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ESMIG's Evidence Synthesis Resources Guide

Librarian's Toolkit

Most libraries offer two types of services: consultative or collaborative. 

In the latter model, as a member of the research team, librarians conduct a variety of tasks not limited to developing the search strategy, translating searches, searching a variety of resources, and deduplicating. The ICMJE details criteria to help librarians navigate and negotiate co-authorship discussions with researchers. Libraries offer variant levels or tiers such as the model by Indiana University Libraries below:


Provide an initial consultation to determine the feasibility of a systematic review given the topic of interest, specificity of the question (based on PICO criteria), researcher manpower, and timeline. The steps involved in performing a systematic review and alternative types of reviews can also be discussed.  A librarian-conducted scoping search for systematic reviews on the topic under consideration in MEDLINE and PROSPERO can also be performed.


Provide a “second opinion” consultation and follow-up for researchers with database familiarity who have performed initial searches and request librarian input into the completeness, accuracy, and appropriateness of strategies, terminology, and database selection. A formal acknowledgement in any article or presentation originating from the systematic review may be negotiated.


Provide full librarian support for the systematic review to include any or all of the responsibilities listed in the MOU. These would include but not be limited to identifying relevant databases, selecting appropriate terminology, formulating and documenting search strategies, managing citations, and writing the methods section. Co-authorship status would be expected and librarians need 1-3 months to complete high quality comprehensive searches.

A few examples of existing tiered services and articles on starting a service are linked below:
Further Reading

Foster, M. J., & Jewell, S. T. (2017). Assembling the pieces of a systematic review. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Gore, G.C, & Jones, J. (2015). Systematic Reviews and Librarians: A Primer for Managers. Partnership, 10(1), 1.

Kallaher, A., Eldermire, E. R. B., Fournier, C. T., Ghezzi-Kopel, K., Johnson, K. A., Morris-Knower, J., Scinto-Madonich, S., & Young, S. (2020). Library systematic review service supports evidence-based practice outside of medicine. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 46(6), 102222.

Scott, M. C., & Vogus, B. (2022). Academic librarians and systematic reviews: trends and services. Public Services Quarterly, 18(3), 202–208.

Yang, L., Orchanian-Cheff, A., Anderson, M., Farrell, A., & Tripp, T. (2020). Implementing a Three-Tiered Service Model for Knowledge Syntheses at an Academic Teaching Hospital. Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association / Journal de l'Association des Bibliothèques de la Santé du Canada, 41(2), 46–66. 

Intake Forms

Online intake forms aim to gather information for new evidence synthesis projects, including disciplinary area, type of review, research question, and key articles. They improve efficiency by eliminating the initial back-and-forth common of new requests. Librarians with team-based models, use these tools to help them connect researchers to the appropriate and available librarian, and also to assess the readiness of a research team.

Institute of Medicine (IOM) Finding What Works in Health Care, standard (3.1.1), recommends the following practice for the search process: "work with a librarian or other information specialist trained in performing systematic reviews to plan the search strategy."  

For strong evidence about librarians' involvement in the search process, see the "Further Reading" section.


Further Reading

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), 103–127.

Ghezzi‐Kopel, K., Ault, J., Chimwaza, G., Diekmann, F., Eldermire, E., Gathoni, N., Kelly, J., Kinengyere, A. A., Kocher, M., Lwoga, E. T., Page, J., Young, S., & Porciello, J. (2022). Making the case for librarian expertise to support evidence synthesis for the sustainable development goals. Research Synthesis Methods, 13(1), 77–87.

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.

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.

Ross-White, A. (2021). Search is a verb: systematic review searching as invisible labor. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 109(3), 505–509.