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Systematic Reviews in the Health Sciences

A guide to systematic and other types of reviews in the health sciences. Also describes the types of support available to systematic review teams through the Health Sciences Library

Our Roles

Our experienced team are co-instructors in University of Calgary undergraduate and graduate courses in systematic reviews and meta-analysis, and frequently facilitate course-based seminars on these and other knowledge synthesis topics. We also offer regular workshops on systematic review and other review methodologies that are open to students, faculty and staff. Click here to register for an upcoming workshop.  


Contact our team through the Consult a Librarian form or email: to discuss a teaching collaboration or seminar/workshop request.



We offer an appointment-based librarian consultation service. Submit a request for an appointment through our Consult a Librarian form or email to request a meeting with one of our library team. Prior to your meeting, please complete and submit a Literature Search Consultation Planning Form.

As consultants, we:

  • Meet with the researcher/research team to review and provide guidance on the review protocol.
  • Recommend training resources and review tools (including software programs) as appropriate.
  • Recommend and rank research databases and other resources for their likely yield of relevant studies.
  • Provide guidance and feedback on identified search terms and team-generated search strategies.
  • Make recommendations for maintaining detailed records of search results and search strategies, so that these can be documented in final review report / article.

A typical consultation will last approximately 1-2 hours, with one follow up meeting.

Please note: Because acknowledgment may imply endorsement of study methodology, data, and conclusions, many journals now require review authors to obtain written permission from individuals they wish to explicitly acknowledge in their manuscripts. This also applies to consultations with librarians.

These roles are based on the ICMJE recommendations for defining authors and contributors. 

As co-authors, we will:

  • Be a named co-investigator or collaborator on any submitted grant proposals.
  • Participate in meetings of the research team.  
  • Provide guidance for developing a protocol for the review.
  • Recommend and rank research databases and other resources for their likely yield of relevant studies.
  • Develop and revise the data collection strategy in accordance with existing best practice standards, and in consultation with the principal investigator(s).
  • Maintain detailed records of search results and data collection strategies, so these can be documented in the final report/article.
  • Draft the data collection strategy portion of the Methods section of the review, in compliance with best practice reporting standards:
  • Review and edit the final draft of the article for clarity and readability (as a non-content-expert reader).

Please note: Requests for librarians to participate as co-authors in a research project are assessed on a case-by-case basis. Any decision to participate in a review will be based on a consideration of current capacity/workload and the research interests/expertise of our team. 

These roles are based on the ICMJE recommendations for defining authors and contributors. 

Review Protocols:

Mrklas KJ, MacDonald S, Shea-Budgell MA, Bedingfield N, Ganshorn H, Glaze S, Bill L, Healy B, Healy C, Guichon J, Colquhoun A. Barriers, supports, and effective interventions for uptake of human papillomavirus-and other vaccines within global and Canadian Indigenous peoples: a systematic review protocol. Systematic reviews. 2018 Dec;7(1):1-20.

Pethrick H, Nowell L, Oddone Paolucci E, Lorenzetti L, Jacobsen M, Clancy T, Lorenzetti DL. Psychosocial and career outcomes of peer mentorship in medical resident education: a systematic review protocol. Syst Rev. 2017 Aug 31;6(1):178.

Scoping Reviews:

Santana MJ, Ahmed S, Lorenzetti D, Jolley RJ, Manalili K, Zelinsky S, Quan H, Lu M. Measuring patient-centred system performance: a scoping review of patient-centred care quality indicators. BMJ Open. 2019 Jan 7;9(1):e023596.

Systematic Reviews:

Benzies KM, Magill-Evans JE, Hayden KA, Ballantyne M. Key components of early intervention programs for preterm infants and their parents: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2013;13(Suppl 1):S10-S.

Lorenzetti DL, Quan H, Lucyk K, Cunningham C, Hennessy D, Jiang J, Beck CA. Strategies for improving physician documentation in the emergency department: a systematic review. BMC Emerg Med. 2018 Oct 25;18(1):36.

Tang KL, Caffrey NP, Nóbrega DB, Cork SC, Ronksley PE, Barkema HW, Polachek AJ, Ganshorn H, Sharma N, Kellner JD, Ghali WA. Restricting the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals and its associations with antibiotic resistance in food-producing animals and human beings: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Planetary Health. 2017 Nov 1;1(8):e316-27.


Kelly MA, Nixon L, McClurg C, Scherpbier A, King N, Dornan T. Experience of touch in health care: a meta-ethnography across the health care professions. Qual Health Res. 2018 Jan;28(2):200-212.


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