantitative methods expertise. Librarians who write the search methodology section of the synthesis should be included as a co-author. Librarians who collaborate on search strategy formation and/or citation management should be acknowledged in the final publication. See Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors by The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors to learn more about the role of authors and contributors.
An evidence synthesis review will typically require a year or more to complete, and librarians’ availability may vary, so please plan ahead and reach out to us as early as you can.
Below is a detailed chart that breaks down the steps of a traditional evidence synthesis review and the librarian co-author’s potential contributions.
Note: these time estimates may vary depending on the project, and some steps may happen concurrently.
|Steps in a traditional evidence review||Estimated time investment||Potential contribution of librarian co-author|
1. Assemble evidence synthesis review team and select project manager
2. Identify appropriate review methodology
|2 weeks||Provide guidance|
|3. Define research question||2 weeks||Provide information on appropriate question frameworks (e.g. PICO)|
|4. Define inclusion/exclusion criteria||1 week||Provide guidance|
|5. Select databases||1 week||Suggest appropriate databases|
|6. Select grey literature resources||1 week||Suggest grey literature resources|
|7. Write search strategy for primary database||2-4 weeks||Lead writing of the search strategy|
|8. Write and register protocol (written compilation of previous steps)||Varies||Provide comments on protocol and guide protocol registration process|
|9. Translate search strategy to syntax 2 of all databases (including grey literature)||2-4 weeks||Translate search strategy|
|10. Search and export results into citation management software||2 weeks||Perform searches and export results|
|11. De-duplicate results||2-4 weeks||Perform de-duplication, or train your team on the process|
|12. Title and abstract screening||2-3 months *||Recommend article screening software and advise on use of software|
|13. Retrieve full-text articles||1 month *||Train team on full-text article retrieval|
|14. Full-text screening||2-3 months *||Provide guidance|
|15. Risk-of-bias assessment||2-3 months||Provide guidance|
|16. Data extraction||2-3 months||Provide guidance|
|17. Meta-analysis or synthesis of results||2-3 months||Provide guidance|
|18. Write the manuscript||2-3 months||Write information retrieval portion of the methods section|
* Timeframe can vary significantly depending on number of citations identified for screening.
This guide was adapted from Cornell University Library's A Guide to Evidence Synthesis and the University of Minnesota Library's Systematic review and evidence synthesis services webpage. Throughout this guide, there are links to numerous other resources compiled by other librarians or researchers. We are grateful for their incredible work in creating such detailed content that follows the process of working through evidence synthesis in such a structured way.
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